Have you ever thought to yourself “hmm… I wonder what would happen if I took some shou and aged it in rum cask?” No? Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about it because Glen and Lamu over at Crimson Lotus Tea have done it for you! Their latest batch of Rum Barrel Shou is something I have been looking forward to for the better part of a year now. Last time it came out I was so intrigued by the idea but I took a bit too long to hit the buy button and missed out. Glen assured me that another batch would be coming, and I have been waiting as patiently as humanly possible ever since.
This latest batch has been aged a little bit longer than previous ones, being given about six months in the barrel. It was sold in very limited quantities – 32 portions of 60 grams were sold in custom made Jianshui clay jars, and ten more 60 gram portions were sold without the jar. If I recall correctly, everything was sold out in a matter of hours, but I was fortunate enough to grab a jar.
When I first opened up my jar I immediately started yelling at my wife that she had to come give it a smell. I then ran over to my parents place and made them smell it. Then I sent Glen a message to tell him how amazing it is. Then I got on chat with my tea friends to talk about it. I think you get the point here. This tea smells bonkers. I was expecting a faint rum-like aroma, but this straight up smells like you’re on the beach, surrounded by fruit trees and sipping rum. I also wasn’t sure how well the jar would seal everything in, but if I sniff around the jar I get no scent from whats inside and now a few weeks later, opening up the jar gives off the same powerful aroma as it did when I first cracked it open. After a rinse the rum scent becomes more subdued, but it’s definitely still there. It’s joined by more of a standard shou smell, chocolate, and banana.
For this session I am using 3.75 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 100C water, and infusion times starting at five seconds then increasing by five each additional steeping.
From the first sip, rum barrel shou is full flavoured and interesting. Banana is the most up front note here and it is a real, in your face flavour. I’m not talking about something that sort of feels like a general banana flavour, I’m talking “what the hell, this tastes like bananas.” This shou isn’t one note though – layered underneath are notes of chocolate cheesecake, dark honey and dark roast coffee in the finish. Infusion two jumps up in flavour, and the third steeping sees the addition of more familiar shou notes. On occasion I get a bit of vanilla, and over time the finish turns from coffee to bakers chocolate.
No new tasting notes appear for infusions four and five, but I am really noticing how smooth this tea is. The mouthfeel is beginning to thicken up a bit and the tea becomes creamy. Infusion six gets a strong molasses taste, but still nothing is taken away. All the different flavours are still kicking around and are all well defined.
Infusions seven through nine see a new fruity note that I hadn’t noticed earlier, I think mango would be in the right ballpark. The tea starts to fade out a bit and as it the molasses and wood notes move forward in the mix. By the thirteenth steeping I think it would be safe to pronounce the tea dead, but despite the lack of taste it still has a feeling of presence. I pushed it another couple long steeps past here and the feeling remained.
I think I have said it before, but I can’t stress enough how much I love what Crimson Lotus is doing in the shou world. In my honest opinion, Rum Barrel Shou is a “don’t think, just buy” tea. Next time you see a teaser that a batch is coming out, set aside some cash and be ready to buy. If the productions weren’t so limited I would snatch up a few of the refill packs, but I think everybody should experience this tea so that feels greedy.