Cotton & Reed opened its doors in 2016 in Washington, D.C.’s trendy Union Market neighborhood, becoming the first rum distillery ever in the District. The distillery prides itself on making interesting rums with flavors specifically geared toward cocktails, although neat sipping is encouraged, as well. They also promote a “restrained approach to sugar,” meaning these aren’t the overly sweet rums of your college drinking days. Distilled from a mix of raw cane sugar and blackstrap molasses with a rhum agricole yeast strain, the distillery has built a core portfolio of white, spiced, and aged rums, as well as a cocktail-friendly allspice dram. We received a trio of samples for review, and our thoughts follow.
Cotton & Reed White Rum – On the nose, there’s plenty of spun sugar sweetness along with an equal measure of grassiness and a slight dilly note, almost like sweet pickle brine. It’s a refreshingly unique aroma. On the palate, Cotton & Reed’s restrained approach to sugar really shows with a dry, minty sweetness and subtle notes of dehydrated banana and pineapple. It’s buttery and oily with a vegetal, sugar cane quality reminiscent of some rhum agricoles. The finish is clean and light with notes of cinnamon stick and underripe apples and pears. That generous but lightly sweet complexity does indeed seem ideal for a cocktail. 90 proof. A- / $25
Cotton & Reed Dry Spiced Rum – Using unspecified “unusual botanicals” and no artificial vanilla, Cotton & Reed is clearly not trying to compete with Captain Morgan here. If the name didn’t already drive that home, the nose makes it immediately evident with big, herbal notes, verbena in particular, and sundry dried spices. It’s almost more savory than sweet. The palate shows a better balance of those grassy herbs and some welcome, sweeter dried citrus and classic baking spice with cinnamon and clove leading the way. The dryness makes for a classy and contemplative shooter, but it’s probably best to let this one elevate your next spiced rum cocktail. 70 proof. B+ / $32
Cotton & Reed Allspice Dram – Cotton & Reed’s take on the famous Jamaican liqueur is most definitely intended for cocktails. The nose showcases a classic punch of roasted nuts and fresh ground spices, dusty and woody and gently sweetened. The palate is slightly bitter with a gentian edge but at the same time warming with nutmeg and clove. Notes of dried lime really resonate across the palate, complementing the other lip puckering elements. A fresh-baked gingerbread richness arrives to replace some of the bite in the flavor-filled finish. Another solid cocktail companion. 44 proof. B+ / $35