Started in 2017 by Turner Wathen and Jordan Morris, independent bottler Rolling Fork is named for a famous, but now shuttered, Kentucky bourbon distillery. But Rolling Fork isn’t making whiskey and doesn’t plan to. Instead, the label sources additive-free rums from around the world and finishes them in whiskey casks. They appear to be doing all of this with some assistance from Indiana’s Starlight Distillery, although it’s unclear exactly what Starlight is contributing (casks, bottling, perhaps both).
The portfolio includes two lines: the Rolling Fork Series, a revolving line of single cask rums finished in ex-whiskey casks and bottled at cask strength, and the Lost Cask Collection, which comprises rarer, long-aged, single cask rums bottled without any secondary finishing. Rolling Fork also has something of a flagship blend in its stable dubbed Fortuitous Union, a mix of unspecified rums blended accidentally with rye whiskey (à la Wild Turkey’s Forgiven) and re-casked into a Thomas H. Handy barrel for over 20 months. We received a sample of both Fortuitous Union and a Bajan single cask release from the Lost Cask Collection. Thoughts follow.
Rolling Fork Fortuitous Union – The aroma is dry with golden notes of underripe pineapple, straw, and butterscotch candies. As things begin to bloom in the glass, caramel and banana chips emerge along with a subtle hint of fresh lemon wedge and white pepper. There’s a surprisingly restrained sweetness on the palate, as well, but still layers of flavor to explore. Lively top notes of baking spice and an initial flourish of marshmallow sweetness give way to baked and dried tropical fruits followed by cracked pepper, cigar ash, and cedar and then a final kiss of brown sugar on a spicy and warming finish. There’s a vibrancy here that’s a bit overshadowed by the proof (and perhaps the Handy barrel), but it’s an engaging rum, nevertheless. 111.6 proof. B+ / $65
Rolling Fork Single Cask Barbados Rum 9 Years Old – Nine year rum sourced from the illustrious Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and finished for 13 months in an ex-Wild Turkey rye barrel. The aroma is restrained, soft and sweet with mild notes of cocoa, lime zest, and banana bread. A hint of salinity builds as it opens, along with a bit of rye spice. The palate is quite the contrast, kicking off with bold, dark notes of brown sugar, treacle, and buttery caramels accented with a bit of black pepper. Pineapple and banana develop on the midpalate but not the typical bright and fresh variety found in most rums. Instead, these fruits are baked and caramelized, part of some decadent crème brûlée or perhaps a pastry cream-covered Hummingbird cake. The finish is silky with rich simple syrup and a fading, creamy note of banana pudding. A well-made rum from the beginning, no doubt, but the barrel finishing has clearly added depth and richness. 112 proof. A- / $89