With artisan spirits front and center in the world of bartending, the Boston area has become home to distilleries eager to make spirits a bit better than the big names.
Two to tour are the seaside distillery of Privateer Rum in Ipswich, Mass., and Bully Boy Distillers in Boston's New Market district. Growing brands, these distilleries are churning out spirits that are making a big splash in glasses around the city.
Tasting at Privateer Rum — Photo courtesy of Jessica Polizzotti
After a ride along the breathtaking coastline that frames the north shore town of Ipswich, you'll find yourself in another world among the warehouses that surround Privateer Rum. A small sign hangs above the door, giving you the sense you're entering a secret society rather than a fully functioning distillery.
Upon entry, you'll come face to face with a prominent bar modeled after the USS Constitution; it's charm transforms this busy facility into a space you'll want to relax in.
Behind the bar, you'll see a variety of rum brands and mixing tools that play an important role in the company's research and development. Knowing the competition is just as important in creating their brand as the process they employ.
The brand's distiller, Maggie Campbell, is a true genius who goes beyond the basic process to impart a unique flavor profile into Privateer. Campbell's passion for Privateer shines through in the methods she uses, including a constant monitoring of the product, during which she adjusts and modifies until she gets it to her liking.
Hand labeling spirits — Photo courtesy of Jessica Polizzotti
Setting their standards higher than average, Privateer uses ingredients that most avoid due to the increase in cost. You'll find grade A molasses, sugar cane juice crystals and real boiled-down brown sugar in place of the less costly options.
Because of the time, effort and love employees put into the product, you'll understand why no one at Privateer is opposed to tossing a batch if it does not turn out right. Consumers consistently get a finished product the company is proud of, and you'll enjoy sip after sip.
You could say that founder Andrew Cabot has rum in his blood. Named after a family member who happened to be an actual privateer, Andrew Cabot is passionate about his brand. His passion shines through in a finished product that is just as good on the rocks as it is mixed into your favorite cocktail.
Named barrels at Privateer Rum — Photo courtesy of Jessica Polizzotti
Boston-based Bully Boy, founded by local brothers Will and Dave Willis, is another brand of spirits, with historical ties to the liquor industry that's made a big splash in local markets.
Having grown up on their family farm, the Willis brothers discovered their grandfather's secret vault was filled with spirits from prohibition. Their grandfather operated a speakeasy out of their farm basement for men to gather and socialize when drinking in public was not an option.
Bully Boy Coasters — Photo courtesy of Jessica Polizzotti
Inspired by a passion for farming and their small-scale cider-making on the kitchen stove, the Willis brothers set out to develop a brand of spirits that pays homage to their history as well as integrates their passion for farming. Bully Boy strives to repurpose waste, hauling it to and using it on their Sherborne farm.
With a tried-and-true system of distilling their spirits – which include white rum, amber rum, white whiskey, American straight whiskey, vodka and a rum mixture entitled Hub Punch – Bully Boy has their methods down pat. Utilizing the process of temperature controlled distillation, Dave ensures each batch comes out just as good as the last.
When visiting Bully Boy, you'll be treated to a tour of their facility, as well as a tasting of their spirits in their lounge area. A simple bar graces this section of the plant, where several stools and a couch invite you to relax, enjoy and learn about this Boston-based brand.
An experience you can't find just anywhere, a tour of Privateer Rum or Bully Boy Distillers connects you with the new wave of manufacturing in the Boston area and lets you learn about the product you're drinking.
Bully Boy's white whiskey — Photo courtesy of Jessica Polizzotti