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The Severed Hand Story...

This Month, we caught up with Managing Director, Tony Dalnas to get the lowdown on the Black Powder Distillery and the mysteriously names Severed Hand Rum.

Tell us about your distillery?

The Black Powder Distillery is situated on a family farm not far from the coastal towns of Lytham St Anne’s and the hedonistic bright lights of Blackpool - it’s also tucked away behind an army barracks, so it’s perhaps one of the most heavily guarded distilleries in the country! The farm has been in the family for over a century and has an incredible history linking to Cromwell, Thomas Miller and Charles Dickens. With 300 acres we have a number of them dedicated to orchards specifically for growing fruit for our gin based spirits. In fact in the last few years we have planted 100,000 bushes and trees with another 45,000 in the next 2 years - mainly native for wildlife but 20% for growing fruit such as wild brambles, apples, quince, damson, sloe, black plums, gooseberry, raspberry, hawthorne, rosehips, elderflower, the list goes on. The original distillery started off in a small cow shed which is now our bar. 6 years later and we are now in a large purpose built warehouse and distillery which overlooks the lake adjacent - it’s a pretty stunning place to live and work with lots of natural wildlife pottering about.


Why did you branch into rum from Gin?
Well in fact we also make a whisky, vodka and liqueurs so we’re quite adept at diversifying. However, the decision to venture into rum production (something we started 3 years ago) was from pure desire to experiment as much as it was to develop our product line. Rum offers a distinct set of flavours and characteristics compared to gin, allowing you to explore new creative dimensions which are all very exciting. Additionally, it was a strategic business move to tap into the growing market for premium and artisanal rums, providing a unique offering to a broader audience of spirit enthusiasts. 

Why the name Severed Hand Rum?
Yes, you’re probably wondering what inspired such a macabre name. Sure, it appears to have all the typical piratesque hallmarks that’s usually associated with rum but in actuality, the name has nothing to do with Black Beards, cutlasses, pieces of eight, or sea shanties for that matter but more to do with gangsters and guano! Much of what we do at the Black Powder Distillery has been influenced and inspired by our family home, Preese Hall. 

‘The site has been around since the Domesday Book 1086 so it’s safe to say it has an incredible history! Fast forward slightly to 1865 to this article from The Preston Guardian -Some workmen, whilst employed in emptying a number of guano bags on Saturday last, at Preese Hall Farm, in Weeton, which belongs to T. Miller, Esq made a very strange discovery. The guano had come from Liverpool, to which port it had been shipped from Peru, and after a number of bags containing it had been emptied, one of the men observed a human hand amongst the manure; it had just rolled out of one of the sacks. On being picked up the hand was found to be in a wonderful state of preservation. The hand was full-grown, and the flesh, muscles, skin, etc seemed to be quite perfect; but after it had been exposed to the atmosphere for a short time decomposition set in rapidly. No one can account for the hand being amongst the guano.’ To this day no one knows whether the hand belonged to an unfortunate Peruvian slave or as a result of some Peaky Blinder-type shenanigans at Liverpool Docks! Suffice it to say we thought we should continue to preserve the severed hand story and in homage named our rum after it! Hence why the bottle in this month’s Craft Rum Club is presented in a hessian sack with Hand charm - we refrained from the guano!


How did you arrive at the new design concept with the vivid hand motif?
The process involved extensive research with our resident designer, Chris Hesketh. We looked into Caribbean aesthetics, seeking to encapsulate the sunsets, azure waters, and lively atmosphere that define the region. The choice of colours, reminiscent of the Caribbean palette, was intentional to evoke a sense of place and celebrate the vibrant culture that inspires Severed Hand Rum. The incorporation of gold elements was a deliberate touch to convey not only the premium quality of the spirit but also to echo the sun-kissed luxury associated with Caribbean destinations. It serves as a visual testament to the meticulous craftsmanship and dedication that goes into every bottle of Severed Hand Rum. The logo design is a harmonious blend of artistic expression and a genuine reflection of the brand's roots and commitment to excellence.

Why choose a single origin rum as your base spirit?
Choosing a single origin rum can offer distinct flavours and characteristics specific to that region, providing a unique and refined taste profile for the final product. It allows for a more focused and authentic expression of the terroir, similar to how single origin coffee or wine showcases the nuances of a particular geographic area. Once the rum has landed at our distillery we then redistill in traditional flame-fired copper stills which not only help to maintain the rich profile but also enables us to add our own unique recipe to the pot.

Where do you source your rum? Monymusk is a historic distillery located in Jamaica. It traces its roots back to 1779 when it was established as a sugar estate. Over the years, it evolved into a rum-producing facility. Monymusk has played a significant role in Jamaica's rum industry, contributing to the island's rich rum heritage. The distillery is known for producing high-quality rums, and its long history reflects the enduring tradition of rum-making in Jamaica.

Why a Jamaican rum over a Latin rum say? Choosing Jamaican rum over Latin rum often boils down to personal taste preferences. Jamaican rums are renowned for their robust and fruity profiles, influenced by the island's unique terroir, fermentation methods, and the use of pot stills. They often exhibit bold flavors with hints of tropical fruits and spices. On the other hand, Latin rums, which may come from countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or Puerto Rico, tend to showcase a lighter and smoother character. They often undergo different distillation processes, such as column still distillation, resulting in a more refined taste with notes of vanilla, caramel, and sometimes a touch of sweetness. Ultimately, the choice depends on individual flavour preferences. Jamaican rum offers a bolder and more complex experience, while Latin rum tends to be smoother and versatile for various cocktails. It's worth exploring both to appreciate the diverse world of rum.

What was the vision for Severed Hand Rum? The vision for Severed Hand Rum was to craft a distinctive spirit that embodied a balance of rich, nuanced flavours, paying homage to the heritage of rum-making while introducing our own personal elements. The character aimed to combine the warmth of traditional rum with unique tasting notes, creating a memorable and versatile spirit for both sipping and mixing in cocktails. As production commenced, there was a dedication to maintaining the initial vision, but like any creative process, there were adjustments made to enhance certain flavour profiles or refine the overall balance. Feedback from early batches, market response, and ongoing experimentation influenced subtle changes to ensure the final products met or exceeded the envisioned character. The evolution in production was driven by a commitment to delivering an exceptional rum that resonated with consumers and stood out in the competitive spirits landscape.


Describe the flavour profile of the Jamaican Spiced Rum? The ginger and chili spiced rum presents a tantalizing flavour profile that marries the warmth of ginger with the fiery kick of chili, creating a sensory symphony that excites the taste buds. Upon the first sip, a bold and zesty note of fresh ginger emerges, offering a lively and invigorating start. The heat of the scotch bonnet chillies (originating from Jamaica) gradually intensifies, providing a spirited contrast to the ginger's initial brightness. This dynamic interplay creates a well-balanced combination of heat and spice, adding complexity to the rum's character. The chili's warmth lingers, inviting a slow, smoldering finish that enhances the overall depth of the flavour profile. Beneath the spice, the rum's inherent sweetness surfaces, offering a subtle counterpoint to the robust ginger-chili duo. This delicate sweetness helps to round off the edges, ensuring a satisfying taste experience. The rum's base notes, enriched by oak undertones from the aging process, contribute a hint of depth and complexity, completing the profile with a touch of sophistication.

You also make two other spiced rums? Yes, a Caribbean Spiced and a Hazelnut infused Rum. The Caribbean boasts a distinctive profile with notes of vanilla, coconut, and chocolate, capturing the essence of the tropical terroir. The infusion of vanilla adds a sweet and creamy dimension, while the coconut brings a hint of exotic richness. The chocolate notes provide depth, creating a harmonious and indulgent flavour profile that pays homage to the Caribbean's diverse culinary influences. In addition, our hazelnut-flavoured rum introduces a unique twist, seamlessly blending the warmth of rum with the rich, nutty undertones of hazelnuts. This variant offers a sophisticated and velvety experience, perfect for those seeking a more complex and nuanced flavour in their rum.

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Bernadette Pamplin

Bernadette loves rum. She set up a gin focused blog Under The Ginfluence eight years ago. Since then, her passion has naturally spread from gin, to rum and other spirits too. You can find work from her on Gin Magazine, Distiller Magazine, and Spirits Beacon, as well as content for  The Gin Guide.

She’s also the editor of Rum’s the Word, writing articles on rums featured in the box, as well as other rum related topics. Bernadette has built up six years experience in judging for events like Gin of the Year, World Gin Awards, Spirits Business Awards, Gin Guide Awards, IWSC and the American Distilling Institute Judging of Craft Spirits and works behind the scenes, assisting with organising and participating in panels for the Craft Distilling Expo.