Review: Cooper River Petty’s Island Rums and Cooper & Vine Brandy

Cooper River Distillers is the first legal distillery in Camden, NJ — ever! This outfit produced its first product, a rum, in 2014, and since then it’s been adding more rum expressions, brandy, and whiskey. We received a variety pack from the company — three rums and its brandy — and put them all to the test in the writeups that follow.

Cooper River Petty’s Island Rum – Pot-distilled white rum (unaged) made from a “custom blend of molasses.” Funky and pungent, but with a distinct sweetness underneath the initial notes of leather and burlap. It’s not the usual tropical fruit character but rather a floral-driven note that evokes notes of hibiscus, grapefruit peel, and cinnamon-scented tapioca. Lots going on, with a somewhat muddy direction. 90 proof. B- / $25

Cooper River Petty’s Island Driftwood Dream Spiced Rum – Take the Petty’s Island white rum base, “then we age it on toasted applewood for a month, add all-natural cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, ginger, coffee, and allspice before finally sweetening Driftwood Dream just a tad with the same molasses we use as the base for all of our rums.” Incredibly dark color, and the molasses added comes through immediately. This, and some ginger notes, overwhelm all the other flavors, though a hint of coffee on the finish is both fun and quite unique spiced rum. Gingersnap in a bottle — that’s the gist — with a boozy edge. The more I sip on this, the more I fall in love with it. 80 proof. A / $32

Cooper River Petty’s Island Rum Rye Oak Reserve – Here’s the white rum aged for 13 to 16 months in charred, white oak barrels previously used for Cooper’s rye whiskey. Though amber in color, it’s still quite brash. Butterscotch notes hit the nose, along with hints of coconut and plenty of ethanol heat. On the palate, the raw alcohol notes tend to dominate, incompletely covering up the funky underpinnings of the white rum, thick with raw forest floor notes, pungent tobacco, and just a hint of spice — the only real indication of the rye whiskey barrel. 90 proof. B- / $39

Cooper River Cooper & Vine Garden State Brandy – Lastly, this is a brandy (made from New Jersey-sourced pinot grigio wine) that is aged for about 18 months in 15 gallon barrels — some new oak, some previously used for Cooper’s rum and rye — all blended together in the end. This is a rustic, very young brandy that is loaded with simplistic granary notes, raw alcohol, and blunt fruit notes, the finish offering heat and plenty of vegetal overtones. Nothing much to see at this young age. 85 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1. C- / $37

cooperriverdistillers.com

Review: Spytail Black Ginger Rum

Rum from France? Who knew? Biggar & Leith is an independent spirits merchant that brings us this unique product, a Caribbean rum that is aged with fresh ginger root and spices in the barrel. Based on a 19th century French recipe, the aging, spicing, and blending all takes place at a small family distillery in the Cognac region. Caramel color is added (and it’s a dark spirit), per the label.

What’s a Spytail? Says the company, “Spytail is named after a legendary submarine — plans for which were discovered by our distillers. The first mechanical submarines in the world were invented in France — and tested on the Charente River which flows nearby our distillery. These were the submarines which Jules Vernes used as the inspiration for his famous novel — 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

As for the rum, they ain’t lying about the ginger. This is powerful, loaded with fresh ginger notes, starting with a powerful punch of the stuff on the nose. Secondary notes of vanilla and cloves can’t hold a candle to the bold ginger character, which creates a headily aromatic attack from the get-go. You almost have to recover to really dig into the palate, which — you guessed it — is filled with ginger character as well. Here the pungency from the ginger melts into notes of chocolate, caramel, coconut, and some raisin character… all very lush and exotic, but tempered by the ginger spice, which lingers for ages as the finish develops.

This is fun stuff, miles away from your Captain Morgan, and something anyone who professes to be a spiced rum fan needs to pick up, pronto.

84 proof.

A / $20 / biggarandleith.com

Review: Humboldt Distillery Spiced Rum

Humboldt Distillery is best known (to me, anyway) for its hemp flavored vodka. But Humboldt also makes a rum, organic and well spiced. The rum is double distilled; once in a column still, once in a pot still. There’s no information on aging or the spices used in the flavoring process.

The golden/amber rum is relatively light in color, but it presents a very rich and powerful nose. Aromas include notes of butter cookies, molasses, cloves, and a pungent note of chewing tobacco. The palate has some roughness around the edges — clearly this is a younger rum — but is nonetheless full of flavor. Ample vanilla, brown butter, lots of cinnamon and cloves — this is the classic stuff of spiced rum, but with the sweetness dialed back a bit and the toasty/bready notes given an upgrade.

The finish finds a return to the rum’s rustic roots, alongside some notes of green banana, coconut, and smoldering spice. If you’re looking for a spiced rum that goes beyond mere flavors of cinnamon-flecked brown sugar, this is one to check out.

B+ / $26 / humboldtdistillery.com

Review: Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum

The latest product from Destilería Serrallés, the Puerto Rican producers of Don Q Rum, is a natural line extension: spiced rum.

The catch? Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum is an aged, spiced rum. The spirit is made from “a blend of Puerto Rican rums that have been aged for a minimum of three years and up to six years.” The aged rum is them spiced with a blend of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It’s also bottled slightly overproof — not at 70 proof like many mainstream spiced rums on the market.

The rum is immediately quite dry, even on the nose, which is laden with baking spices, particularly nutmeg, plus notes of toffee, gingerbread, and hints of black tea. Barrel influence is evident in the form of bold vanilla aromas as well. This leads to again a quite dry palate that has only a modest amount of sugar, those baking spices and the natural fruit character of the rum working to provide what sense of sweetness the rum has to offer. Lightly nutty and a little floral, the spice and fruit work side by side to give the rum a complexity not often seen in spiced rums. A little brown butter and some smoldering notes of cloves and barrel char on the back end serves to complete a surprisingly elegant and approachable package.

90 proof.

A- / $30 / donq.com

Review: The Rums of Maggie’s Farm

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Maggie’s Farm is focused on one spirit only: rum (plus a couple of liqueurs, one of which is a falernum). The name of the distillery hails from a Bob Dylan song, and while he didn’t mention rum production in it, a quick listen might get you into the mood to sip some of their craft-distilled goodies.

Below find our thoughts on six of the nine rum expressions the company currently produces. Production differs from product to product, so follow along closely!

Maggie’s Farm White Rum – Made from 100% raw turbinado sugar and unaged after pot distillation. Pungent with oily fuel notes, as is typical for unaged rum, with some aromas of citrus peel, lavender, and ginger. On the palate, the more industrial-tasting notes are dialed back, with notes of ripe banana and marshmallow fluff showing, though the finish is loaded up with coal dust and hints of petrol. Not unapproachable, but strictly a mixer. 80 proof.  B / $28

Maggie’s Farm La Revuelta Dark Rum – (“The uprising.”) This is a funky product that is actually a blend: Maggie’s Farm’s raw cane pot-distilled rum from Pittsburgh mixed 50/50 with a column-distilled molasses rum from Trinidad. Solid stuff here: The nose is rich and authentic, with caramel and molasses notes, strong vanilla, and some chocolate, too. Mildly floral aromas persevere, given enough time. The palate is sweet and loaded with cinnamon-heavy baking spice, applesauce, and just a hint of diesel on the back end to give it some kick. A top-notch, well-aged rum. 80 proof. A / $35

Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum – This is the turbinado-based rum, flavored with eight different spices, “including Tahitian vanilla bean, fresh orange zest, nutmeg, and allspice.” It is not sweetened with sugar. The nose is bold with notes of lemon, vanilla, gingerbread, and evergreen Christmas notes. Enticing, it leads the way to a body loaded with those baking spices, dusky root beer notes, some green olive, and loads of vanilla. It’s strong for a spiced rum, but as promised, it’s only very lightly sweet, so let your mixer do any sugar-sweetening you need. 80 proof. B+ / $30

Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Unaged – “Queen’s Share Rum is made exclusively from the tail runnings of our normal cane rum distillations. Being heavier than alcohol, the flavor and aroma compounds boil off the still in a higher concentration at the end of the distillation cycle. We keep these tail runnings and re-distill them on their own. This results in a more flavorful and complex spirit. This unaged version is the unadulterated and bottled at cask strength.” Much more neutral than the standard White Rum, this is both fruitier and more floral, with a honeysuckle kick. At 57% abv, it’s hot but not scorchingly so, with a slight petrol finish, followed by some more banana. Milder than you’d think. 114 proof. B / $24 (375ml)

Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Rye Barrel Finish – The Unaged Queen’s Share mentioned above spends 18 months in rye whiskey barrels before bottling. The whiskey character is undeniable here, from the sweet caramel nose, loaded with rye-heavy baking spice, to the lush and clove-forward, toffee-soaked palate. Some flambed banana notes remind you that this is actually rum, not whiskey, with a finish that adds in notes of bubble gum and some fresh cherry fruit. Fun stuff, but far off the beaten path of traditional rum. 110 proof. A- / $35 (375ml)

Maggie’s Farm Queen’s Share Double Cask Finish – This is another Unaged Queen’s Share rum, finished in two types of casks for 21 months. Mysteriously, the identity of both of those casks hasn’t been revealed to me. Again it’s got a whiskey kick to it, all toffee and caramel, cut with baking spice, banana bread, and almonds. Some moderate but sharp citrus notes percolate here and there, but the sweeter notes of vanilla and creamy caramel dominate. The finish is racy with allspice and cloves, spiced nuts, and hints of gunpowder. I like the more straightforward rye finish a bit better. 110 proof. B+ / $NA

maggiesfarmrum.com

Review: Rums of Beach Time Distilling

Beach Time Distilling, based in the small, coastal town of Lewes, Delaware, is one of a growing number of American craft distilleries producing our nation’s first favorite spirit, rum. Distiller and co-founder Greg Christmas worked for seven years with Delaware-based craft brewing powerhouse Dogfish Head before setting off on his own to focus on craft spirits. Since opening Beach Time in late 2015, he has created an impressive list of offerings in addition to rum that include vodka, gin, and plans for a young malt whiskey. All of his small batch spirits are crafted on a meticulously maintained 66-gallon Polish-made still. In keeping with the tradition of “lower, slower Delaware,” Greg emphasizes that the yeast in his spirits is not rushed or stressed in the natural fermentation process, creating what he calls “Leisurely Refined Spirits.”

Beach Time Distilling Silver Rum – Beach Time Silver Rum is made with raw cane sugar and molasses, fermented with two yeast strains, double-distilled, and bottled at 80 proof. It has a light, buttery nose, a slight heat on the palate, and great ripe banana and pineapple notes. These flavors are created through the use of a tropical yeast strain and dunder during fermentation, which is common with Jamaican rums. Similar to sour mash in bourbon, dunder is essentially stillage from the previous distillation used in subsequent fermentation. 80 proof. A- / $25

Beach Distilling Gold Rum – Beach Gold is the same Beach Time Silver aged for a short period of time in new charred American white oak barrels. Unsurprisingly, the nose has subtle vanilla notes. The tropical fruit flavors found in the Silver are barely present, with dominant caramel and cinnamon notes becoming banana bread on the palate. The finish is abrupt, making it a better mixer than sipper. 80 proof. B+ / $30

Beach Time Distilling Navy Strength Rum – The Navy Strength version of Beach Time Silver has a big buttercream nose. It’s rich on the palate and hot with a velvety sweetness. The heat, unfortunately, dampens some of the tropical fruit notes on the mid-palate, and they only show up again briefly on the finish. Still, this one could be a real bartender’s friend, standing up well in any rum-based cocktail. 114 proof. B+ / $21 (375ml)

Beach Gold Distilling Barrel Strength Rum – For nearly 130 proof, the nose on the cask strength version of Beach Gold is subdued. The vanilla aromas have to almost be pulled out of the glass, but on the palate this one is surprisingly good. There’s noticeable heat right from the start, but it never overpowers the bold and creamy flavors of Madagascar vanilla, raw honey, and nutmeg. The finish is short with sweet oak notes that become slightly drying. That aside, it’s a worthy sipping rum. 129.2 proof. A- / $28 (375ml)

Beach Fire Distilling Spiced Rum – Beach Fire is Beach Silver infused with a blend of cinnamon, orange peel, whole vanilla bean, and six additional spices. It’s all fresh cinnamon stick and orange marmalade on the nose. There’s a nice heat on the palate and a good balance of fresh ground cinnamon, orange zest, and clove. The spice in this rum is somewhat subdued compared to other spiced rums on the market, and I imagine it might get lost in a mixer. 80 proof. B+ / $35

beachtimedistilling.com

Recipes: Celebrate Sailor Jerry’s 106th Birthday with 3 Cocktails

You can’t have an anniversary without a special anniversary edition bottle — and this one is certainly special, with Norman Collins’ photo on the back. You may know him better by another name:

January 14th marks the 106th birthday of the undisputed father of old school tattooing, Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. Known for his unapologetic attitude and all-American values, Norman Collins was a tattoo legend, a musician, radio host, biker, and served in the U.S. Navy.

After his time in the Navy, Collins made Hawaii his home and opened a tattoo parlor where he showcased the innovative craftsmanship and artistry that made him famous. He was an inspiration for many modern day artists and creators such as tattoo artists Oliver Peck, Michael Malone and artist turned designer Ed Hardy. Collins’ iconic flash art work has lived on in tattoo designs and art across the world.

Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum was created to honor Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, and the brand celebrates all of his personal passions – from the military and the inked community, to motorcycles and rock n’ roll, and to those people and partners who live their lives according to their beliefs.

To celebrate, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum has teamed up with The Field Museum in Chicago, to host a special birthday celebration. The Field Museum’s Tattoo Exhibit is currently home to some of Norman Collins’ original tattoo flash artwork, so to honor the legend on his birthday, Oliver Peck from Spike TV’s Ink Master’s will be providing complimentary Norman Collins flash tattoos to a select number of attendees.

In honor of Mr. Collins, here are three cocktails to celebrate the tattooed icon.

This cool, refreshing cocktail called a Cherry Jerry is delightful. When garnishing with the cherry, why not add a couple of spoons of syrup from the maraschino cherry jar? The spiced rum plays off of the lemon-lime soda for a drink fit for a backyard picnic or poolside. Save this recipe for the hot months to come. You’ll be pleased with it.

Cherry Jerry
1 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
3 parts lemon-lime soda
grenadine or Cherry Heering floater
garnish with a Jerry’s Cherry (see below)

Add all ingredients into a cocktail glass, garnish and serve.

Jerry’s Cherries
Drain a 10 ounce jar of Maraschino Cherries of their liquid. Fill with Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. Return the lid and refrigerate for at least 1 week.

The ginger and rum mingle together in the Jerry Loves Ginger cocktail to make a wonderful blend of zing and spices. Don’t substitute ginger ale; you want to do the rum justice. This might also make a nice hot toddy. Simply heat up the ginger beer with a bag of chamomile tea to brew the tea. Add to a mug with the rum and a tJerry Loves Gingerablespoon of honey.

Jerry Loves Ginger
1 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
3 parts ginger beer

Add Sailor Jerry to an empty highball glass, then fill with ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with candied ginger.

A Ginger Spiced Negroni is a spicy take on a Negroni. We found the Campari a little overpowering in this cocktail, though it did lighten up as the ice melted. Perhaps using a half part would be better. It is definitely to be enjoyed as a slow sipper. Some people like their Negroni as a before-dinner drink but we recommend this one for later in the evening.

Ginger Spiced NegroniGinger Spiced Negroni
1 part Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
1 part Campari
1/2 part ginger liqueur
1/2 part sweet vermouth

In empty mixing glass, measure Sailor Jerry. Add Campari, ginger liqueur, and sweet vermouth. Add a few chunks of ice and stir to blend flavors and dilute. Add more ice and repeat. Strain into empty chilled old fashioned glass. Add fresh ice block and garnish with candied ginger.

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