A while ago, on one of my rum runs, I visited store that was supposed to carry the Fazenda Mae De Ouro cachaca. They had it, and as I grabbed the bottle I saw a box sitting on the very top shelf above the rums. The box had a Khukri on it, which caught my attention as that is a very odd knife that’s little known in the US. It was even stranger to find such a thing in a liquor store, so I had to take a closer look. The box held a bottle of Khukri Coronation rum from Nepal, decanted in a glass bottle shaped like a Khukri knife.
I chuckled at the bottle, and the fact that this rum came from Nepal, a country that’s not exactly noted for its cane sugar production. I made a mental note to check it out when I got access to the Internet.
When I got home I emailed Cachaca Dave to let him know that I had finally found the Fazenda Mae De Ouro (which I still have opened). In the course of conversation he asked if I had ever tried Khukri rum from Nepal. Talk about serendipity. I told him that I had just run into it at and had plans to do some research on it. He urged me to try it, mentioning that he favored it more than Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old.
Those are mighty strong words. Mighty strong. And I committed myself to trying it.
The next day I got an email from Doug Loughran, president of Liquid Treasure Imports, the company that imports Khukri into the US. He offered to send me a sample to review. I was not sure if I wanted to accept this offer, as I felt it would obligate me to a favorable review regardless of my true feelings. I review rums because I like rums, and I post the information because I believe in sharing info and hope that someone will come along and try a new rum because of something they read here. I did not like the idea of obligating myself to a review that was less than honest. But after a while I remembered Cachaca Dave’s words and felt that it would be unlikely for me to find this rum to be less than good. And I decided that if I could not recommend this rum then I would not say anything at all about it.
Khukri Coronation Arrives
Doug was good to his word and sent me a bottle of the Coronation, which I understand is the same rum as their Khukri XXX but just in a different bottle. It comes in a cardboard box with a cut-out to hold the oddly-shaped bottle, and also has a couple of small plastic stands so the bottle can be displayed properly. I showed the bottle to my wife, and she absolutely loved it and claimed it for herself once the rum was gone. I chuckled again, thinking that this was one of the oddest bottles I have ever seen.
That weekend I brought it to camp to try it and share it with Phil. I also had to show off the bottle. Well, Phil loved it, as did the other 3 or 4 people I showed it to. Everyone was intrigued by the shape and the fact that it was handmade. Some years ago I used to make and collect knives, so I was familiar with the Khukri and a bit of its history, so I shared what little I knew. People just ate it up – the bottle, the knife and its history, and the rum made in Nepal.
I stopped chuckling when thinking about the bottle. As hokey as I might have though it, others obviously did not. Every single person who saw it loved it. So kudos to Nepal Distilleries for such unique packaging, and a note to liquor store owners: get it out of the box and display it! Don’t stick it in the back on the top shelf where nobody will see it. It’s a great bottle, and deserves to be seen clearly. (Sad to say, I don’t really have a place to display it, but I do show it off to everyone who visits.)
Later that night Phil and I sat back for a rum tasting, and the Khukri was tasted along with the Zacapa 23, Zaya, and the Santa Teresa 1796. The Khukri held it’s own, getting favorable responses from the both of us – even amongst those giants of the rum world. Alas, Phil and I got distracted by the similarities between the Zacapa and Zaya, and we spent the rest of the night sipping those two. I knew that the Khukri was good enough to get its own full review, and I finally got to it…
Nepal Distilleries Limited is located in the Balaju section of Kathmandu, Nepal. The distillery sits about 4300 feet above sea level. NDL was established in 1959, and Khukri rum has been made there since 1959. In 1974 they introduced the Coronation Khukri rum to commemorate the coronation of Shree Panch Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, and developed the unique bottle. NDL sells about 80% of the rum in Nepal, and also makes John Bull whisky (whiskey?) which is labeled “A Scottish Experience.”
Khukri Rum has won a number of awards, most recently a Gold Medal at the International Cane Spirits Festival & Tasting Competition. It also grabbed a Gold at the International Rum Festival in 2002, and netted an 89 rating from tastings.com.
This is a dark, like mahogany, and rich-looking rum. The legs are quite thick and barely move when the glass is swirled. And this makes sense because this rum doesn’t swirl easily – it’s quite thick for a rum, and I’d expect it to be heavy with sugar. The smell is sweet, but not overly so, and has a initial smell of buttery toffee or perhaps butterscotch, though it’s a bit too heavy for butterscotch. Other smells come through – a bit of nuttiness and some dark fruits. I’m psyched – this smells like it’s going to be a sweet complex rum, my favorite kind.
The first sip is certainly thick, and this coats the mouth letting the flavors linger. I can taste a multitude of things here: coffee and hints of chocolate, nutmeg and some banana. It’s not as sweet as the smell hints, and finishes a bit dry, of medium length with some woodiness. It leaves a nice bit of spiciness, and some other flavor – a spice of some sort – that I can’t identify. Perhaps it’s the nutmeg I tasted earlier, but with the slight wood notes I figure that it comes from the aging barrels and I simply can’t put my finger on it.
Several sips later and I’ve gone crazy trying to identify that other taste at the end. So I brought it up to my wife, who doesn’t really like rum (tequila for her) but has a nose that it pretty good at identifying unique smells that I can’t place. Her comments about the smell included “sweet, very sweet” and mentioned almonds at the first whiff, and found coffee and chocolate as well. Alas, she’s not much for drinking straight liquor – even after adding an ice cube – she wouldn’t swallow enough to get at that lingering flavor that I couldn’t identify.
I’m now on my third dram of Khukri, and my mouth and tongue are getting beyond the point of tasting and detecting nuances. It doesn’t help that this glass contains an ice cube from my attempt to have my wife try it. Though the chill of the ice cube gets this rum extremely sippable, it’s not quite necessary and the water flattens the rum considerably.
I would heartily recommend that one does not try ice with this rum – please try it neat to get all the complex nuances. If you must have ice, chill it quickly and strain the ice out – get rid of the water as quickly as possible, before it gets a chance to flatten it. You really want to get all the nuances of this extremely complex rum.
The Khukri is a bit sweet in smell but not so much in taste. It’s extremely complex, showing many bold flavors and many more subtle ones. This is a rum to enjoy slowly.
I can’t say that it’s as good as the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old, but it’s pretty darn close. It will have a place on my shelf forever. And I’m very glad to say that I did not feel obligated to give this a good review – this rum is outstanding, all on its own, and doesn’t need any help from anyone.