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New Jersey is Busted

September 9, 2013

It’s Monday morning and I’m already thinking about drinking.

Not in one of those depressing I’m-sick-of-the-world-let’s-forget-our-sorrows kind of ways. But more in line with the-kids-are-finally-back-in-school-and-I’ve-got-my-life-back celebratory type of mood.

Last year, after dropping the kids off for their first day of school, I met up with a few of my mom friends for a champagne brunch. That’s much more appropriate than writing about rum. But we play the cards we are dealt.

Before leaving New York, I learned one very exciting thing about New Jersey. They have loosened the regulations on distilling and have just started issuing licenses to craft distilleries. One of them just released their very first product. Given my great love for New York craft spirits, hunting down a bottle of Busted Barrel silver rum was one of my top priorities upon moving to Princeton.

The first act of bar restocking was the classics. Mrs. Fussy enjoys her bourbon Manhattans, and I couldn’t start a liquor cabinet without a bottle of gin. Amazingly, these were found in the local Wegmans. Yes, we have wine AND booze in our awesome grocery store. You just can’t buy it after 10 pm on a school night…or something. Geez. People are so uptight.

Anyhow, as great as Wegmans is, they neither had the Jersey Artisan Distilling rum, nor did they have any hand crafted bitters. I’m a little off the industrial produced versions, but that’s another story.

It took me another couple of days to make it to Cool Vines. Let me just say that I think I’m going to like it here. This small wine and spirits shop had a sign in the window which was promoting a tasting of New Jersey’s own Busted Barrel rum paired with their house-made bitters.


The liquor store was making their own bitters. That’s awesome. So naturally, I wanted to buy a bottle. Sadly, they aren’t for sale. But happily, the shelves are stocked a wide array of small batch bitters, many of which i had never seen before. And I’m thrilled with the small bottle of Spanish Bitters that I picked up from the shop.

So, what about the rum?

Well, Devil’s Corner describes it as having a, “Rhum Agricole nose and a white flower mid-range that extends into the lengthy finish of toasted nuts and caramel laced with sea salt.”

I can agree with this evaluation in part. But I have to diverge with them on the nose. Rhum Agricole is produced directly from the cane and not molasses which is the byproduct of sugar production. Busted Barrel is proudly made with molasses, and it shows.

Oh my God does it show.

There’s the aroma of molasses jumping out of the glass. Dark and funky molasses. It’s like drinking molasses. Granted, crystal clear 80 proof molasses. But the Busted Barrel has great body, and a richness in the mouth. The overall impressions are of sugar and spice.

Pulling it apart a bit more, I can understand those who call out the white flowers, toasted nuts, and salted caramel. But molasses on the palate entry and black pepper on the finish are what I consider to be the hallmarks of this rum.

Given the rich round style, I would be hesitant to pair it with some of the citrusy ingredients often married with rum. But I could see this making an excellent toddy with some ginger and sweet spices. A splash of coconut water or even cola would go well with this, which makes me wonder if New Jersey has any regional sodas for me to discover.

I’m already starting to contemplate some kind of riff off the old fashioned with a sugar cube and a healthy dose of my new Spanish Bitters. These two bottles are going to be good friends.

Surely if I keep in touch with my new friends at Cool Vines, they will keep me up to date with the craft spirit releases down the road. Busted Barrel should have an aged version coming out soon. I’m also looking forward to Cooper River Distillers getting their license and tasting what rolls off their still.

If I can’t hang out with my favorite upstate distillers, at least I can help spread the word about the pleasures of enjoying handcrafted local spirits in this burgeoning marketplace.

Hey! New Jersey! Welcome to your rum. It’s good stuff. Now go get some.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. albanylandlord permalink
    September 9, 2013 12:06 pm

    My problem with the local craft spirits is that the entry point for a taste is so high. With beer I can buy a bottle and see how I like it and I don’t mind risking my $4,5 or even more for a craft beer. But when there are 6 bottles of craft Gin on the shelf, that doesn’t work. I not only would have to spend $200 to taste them all, I would have a multi-year supply of gin. And I would be stuck with a whole bottle of the ones I don’t like. And I have heard from my Whiskey drinking friends that there have definitely been some stinkers out there…

    I have gone out on a limb and tried the mead that is made here in Duanseburg. ( And that worked out really really well (as in 4 bottles in 6 months including all three of the bottlings). But mead sounded really cool and unique. I haven’t done that for Gin or other liquors.

    This really needs a solution. I want these guys to succeed, but how do you get people to buy your product without tasting it? I would like to see some comparison tastings set up (if they are happening I haven’t heard of them and I am looking). Or maybe they need to offer those single serve bottles. I’m sure that is a real expense for a small start-up, but I would fill a shopping bag with every one of those I can get my hands on – just like I do at Westmere beverage with the new beers. Hey, I think I just fixed the craft distillery business model!

    • Doug permalink
      September 11, 2013 12:14 pm

      Find a bar that has craft spirits, and order shots?

  2. Rich permalink
    September 9, 2013 2:12 pm

    I can also recommend a Western Mass. rum (and other spirits) from Berkshire Mountain Distillers. Their Ragged Mountain rum is very smooth & tasty.

    For cola, search out Coke’s Mexican product, which is made with sugar, not corn syrup. I’m still waiting for the makers of Q-Tonic to do a cola….

  3. Rich permalink
    September 9, 2013 2:14 pm

    Oh, and Berkshire Mountain does bitters, too. Found them in the Joe Canal’s in Lawrenceville, close to you.

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