Privateer Rum Distillery in Ipswich is easy to miss, our tour guide Chris DeStefano explains, which is why we arrive to find the garage door of the distillery wide open on a cool December day. DeStefano is the director of tours and hospitality at Privateer Rum Distillery and a chef by trade. (He was formerly the owner of Christopher’s Table in Ipswich.) Privateer has been making rum for the past five years, under the guidance of Andrew Cabot. Cabot is a direct descendant of Andrew Cabot, a privateer in the 1750’s from Beverly, Massachusetts. What’s a privateer? Our tour guide likens a privateer to an entrepreneurial pirate. Cabot had somewhere between 20-25 ships in his fleet that were authorized to attack enemy vessels, which in many cases carried molasses and sugar. He also opened a rum distillery in downtown Beverly during this period. This bit of knowledge inspired the current day Andrew Cabot to open his own rum distillery.
DeStefano began the tour outlining the historical significance of rum in the early colonies. I’m a bit of a history junky so within a few minutes and without tasting the rum, I’m already a fan of this place. The tasting bar has a rustic feel; it’s painted navy with a golden eagle. A ship’s mast with an antique bell emerges from the edge of the bar, adding to the antique nautical vibe.
I settle in at the bar and begin to learn what ingredients actually go into Privateer Rum. We taste Grade A molasses, real boiled brown sugar, and evaporated cane crystals. Real boiled brown sugar makes me question if I’ve ever truly known what brown sugar is. Grade A molasses tastes of fig, while Blackstrap leaves a burnt flavor on my tongue. DeStefano is a fantastic tour guide who conveys a passion for food, taste, and all things Privateer.
Next, we tour the distillery and the stills responsible for fermentation and distillation. Each still has a name, and my favorite is Austen (named after the one and only Jane). There are 8 people on staff at Privateer, and the head distiller is Maggie Campbell. I won’t spoil the entire tour, but I will say that the amount of personal attention that goes into the process of making this rum is astounding.
Tasting the rum was a true experience. We all know I’m a vodka fan through and through, but I could easily give it up for Privateer’s Silver Reserve Rum. I can’t impress upon you enough the sickly sweet rum I drank in my dorm room in college tastes nothing like the spirit being produced in Ipswich. The True American Rum, named after one of Cabot’s boats, was reminiscent of a scotch. It would be perfect served neat on a cold winter’s night. We finished the tasting with a limited reserve Privateer Gin that will return this Spring.
Privateer Rum will resume tours after the Holidays. Do go and visit them, learn about the history of spirits in the North Shore, and drink fantastic rum. I left with a bottle of silver reserve and a bag of real boiled brown sugar. Keep your eyes peeled for cocktail and cookie recipes courtesy of Privateer.