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New project to bring you “tropically” matured rum from Cornwall’s geothermal heartland

Planned "Tropical" Geothermal Rum Cask Maturation Facility, Cornwall (source: Grimshaw Architects)
Alexander Richter 16 Nov 2020

What a product addition to the United Downs Deep Geothermal Project? Distillery startup Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company is pushing forward with plans to produce “tropically” mature rum using heat from the UK’s first geothermal power facility.

Cornwall’s historical links with rum smuggling and mining have come into futuristic focus with the unveiling of a GBP 10 million (around USD 13 million), 30-job vision to create a 100% sustainable rum cask maturation facility – using heat generated by the UK’s first geothermal power project.

How exciting are these news? Adding “geothermal” rum to the products of geothermal development in Cornwall, England is quite a feat … so very much looking forward trying it as soon as they start producing. Now it is up to planners in Cornwall to consider the application of the company.

In the release shared with us it is reported that Matthew Clifford, founder of the Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company (CGDC), has submitted outline plans for an ultra high-tech biome which would incorporate his patent-pending, carbon-neutral rum “cask maturation pods” designed by Grimshaw Architects alongside Buro Happold – globally recognised for innovative architecture that respects the planet’s resources whilst being functional and awe inspiring.

The former offshore helicopter pilot-turned-entrepreneur is working closely with Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL), based at United Downs within Cornwall’s historic mining heartland, and other local partners.

The project would initially see ethically produced, Bonsucro* accredited rum distilled around the world brought to the site, laid down in oak casks made and repaired by CGDC coopers (barrel makers) and stored in the maturation biome to enhance the product’s quality and flavour.

The biome, approximately 14 metres tall at its highest point, would incorporate 4 maturation pods, each holding 800 X 200L casks, amounting to

640,000L of rum in total which would be tropically matured over a period of five to ten years.

The CGDC team hopes the rum cask maturation facility would be up and running by the late summer of 2022 – and that a demonstrable success of this “Catalyst Phase” could draw further interest and investment into the creation of a full GBP 30million Cornish geothermal rum distillery with potential to create up to 100 jobs.

Outline plans for the Catalyst Phase have been submitted to Cornwall Council, following CGDC’s investment of more than £150,000 investigating parcels of land in the United Downs area including, with generous cooperation of race track operators Purple Cornwall, land at the United Downs Raceway.

All sites are a pipeline and cable route from where GEL’s project team has drilled over 5km into ancient granite to tap the deep geothermal heat from which significant quantities of clean, renewable electricity and heat will be produced in 2022.

“We’ve been working on our deep geothermal distillery project for the last two years and it is hugely exciting to finally share our plans for this initial ‘Catalyst’ stage,” says Matthew. “We aim to combine our absolute passion for rum with much-needed investment and quality full-time jobs in this part of Cornwall, utilising local skills and businesses. We will be sharing our vision with the communities close to United Downs, so that they have the opportunity to give us their thoughts and impart local knowledge, which will be invaluable to this project.”

Jobs created in the Catalyst Phase would include highly skilled Master Coopers and Master Blenders as well as offering apprenticeships to local young people. CGDC’s aim is to work with the Cornwall Mining World Heritage Site team to preserve and enhance this historic area and to pay tribute to those who worked above and below this land right back to medieval times.

Ryan Law, MD of GEL says, “Although electricity production has been our main objective at the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project, we’ve always been committed to finding an ethical business to make use of the sustainable geothermal heat which is a by-product of the electricity generation process. “It’s therefore great news to see the rum cask maturation stage of CGDC’s vision coming nearer to reality. I hope that this first stage will be a great success and that in the future we will see the UK’s first geothermal rum distillery at the United Downs.”

“We are working with a brilliant team of consultants including Roach Planning and Ward Williams Associates surveyors, all the while in close contact with GEL,” says Matthew Clifford. “Work on our vision for a Geothermal Rum Cask Maturation Facility has continued, remotely, right through lockdown and it is hugely exciting to be sharing that vision and entering the latest phase of the project – in consultation with all the parties concerned.”

For more information on CGDC’s proposed rum cask maturation facility at United Downs please visit  www.geothermaldistillery.com

*Bonsucro is an international not for-profit, multi-stake-holder governance group established in 2008 to promote sustainable sugar cane. Its stated aim is to reduce ‘the environmental and social impacts of sugarcane production while recognising the need for economic viability’