In Nerdery

In honor of National Rum Day (August 16th), we’re spending the whole month of August diving deep into this Caribbean spirit!

When I (Caroline) began working at the distillery, I had an average understanding of rum; I knew it was often Caribbean/tropical themed, my dad had a bottle of some generic rum in his liquor cabinet, and I didn’t particularly like it. I had no idea of the story behind the spirit, its connection to the Caribbean, or the incredible nuance that can be found in this category of spirit.

I learned, though! I quickly fell in love with Bourbon Cask Rum (rest in peace) and its successor Third Coast Rum; through making cocktails I learned about its complex, delicious flavor. So now I’m sharing 5 things I’ve learned in the past 5 years!

#1 – Did you know that Derek didn’t start out making these spirits with the intention of releasing a rum? It’s true! Derek’s first overtures into this Caribbean spirit were to make rum as the base of a liqueur that NSD was making for another company.

Even though that spirit didn’t need to be aged, Derek couldn’t resist throwing the extra into a few extra barrels. He patiently watched the aging process refine this rum, and give it new complexities. Finally (6 years later!) it achieved the flavors he wanted. The first North Shore rums were released in 2017, the year before I joined the distillery!

#2 – Speaking of aging, rum doesn’t need to be aged — Derek made that decision because he wanted it to be great for sipping as well as mixing. Although it takes much longer, aging rum smooths out the rough edges and brings extra dimension to the spirit, incorporating oak and vanilla notes from the wood barrels. Derek also adds cherrywood at the end of the aging process, which moderates the oakiness and adds subtle spice notes. The result is worth the wait!

#3 – Before Third Coast Rum goes into barrels, it begins with the highest grade of first strike molasses. All rum must be made from sugarcane — this is what makes it a rum, rather than a whiskey or a brandy. Molasses is a popular choice as the base for rum, since it is a natural byproduct of the sugar refining process. We chose the highest quality molasses to bring in the rich tropical notes rum is known for.

#4 – Fun History Fact: by some estimates, the average colonial American consumed over three and a half gallons of rum a year! The American colonies loved rum for a few reasons; it was A) cheap (sugar was farmed inexpensively through forced labor) B) geographically nearby (much closer than Europe or Asia) and C) easier to get than spirits like gin, especially during and after the Revolutionary War. Drinking was so common at the time that people would stop work mid-morning for a drink, much like we do now with coffee.

#5 – And one of the most important things I learned about rum — rum cocktails can be more adventurous than a Rum & Coke or Mojito! Throughout history rum was regarded primarily as a rough, cheap spirit, suitable for the lower classes. In the 20th century U.S., this reputation sidelined it to fruity, tropical drinks. The strong fruit flavors hid any unwanted aspects of the rum used in the cocktail.

But great rum can shine on its own! Third Coast Rum is a perfect example — it is rich, round & layered, with tropical fruit & accents of spice. Instead of hiding these qualities, I love to highlight them in cocktails, either by adding only a few ingredients to let the rum shine, or bringing in a lot of complex notes that complement the tropical nature without obscuring the rum within.

Drinks like the classic Daiquiri and our Caribbean Sazerac highlight the rum, and even more complex tropical creations like the South Seas or Hurricane build on the fruit & spice notes without obscuring the character of the rum.