How Do You Define an “American-Style” of Rum?


By Wayne Curtis
January 29, 2019

Rum is the most malleable of spirits. It’s a liquid shape-shifter that can vary by region and culture, from the full-bodied double-retort pot still rums of Jamaica to the grassy agricoles of Martinique to the crisper, dryer rums of Puerto Rico.

Add to the family another style, one just now getting more attention: American-style rum, crafted by distillers across North America who’ve been exploring different profiles for the past decade or two.

But does an American-style rum exist? If so, what defines it?

“I’m curious about American-style rum in that I’m not certain what it is yet,” says Tim Russell, the owner of Maggie’s Farm Rum in Pittsburgh. “I’m not certain American rum knows what American rum is yet.”

American rum has been feeling its way forward for a while now. Phil Prichard, who launched Prichard’s Rum in 1997, was among the first who set out to make and market an American-style rum. “We spend almost every waking hour attempting to define the American rum, versus what we refer to as the tropical types of rum,” Prichard told me in 2004. ”We stake our claim on producing an authentic American rum.” His early advertising featured the “Spirit of 1776,” the iconic 1891 painting of three bedraggled Revolutionary musicians marching beneath a tattered flag. Not a beach umbrella in sight.

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Karen HoskinWinter 2019