• What the devil? How Cleo became our queen of rum

What the devil? How Cleo became our queen of rum

8 July 2019 by Neil Sowerby

ODD (you might say in homage to her former bar) to catch up with Cleo Farman in current NQ fave Cottonopolis, complete with samples of her  enthusiastically received rum blend, Diablesse

Yet it makes sense. The general manager here, Gethin Jones (below), has acted as brand ambassador, creating some ingenious cocktails around it.

Cleo, 48, had found herself in limbo after calling time 18 months ago on Odd in Thomas Street and The Blue Pig around the corner, both consigned to history like earlier departures from her bar empire, Oddest in Chorlton and Odder on Oxford Road.

She took advantage of that limbo big time by decamping to her old stomping ground, the Caribbean, to reignite her passion for rum cultivated way back when she worked as marketing manager for Richard Branson’ Necker Island.

“I always kept a cupboard full of various rums from across the islands but felt I needed to bring my research up to date,” she tells us. “So I spent nine months researching distillers across the Caribbean to ensureI I could create the perfect authentic blend. I’ve always loved rum. The aim is to convert gin drinkers to rum!” 

That quest certainly paid off. Evidence? The two bottles she plucks from her bag. Both bear the name Diablesse – inspired  by a Caribbean folklore spook, La Diablesse, born human but turned demonic after a pact with the Devil. Makes for a striking bottle  label.

They say you should use a long spoon to sup with the Devil. In this instance we get two brimming tumblers to try. Diablesse Caribbean Rum (40% abv) is Cleo’s benchmark blend of three distinctive rums, serious stuff, while Diablesse Clementine Spiced Rum (42.3%) is a crowd-pleasing demerara rum from the Diamond Distillery, flavoured with clementine and a spice mix of spice mix of vanilla pod, ginger, cinnamon, cinnamon and clove.

Lovely glugger the latter, but it is the Caribbean Rum that really makes you sit up and pay attention. Some canny blending has gone into its creation with a major contribution to its complexity and smoothness coming from ageing in American bourbon barrels. No added sugar or caramel either.

It is made up of three liquids – an eight-year-old light, golden rum from Foursquare, family-run Barbados distillery since 1820; a four-year-old Jamaican copper pot still rum from Worthy Park distillery (1670)ba ‘rich, full bodied rum full of funk’; and, adding sweetness, a two-year-old Guyanese rum from the Diamond Distillery (1741), distilled in a 19th-century Enmore Coffey pot still – one of the last three operating wooden stills in the world.

We concur with the tasting notes that detect “notes of chargrilled pineapple and butterscotch with a long, warm peppery finish”.

The Diablesse rums were only launched in February but have already garnered an impressive range of stockists, including Selfridges, Astons, Tipples of Manchester in Lloyd Street (check out their new rum blog   which recommends Diablesse for the 'perfect' mojito'), Reserve Wines, Cork of the North and, online, Masters of Malt. Expect to pay £37 for a 700ml bottle of Diablesse Caribbean Rum and £32 for 700ml of Diablesse Clementine Spiced Rum.

Bars where you’ll find it include Refuge, Dusk til Pawn, Wood & Company, Volta and Cottonopolis. For more information, see their website. Diablesse has been shortlisted for Artisan Drinks Producer of the Year in the Manchester Food and Drink Awards.