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Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of…what? Pirates at war in the drinks cabinet as Scots rum hoves into view

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CAPTAIN MORGAN might be the world’s most famous rum-loving pirate but he’s got a rival.

Bucaneering John Gow who went plundering the seas from Orkney has inspired a rum being made on a tiny island nearby.

Distiller Collin van Schayk believes Lamb Holm in Orkney is probably now the world’s smallest rum-producing island.

And, while the drink conjures up images of the Caribbean, Collin thinks the colder Scottish climate provides some distinct advantages.

He said: “People do associate rum with the Caribbean. That’s where most of the sugar cane would have been produced.

“Most people wouldn’t think the Orkney climate was ideal for producing rum, but it’s good really, in the sense that it’s not too hot.

“You’re not battling with bacteria and things like that when you’re making fermentations because it’s so cold.”

Collin van Schayk (Fionn McArthur)

Collin – director, head distiller and, so far, only member of staff at VS Distillers – launched J. Gow spiced rum, named after the notorious Orkney pirate John Gow, in October and is already producing about 3000 bottles every month from the uninhabited island. He came up with the idea in 2015 when dad Emile, 59, asked if he’d help out with his own business, the Orkney Wine Company.

He said: “Dad was gearing me up to take over the wine business – but I thought rather than take over his business, I would take some of his space and start my own.”

As well as the spiced variety, he’s also laid down rum to mature in oak and chestnut barrels for future sale when it tastes just right.

Collin said: “Gin’s the popular choice and that’s what everyone seems to be doing, but I couldn’t make an honest gin because I personally don’t like it. I wouldn’t be able to make a good one. Rum is the main drink I’m into so it kind of makes sense.”

Although Emile helps when needed, Collin works on his own producing the ‘wash’ – the basic mixture turned into rum – which he then distils, bottles and markets himself.

He also designed the bottle – and even ventures out to pick the secret Orkney-grown ingredients which help give his product its taste.

He said: “It’s a rum-drinker’s rum. We made it really smooth and it’s quite rare for a spiced rum that you can drink it straight.”

Meanwhile, he says he’ll have to wait a bit to see what effect the Orkney setting is having on it – the distillery is just metres from the beach. Lamb Holm’s other main attraction is the Italian Chapel, built by prisoners of war during the Second World War.