Review: Holmes Cay Curates and Bottles Some of the Rarest Rums on Earth

These limited-edition bottlings of nearly impossible-to-find rums showcase the spirit’s most interesting characteristics

February 17, 2022 8:42 am
Holmes Cay expressions are sourced globally and sold in very limited numbers
Holmes Cay expressions are sourced globally and sold in very limited numbers
Holmes Cay

What we’re drinking: A variety of limited-edition expressions from Holmes Cay Single Cask Rum.

Where it’s from: Holmes Cay (pronounced “key”) was co-founded by the husband/wife team of Eric Kaye and Maura Gedid. The company doesn’t distill their own rum; instead, they curate a global collection of small-batch, limited-edition rums from places both expected (Barbados) and not (Fiji), and will even release rums from better-known distilleries that might not fit a particular profile.

Why we’re drinking this: Because being the curated rum brand akin to whiskey’s Lost Lantern is going to open up novice rum drinkers to new countries, styles and fascinating — even unusual — flavors. 

“We started this in 2019 because I couldn’t find the rums I wanted in the United States,” as Kaye tells us. “I had been collecting for 30 years, and in my travels I’d find all these amazing rums that just weren’t coming here.” Wisely, Holmes Cay began with a couple of barrels of Foursquare, an exceptional Barbados distillery that got pegged as the “Pappy of rum” a few years back. 

Currently, Holmes Cay releases rum from 10 different countries, and you really need to act fast, because there’s a good chance you’ll never get these limited-edition releases again. 

Mhoba Rum Distillery in South Africa
The Mhoba Rum Distillery in South Africa, which provides one of the most interesting Holmes Cay releases
Holmes Cay

How It Tastes

We tried five different expressions from Holmes Cay, running from a four-year old expression via South Africa to an 18-year release from Guyana.

Every rum we tried brought something interesting to the table: That 2003 Guyana Uitvlugt release, distilled on a 19th-century French Savalle 4-column still (in that country’s only distillery) and then aged two years in Guyana followed by 16 in the UK, has an actual whiff of brine on the nose, something I’ve never experienced in a rum. The other notes: tobacco, cocoa, tropical fruits. 

The Jamaican Wedderburn, meanwhile, has a decent amount of hogo thanks to its open-air fermentation and really coats the tongue. And the South African release might be the rarest of them all: it’s a single estate distillery where the owner built his own pot stills and aged the rum (scoured from fresh-pressed cane juice and fermented with wild yeast) in South African whisky barrels. “It’s not a beginner’s rum,” says Kaye, which could really describe any release from Holmes Cay. “The nose and palate are very different.” It is sort of a melange of pineapple, white pepper and even a lingering vegetal note all in one (at 59% ABV, too). 

The standout? The 17-year from Fiji, which arrives from the country’s only distillery (owned by local Coca Cola bottling company) and features notes of stone fruits, bananas and mangos and should definitely be tamed with a drop of water. 

Fun fact: That Barbados edition from Holmes Cay was actually the bottler’s fun attempt at recreating the style of a much-loved special release from Foursquare that was finished in a port cask (that’s now about $1,000/bottle if you can find it).

Where to buy this: These extremely limited-edition bottles are available in about nine states and in D.C., and also available online from several stores (including Caskers and Flaviar) for about $99-$159.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.