Review: Twenty Boat Spiced Rum

Now that my parents are nearing retirement, they’re getting ready to move to their house in Cape Cod full time. On the one hand, that makes it significantly more difficult to get home and see them, what with the hour long drive from Boston or the expensive hop to Provincetown… but it does have one silver lining: it means I get more opportunities to head to Truro Vineyards and stock up on their delicious spiced rum.

History

Truro Vineyards, founded in 1992 and owned by the Roberts family since 2007, is a winery in the small town of Truro on the far end of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A good location combined with a delicious product proved to be a successful formula, and in 2013 they decided to invest that good fortune into opening a distillery called South Hollow Spirits.

Operated by the eldest son of the Roberts family, South Hollow Spirits styles itself after the bootleggers that were common during prohibition along the coast of Cape Cod. They are currently producing various versions of gin and rum in Truro, Massachusetts in their 250 gallon copper pot.

Their rum is named in honor of a famous local bootlegger named William Sovell. According to legend he was arrested in 1930, posted bail, and immediately went back to running liquor into Cape Cod. Twenty boats were dispatched to try and chase him down, but despite their best efforts he escaped.

My parents are preparing to retire to Wellfleet, a town just south of the distillery, which makes this one of the more popular attractions every time my wife and I come for a visit. The winery and distillery is located on a scenic plot of land (which is easily accessible from Route 6 with ample parking) including an original farmhouse that has been refurbished into the tasting room and shop. The front yard has a number of picnic tables and, during the summer months, a food truck offers lunch for sale and the small building (“The Hollow”) at the far end prepares mixed drinks and tastings using the South Hollow spirits. There’s also a patio and rows of wine vines behind the house.

Product

South Hollow Spirits starts with organic molasses that they source from Florida and Louisiana, fermenting that sugary mix and distilling it twice through their Truro, Cape Cod based stills.

Once the spirit has been produced from this process, it is steeped for a period of three weeks with spices that they source from the Atlantic Spice Company, a locally famous long-time importer of spices in Truro just up the road. According to the bottle the spices used are: rose hip, anise, lemon peel, orange peel, vanilla bean, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and chai.

Following the three week flavoring, the spirit is bottled and sold.

Packaging

In all fairness, the design of the bottle isn’t anything groundbreaking. It’s the same standard whiskey bottle shape that we’ve seen from a number of small distilleries, just with a different label slapped on the front. The bottle is capped with a wood and cork stopper and sealed with a paper label as opposed to the more common shrink wrapped plastic, which is a touch I do appreciate.

In this case, the label is a slate gray background with some slightly lighter gray outlines of herbs and spices on the side. The branding is prominently displayed in block letters, and the batch number is written in gold pen ink individually on each bottle.

Overall, I think the packaging works. I’m not going to ding them for using a popular style of bottle, especially for such a small production run of a locally available spirit. And to their credit, the label is artfully done, visually appealing, and doesn’t completely obscure the beautiful mahogany color of the contents.

Neat

As soon as you pour yourself a glass of this dark brown spirit you can smell the aroma coming off it a mile away. And I don’t mean that in a bad way (like how I talked about the Fireball whiskey). In this case, the smell is absolutely delicious and inviting. Instead of trying to punch you in the face with cinnamon alone, this spirit brings other spices and flavors into the mix — and that ensemble cast is far better than any single player could ever be.

The predominant aromas I get are orange and cinnamon, with some anise and chai mixed in for good measure. Almost as if you added a splash of French pastis to your pumpkin spice chai latte. It’s an intoxicating aroma (pun intended) that, to me, smells exactly like autumn in New England.

Those same flavors are front and center as soon as you take a sip, and true to form for a rum there’s a hefty sweetness that accompanies those flavors. Personally, I think there might be just a little too much going on in the glass, with all those spices fighting for dominance. It’s good, but I feel like this is going to be a way better mixer than it is on its own.

On Ice

With a bit of ice, the spirit starts to mellow out and become a little more reasonable. Instead of being brash and combative, the flavors are more complimentary. It becomes predominantly a citrus orange and lemon flavor combined with the cinnamon and anise. I feel like the nutmeg is starting to make an appearance as well at this point, with the vanilla tying it all together.

Again, this reads to me like a spirit that was born to be mixed and used in cocktails. It’s drinkable with a little ice all on its own, but the boldness of the vibrant flavors seem to be perfect for mixing up with other ingredients and ensuring that they won’t be lost in the shuffle.

Fizz (Dark and Stormy)

This may be the most delicious thing I’ve ever had in my life.

I made this by filling a glass with ice, adding half a glass of rum, a splash of lime juice, and topping it with ginger beer. And even with all that ginger beer, the flavors and the spices within the rum are still making and bold appearance. It’s delicious, complex, and amazingly well balanced. Something I’d happily drink every night of the week. Until supplies ran out, that is.

Overall Rating

In my opinion this rum isn’t necessarily great on its own, but it is an amazing component when part of a larger mixture. I’ve tried this as part of a Dark and Stormy, I’ve used it in a Painkiller, but I think my favorite way to use this rum is to reduce it down in a saucepan with some butter and brown sugar to create a glaze topping for vanilla ice cream (Blue Bell, of course, like any good Texan!)

I really like this rum, and I’m not usually a rum kind of guy. It’s just my speed, with a bit of depth and complexity that works well and shines through no matter what you throw at it. I just wish that my local liquor store stocked it so I didn’t have to follow in the rum’s namesake and smuggle it back in my checked luggage every year.

Twenty Boat Cape Cod Spiced Rum
Owner: South Hollow Spirits
Production: Truro, Mass.
Classification: Spiced rum
Grain bill: 100% molasses
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 47.5% ABV
Price: $45/ 750ml

Overall Rating: 4/5
I never really understood Jack Sparrow until this moment.

Summary
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Twenty Boat Spiced Rum
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