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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES » MASSACHUSETTS » Privateer Rum Distillery
Privateer Rum rests and soaks in American oak barrels
Privateer Rum Distillery

Ipswich, Massachusetts

By Melanie Lown | November 07, 2011

Over thirty years have passed since the advent of home breweries and the first American brewpubs.

We take for granted the bevy of brews on tap when dining out and the endless variety at local liquor stores; but prior to the late eighties, beer drinkers were confined to a few mostly indistinguishable (and some might say ‘watery’) American classics.

Today, Andrew Cabot and Nelse Clark are on the forefront of a similar revolution in craft liquor, one with roots in another defining moment in our country’s history — the American Revolution.

The idea for Privateer distillery was inspired by Cabot’s research of his namesake ancestor, six generations removed. Andrew Cabot (1750–1791) was a privateer and one of the country’s earliest rum distillers during the Revolution, smuggling molasses past the British into his Beverly distillery.

The name, according to Cabot, “refers to the twenty-five privateer vessels [he] owned in whole or part during the American Revolution; these were fast and maneuverable vessels that hunted British merchant ships across the North Atlantic and from Canada to the Caribbean.”

In May 2011, the duo opened Privateer International in Ipswich, Massachusetts and a tour and tasting event followed on October 22 as the company prepared the second batch of Silver Reserve, its prized white rum. Cabot and Clark chose Ipswich for their startup venture — only miles from his ancestor’s original distillery — citing affordability, favorable zoning, and a friendly environment. In fact, Ipswich is already home to Turkey Shore Distilleries, another brewer of craft rum and one of six distilleries in Massachusetts.

Aware of the stiff competition, Privateer’s owners wanted to create a unique experience. Made with 100% cane sugar in a refurbished and modernized Ipswich warehouse (complete with bookshelves and a bar in the center) — it achieves a pure, unadulterated form. The distillery is currently working on an amber rum, which contains molasses in addition to cane sugar.

The process involves American oak barrels to let the rum rest and soak up the wood sugars and tannins, which contribute subtle caramel and vanilla flavors. Painstakingly handcrafted, the outcome is a “gentler product in its natural form, that’s true to the cane with no manipulations,” according to Cabot. The taste differentiator? “The fact that it’s fresh and clean,” says Cabot.

Translation for those who may not be connoisseurs: Privateer is trying to produce rum that can be savored on its own, much like the premium tequilas that are now ubiquitous bar staples.

At the event, the owners lined up samples of mega-brands like Bacardi along with their Silver Reserve – all served neat — for a sniff, sip, and compare. It certainly seemed smooth to this non-expert, but rum lovers should replicate a similar taste test at home to observe the differences.

In his role as event bartender, Clark also served plenty of fall concoctions – such as “William Tell” with apple cider, and “The Great Pumpkin” with real pumpkin purée and agave nectar. Bloody Mary fans should sample Privateer’s version, possibly to be called the “Bloody Revolution.” White rum as a vodka substitute? Purists in both camps should decide for themselves, but it certainly makes for a fun party theme.

Regardless of personal preferences in drink styles — the method seems to be catching on. Privateer is now sold in liquor stores and restaurants throughout eastern Massachusetts, as well as Cape Cod and the Islands. Plans are in the works to hit the Big Apple next, followed by Vermont and parts of Canada.

The attraction stems from the freshness of the product, a reasonable price point (Silver Reserve retails for $27–$30), and sincere salesmanship. The approach focuses less on traditional marketing and more on soliciting feedback in this early stage. Cabot explains, “Typical access for brands is through luxury and connoisseurship. We just wanted to share with our foodie friends, and started talking to restaurants and wine sellers about what they loved to make it consistent. It’s very personal.”

In Massachusetts, expectations seem higher – both as the source for revolutionary history and family lineage. Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end.” Although the future of craft rum is still unknown, Cabot and Clark seem to have found their niche with a laid back approach and a modern twist to our classic heritage.

Follow Privateer on Twitter and Facebook and check the website for information about products, drink suggestions, and upcoming events and tours.


Privateer International

28 Mitchell Road, Ipswich, MA 01938

(978) 356-0477


Email: info@privateerrum.com

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