In New York, it can be easy to forget there’s a world beyond the five boroughs…especially when you don’t need to step outside Brooklyn to find locally made rum.
You might also be surprised to learn how deeply rum is rooted in America’s history: it was the first US-distilled spirit, and one of the country’s first recorded rum distilleries was on present-day Staten Island. Adding to this New York story, Williamsburg-based Bridget Firtle has started “The Noble Experiment,” her own one-woman distillery, kicking off with Owney’s Rum. She stepped away from the still to answer our questions:
Q. Can you remember the first time you really enjoyed a great rum?
A. No comment…
Q. Owney’s is white rum. What does the color, or lack of it, mean?
A. In order for rum to get dark, it has to be stored in barrels and mature for months or years—this leads to a new flavor profile created by the interaction of the spirit with tannins and vanillins in the wood; it is also where [rums] pick up their dark color. White rum does not age for nearly as long and that is why it is the first product I’m able to make available to the market. And I’m excited about the white rum—it works really awesome in cocktails but is also smooth enough to be enjoyed with a few ice cubes.
Q. How would you describe the Owney’s taste?
A. The Original Owney’s is similar to an agricole (or sugar cane juice) rum: sweet on the nose with hints of vanilla, banana, butterscotch, and cane. On the palate, it’s quite grassy and full of minerality. It’s dry and super smooth, because it is distilled at a high alcohol by volume before being blended down to 40%.
Q. How do your ingredients set Owney’s apart from other rums?
A. A lot of commercial rum producers add sugar at the end of the process for
added sweetness, or caramel coloring, and use synthetic chemicals in “flavored” products. We source all of our [non-GMO] sugar cane molasses domestically, and our [forthcoming] infusions are made of mostly homegrown herbs.
Q. What’s on tap next?
A. First off: our overproof version of the Original Owney’s rum, intended to really stand up in cocktails. Later in the year, we’ll be releasing some limited edition, infused varieties of the Original, made with homegrown herbs, using a simple cold infusion process. Stay tuned for our backyard garden opening this spring! Later down the road, after a proper barrel aging, I’ll be excited to release our aged rum and American whiskeys.
*Clean Plates tip: Substitute 0.15-0.2 oz. organic raw agave nectar for simple syrup, or make your own simple syrup using coconut palm sugar.
The Noble Experiment
23 Meadow St. (bet. Bogart & Waterbury)
Brooklyn, NY 11206
The distillery offers $10 tours on Saturdays. Reserve tickets here.