Interview

Maggie Campbell

New focus on the United States with an interview about Maggie Campbell, the president and “master distillers” at Privateer Rum, in Massachusetts, north of Boston.

I’m happy to present you this small article cause, here in Europe, this new distillery is not known at all… it could a nice introduction so 🙂

Hello Maggie, could you introduce yourself and explain us what was your background before privateer rum ?

I’m Maggie Campbell and I am the President and Head Distiller of Privateer Rum. I started with Privateer 8 years ago.

Before working at Privateer I worked for a boutique wine and spirits distributor for about 2 years after serving as Assistant Distiller at Germain-Robin working in the Cognac style tradition. I got my start in distilling with my passion for whisky. I also have a background in brewing and I am a Master of Wine candidate.

I also serve as Vice President of the American Craft Spirits Association where I’m serving my second term as an elected board member. I am also on the alumni advisory board for WSET representing all diploma graduates from the US.

Here in Europe, we don’t really know Privateer rum, could you explain us how was formed the distillery and how do you proceed (Molasses, yeast, fermentation, cask type etc ?)
I think you use pot still distillation, but I don’t know for the rest 🙂 

Privateer is located in Massachusetts in the United States. We are on the north Atlantic Maritime coast where there was a long history of rum distillation from the colonizing era.

The founder of Privateer, Andrew Cabot, had an ancestor who made rum here in Essex County, where our distillery is located. He had read about his family history and found an original bill of sale for the distillery.

In the US market at the time, nearly all Rum was trying to be as cheap as possible, was often sweetened, and he saw a wide open space to use best practices and seize the opportunity to make fine Rum here in the US.

Our rum is made from 100% molasses, and is double batch distilled. We have double pot still rums as well as 8 plate column stills. This allows us to make a range of spirits and blend for complexity when needed.

Our fermentations are long and slow 6 days at 23-25C and we get some good bacterial conversion for depth of flavor in the last three days. We get a good pH drop to give the wash a tangy acidity.

How many cask are in your warehouse for aging ? Do you think of doing some double maturation etc or only in ex bourbon cask ?

We have about 800 cask aging! One of our most valuable assets is that we have a stock of rum laying down to mature.

It was very important for us to make sure the rum had enough time to get old enough and also have stores of mature Authentic American Rum when no one else was really working to lay down so many barrels.

Some of our expressions use new American oak and can have a whisky like profile which has been very important for us in the US. We also use a large amount of ex bourbon, our own ex rum casks, and we also have maturation cask such as Cognac and Scotch as well. 

If you should compare Privateer’s rum to another rums, which one would be in terms of aromatic/profile (Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, … a mix ) ?

It’s always hard to define what Mainland American Rum is like because it is such a new revival of the category.

We definitely do not want to try and copy anyone from the Caribbean. Our rum is dry, has a supple texture, and some good structure to them. We are always flattered to be confused with Barbados rum, but we are definitely doing our own thing and their style is distinct from ours.

The North Atlantic Maritime aging gives oak spice and floral esters over more fruit driven notes common to tropical aged rum.

True American Rum ? Is there a big rum history/buzz in the US ? Here in Europe there are lots of rum geeks… how is the market on the US ?

The US is definitely far behind Europe in the excitement for, and consumption of rum. But it is absolutely growing. Rum was so historically important here that whiskies were sold as ‘rums’ because rum just meant alcohol as a general phrase.

Whisky drinkers seem to be embracing our rums as they are dry and never sweetened. They say they are wanting to try a lot of new things especially as whiskey prices continue to go up and availability continues to go down. We’re excited that so many new people are getting interested in rum all the time.

There’s a lot less familiarity with the styles and types here then when I travel in Europe.

Do you think an IG should be possible for “American Rum” ? What should be the great lines of this one ?

I think we’re still very new and too immature to really have an identity that should be codified. I could see in the future a loose organization of distillers with an aim to making an authentic style of rum for New England but as far as actual laws around it I think we need time.

I certainly know what I would want the GI to be, but that is different.

In the US there’s an organization called Empire Rye that is trying to define New York rye whiskey. They have done it as an independent group rather than codifying it in law. I could see that becoming a future path for New England or continental North American producers who want to unite under a banner.

LM&V will have two special Privateer rum this year, is there some bottle for Europe too or you ‘ll only sell them on America ? I think you haven’t yet distributors in EU. How european fans can get bottles or samples ?

We are actually doing three releases and news flash, it will be a Paradisetto bottling for Velier !

We are very excited about it. It will have Habitation Velier aged and unaged that will be available in both the US and in Europe.

We will be for sale in Italy and France through LM&V and there will be the Paradisetto release that is for Europe only.

Could you explain us the great lines of your range of bottle ? I’ve seen one white rum and some ambers… I can imagine the oldest one is 2-3- years ?

Our Navy Yard rum is always a cask strength 100% molasses rum aged in a single new American oak barrel. It is 2 to 3 years old.

Our Queen Share is always a single cask, cask strength release as well that is also 2 to 3 years.

We have a 5 year old Queen Share coming out this year as well as a number of Bottled in Bond expressions that by US law is a minimum of 4 years old.

We have stock getting older all the time!

What are you favourite rums ? The ones, besides yours of course, you like to taste at home with friends or alone…

I always have to have Foursquare, Worthy Park, Hampden, and Sajous Clarin on my bar at home or I feel unprepared!

How do you see the future for Privateer rum and the world of rum in US ? 

I’m very excited for our future.

It is incredibly important that we maintain our high-quality and never waiver under the pressure of the new excitement around our rum.

We want to be here for the long-haul and keep doing great work to honor everyone who has supported us so far. In the US, I hope that the reputation of rum increases.

There’s often a self-referential quality where I think Mainland rum producers could connect more with our peers in the Caribbean to get a better perspective and context on the world of rum.

I also think familiarity with distillation of rum will improve with emerging producers and we will see better cuts being made for better quality and older stock. That’s my hope!

We need to move away from the quick aging, small barrels, sweetening, and to be honest there is far too much use of crystallized sugars that give too little character.

Few producers do that well and our community is maturing out of that I believe.

Thanks a lot Maggie for these nice words ! Wish you all the best for the next !

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