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Artisan Rum: Phil Prichard, Rogue & New Orleans

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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3498
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 7:36 am    Post subject: Artisan Rum: Phil Prichard, Rogue & New Orleans Reply with quote

Monkey Alert! The following may be hazardous to your health...

Distilling is an ancient art that has been largely replaced by humongous, highly profitable industrial operations. This represents most of the rum you will ever buy. Still (pun intended) batch pot stilling never completely died and indeed, is making a comeback.

Following are three You Tube links to three of America's boutique distillers.

The most interesting, by far, is Phil Prichard - a true character that Sue Sea and I have met, and whose fine Tennessee rums represent a quality unmatched not only by the industrial giants, but even by some of the so-called artisan distillers (Rogue in Oregon, New Orleans in, uh, New Orleans). There are others.

If you only watch one, visit (Link to Phil Prichard). Here - and in just a few minutes - you will learn a brief history of rum in American and how and why Phil...

1. uses food grade, sweet molasses, not the Blackstrap used by almost every other other producer.

2. buys the sweet molasses in 4000 gallon, over-the-road tanker truck deliveries, then ferments the wash in roughly 1400 gallon batches (300 gal. molasses/1100 gal. water) for an amazing 10 days to 2 weeks (think Jamaican style).

3. this "wort" is then stripped in 500 gallon batches in his copper pot stills to obtain about 100 gallons of 80-85 proof beer, which is then distilled again to about 95 proof. Final proof varies due to the batch process.

4. aging is in very small (and expensive) first-use charred oak, 15 gallon small barrels for 2 to 5 years (the equivalent of 7 to 10 years in large, well-used 55 gallon barrels).

5. the final rich rum is then blended and bottled at barrel proof, to achieve final bottle proof without adding a drop of water. Phil compares this to most producers who distill at 120 proof (or higher), then dilute the rum (and flavors) with large amounts of water.


We have tasted all of Prichard's rums and they achieve a full-bodied, Jamaican style richness that is almost unmatched. Please, please watch this video and you will be well rewarded with a much better understanding of the distilling of rum and the advantages of the pot stilling process.

In comparsion, then check two other "artisan distillers"...

1. Link to Rogue Rum

2. Link to New Orleans Rum

Rogue Rum is a stepchild of a boutique beer distiller, while New Orleans focuses on distilled spirits. Both of course have marketed their artisanship - they are both smaller operations - but both pale in comparison to a true artisan the likes of Phil Prichard. Why?

Rogue distills to 175% in a column modified pot still (which is really just a low cost, batched column process), while New Orleans distills to 150% using a separate column still. I was very surprised to note that both collect or transfer final spirit in beer style plastic buckets (a HUGE no-no for distilled spirits, due to possible absorption of plastics).

New Orleans adds "natural" flavorings only at the end to the final product, which is immediately bottled. Rogue's rum is fermented using high alcohol tolerant yeasts to maximize alcohol conversion (17-20%!), but at the cost of significant flavor loss.

Follow the money.

The point: "artisan" products are not what they seem. In this comparison Phil Prichard is the true artisan. Watch and learn...

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Joined: 08 Dec 2008
Posts: 113
Location: Erie PA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having had the pleasure of touring both Prichard's Distillery and Celebration Distillation (Old New Orleans) earlier this year, I can say that both tours were informative and entertaining, both take their craft seriously, and both make some very nice rums.

The differences, as you point out, are that Prichard has some higher quality distilling equipment and a more traditional process, and Celebration is a bit more like Rube Goldberg with a chemistry set. But both are very open and honest about their processes, and in Celebration's case, the tricks they use to create their final products. Unlike most of the major rum manufacturers (word carefully chosen), who hide their dirty secrets behind a gaggle of marketing liars.

Both Prichard and Celebration offer a high end rum product that can only be purchased at the distillery. Prichard's Private Stock is about as close to rum perfection as you can get, whereas Old New Orleans 10 Year is also very tasty but perhaps a bit less smooth and complex (and also $25 cheaper).

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's destruction, the fact that Celebration has been able to resume business at all is impressive. Their current products are better that most, even if they might have to cut a few corners to get there (and keep their prices tourist-friendly).
Students of the cask, reject naught but water. -Charles Gonoud, Faust Act 2
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