Cabal No.1513

Cabal No.1513

Craft Rum Box | Cabal 1513

The heart of Cabal is in the name. It is a collective.

It is not only celebrating the collectiveness of sharing a drink, but interestingly the company has structured its operations around working collectively, right from the point at which it started to create the spirit. Yes, distillers often work on feedback. But still, this idea of ‘the many’ creating a spirit is an unusual approach. However, it is one that has a logic to it. There is power in numbers and when you amass a series of experts and those who love a tipple, you’re likely going to come out with a good result, and these guys have absolutely nailed it. Some of the testimonies of its members are quite magic. As spirits expert Brian Woods says “Having been involved in the liquid’s design, testing and development since Cabal’s inception, I am really proud to be part of this incredible brand and business journey. Using more than 25 years of my industry expertise, customer feedback and a determination to find a nose and taste that is relevant to our audience, yet true to the integrity of rum, I think we have found something really special.”

Cabal No.1513 rum is the first drink to be launched by Harpalion Spirits and believe me when I say, it is a real doozy. I can tell you this because I was lucky enough to have been sent a sample prior to its first bottling, and I cannot wait for you to try it out for yourself. It is beautifully made. A drink of elegance, with a rich and complex flavour palate. The reason for the attention to detail is because they wanted to create something of a ’sipping rum’, having identified a gap in the market during research. A lot of drinkers mix their drinks and there are plenty of drinks you could make from this, with it’s big, beautiful and bold flavours, but my advice would be to treat yourself to a dram over ice. It’s a real show stopper all on its own.

Harpalion Spirits is headquartered in Edinburgh and the team is always on the hunt for trends and opportunities in the spirits sector. It was set up by the highly successful entrepreneur and spirits lover Richard Dixon and Claire Kinloch, a brand and business strategy expert. There are three fundamental foundations behind the business, the ideas of ‘taste’, ‘together’ and ‘truth’. Taste relates to the versatility of a spirit being ‘exquisite sipped, delicious mixed’. The idea of togetherness is exactly what you think it is, ‘created, tested and validated by real consumers as well as experts; a sense of belonging; exploration and evolution’. And finally, truth, that is ‘honouring the legacy of the rum industry and marrying it with the changing needs of today’s consumer’. Richard explains a little about their impressive professional drive, “The spirts sector is fascinating – it constantly needs to reflect the changing nature of consumer behaviour and is always innovating. Never more so than in the current climate where despite a real shift in consumer behaviour and the obvious challenges the sector has faced, this brings real opportunities to think differently, and that's what we've done with Cabal. We're delighted with the result of our product development, and very excited to bring this new rum to the market for people to enjoy together.”

But hey, let’s get back to the Cabal themselves for a moment, because I think that by understanding everything that goes into making a drink, the experience becomes a lot more than nose, palate and finish. Many distilleries create drinks based on location, centred on a story, and this becomes the spirit’s identity. With Cabal, its identity is formed by all the hearts and minds of those that gently nurture it into its final form. Claire, CEO at Harpalion Spirits says, “Cabal is about a group of people, a collective, intrigued by rum. The "core" Cabal involved in liquid development comprised a range of consumers from those who love whisky, to rum, to gin. Some had never tasted rum before and/or sipped a spirit before. We started with the Board to identify flavour territories we liked. We wanted something authentic, unflavoured and natural. With our liquid specialist, Brian Woods, we developed eight trial liquids with different finishes. These were tested one household at a time (and remotely by post across the UK!) with 40 people. No.1513 was the sample name from our first research project that was the absolute favourite across all consumer groups. The bottle shape, label and branding were also shared in terms of concept development across this "core" Cabal to gain feedback and ideas.” Cabal prides itself that more than 200 people have already been involved in the journey of the brand and 32 in the creation of this particular liquid. They ‘bring together experts, enthusiasts and sceptics from the UK and beyond. People that love rum and also those that don’t know it yet. Those that like drinking spirits neat and those that prefer them mixed. People who want to be involved in creating [their] amazing rums and those that just want to enjoy them.’ Now, when we break that down, it seems like they’ve covered everything, and that really is the point. Because when you bring together such a range of people, you’ve created your own little world, and how better to create a drink for the wider world than that? In doing this, you create a drink that’s ‘distinctive and flexible’, something that has a wide appeal and something that offers a choice in how it’s drunk. Striking the balance in creating a spirit that tastes great when sipped neat and also holds up well to being mixed is quite an art.

And, striking the balance between business and art is another thing that Cabal does very well. In some senses, this is very much a business. This hasn’t been one distiller playing around with recipes, making an ode to their favourite spot, or point in time. This is something that has been carefully and systematically constructed. Cabal talk about ‘online business meetings with [their] supply chain, restricted household customer focus groups, virtual serve development sessions and creative logistic solutions.’ It could all sound very serious, but it is important to remember the faces and thoughts of all those people involved, like Hazel Watson, a rum lover, who says, “I’m grateful to have been involved from the early stages, helping to name the brand and develop the creative look and feel. I’m proud to be part of a brand story that has involved so many different types of people and really values the feedback of the community. Being part of our online Cabal cocktail tasting was so much fun, and a totally new experience for me. Which, has given me a deeper understanding of rum and all the steps involved in creating it.” These people are a hive mind of input and have created something that is wonderfully made. It’s easy to imagine the smiles shared during the process and the shared joy of creation. There is clearly a lot of love and patience, each sip a well-polished facet of a jewel. So, let us find out a little more about the liquid.

Cabal No.1513 is a blend of high quality rums from the Caribbean, Guyana, Guatemala, Trinidad and Panama. There is a combination of pot and column distillation, initially tropically aged at origin and finished in Pedro Ximénez casks in Speyside, Scotland. The spirit is bottled at 43% ABV, with a natural colour, cork stopper and wooden cap. On the nose there are incredibly bright caramel and toffee notes, with the bitter bite of dark chocolate, sweet stone fruit and fresh, round orange peel. On the palate the experience builds into something incredibly rich with caramelised apple, fruit cake, barbecued pineapple, figs and the soft kiss of sherry. It’s beautiful, indulgent and elegant, a really special offering.

So, it’s a sipping rum, right? But what about other serves? Well, if you are a creative drinker, never fear! There are several serves letting Cabal shine in all its glory, including serves as simple as the Cabapple, that is a 50ml measure of the spirit topped with 125ml sparkling apple juice and wedge of lime, to more involved cocktails like the Fig and Ginger, Mint Mandarin and a gorgeous Breakfast Martini. Check their site for details.

We at Craft Rum Box are very lucky to have Cabal No.1513 in this month’s Craft Rum Box, and I would be bold enough to venture that you are too. Because this is the first spirit launched from Cabal and even as I write this it is only just being bottled. It is brand spanking new, and we are the first drinkers to get to enjoy it which is certainly something special, and certainly worth a toast! I have to say that this really is an astounding triumph of a first launch. There is also an ultra-premium range comprising aged single cask rums that will be launching in Autumn 2021. Information on these is currently limited but a little birdy tells me that. “The first ultra-premium collection will see a range of three single casks each from Trinidad, Panama and Dominican Republic, up to 12 years old.”

Cabal No. 1513 is available to buy from And, be sure to check them out on Facebook, and Instagram.

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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.