Wednesday, October 17, 2012

:: turkey shore distillery ::

The other distillery I visited in Ipswich after Privateer yesterday was Turkey Shore Distillery located right next to the Mercury Brewing Company, makers of Ipswich Ale, and soon they hope to take over the Mercury's space when Mercury finishes with their new brewery.

One of the undercurrents with GrandTen and Privateer was a connection to history to the current distillery space, familial links to old distillers, and/or the area as a once active spirits producer. Here, one of the two owners of Turkey Shore, Mathew Perry, took it a step further by going to college as a history major and making a career out of being a history teacher before deciding to become a distiller. Mat and the other owner, Evan Parker, are childhood friends and they grew up on the same street, Turkey Shore Road. Between their two houses on the shore of the Ipswich river are the remnants of a late 18th to early 19th century rum distillery run by John Heard including the wharf where ships docked and a low grade slope to transport barrels of molasses off ships and into the distillery. Once the idea to open a micro-distillery came about, they took an interest in their childhood neighborhood's history. The two took some time to research the layout of the old distillery and chose equipment to mimic what this old distillery had.
Evan gave me a tour of the still they had custom made to recreate what the Heard Distillery utilized. While the still has the appearance and most of the functionalities of a classic pot still, the rising part of the swan's neck contains 4 plates to add a modern column aspect to it. For further purification and historic recreation, they installed a thump barrel which acts to pull of oils and other impurities. While thump barrels are more associated with whiskey, the Heard distillery had one, and Mat and Evan surmise that the Heard distillery made whiskeys out of local grains in addition to their main product of rum. Both the thump keg and the barrel containing the condenser worm came from the Mercury Brewing through a circuitous route starting in Spain followed by a Scotch producer and then the Sam Adams brewery.

For the fermentation, Turkey Shore uses pure molasses to recreate the historic rums back when sugar would have been too expensive to use. As for a yeast strain, they opted for a rhum agricole one from the French isles based off of the flavor profiles they achieved. One down side of using a Caribbean yeast is that instead of the 60-70°F ferments with other yeasts, they need to heat and maintain the molasses wash at 90°F to keep the yeast happy. For aging, the rum is stored in new 15 gallon barrels for 6-12 months. Since the barrels are all new and sourced from the same cooperage, blending in easier since there is less barrel-to-barrel variation. Blends are a combination of 8-9 barrels with some newer ones for spice notes and some older ones for more mellow flavors.
One thing that I found interesting when I tasted their white rum was that it had overlapping butterscotch-toffee notes as their aged Tavern Style Rum (reviewed previously) did. Evan broke their rum's flavor profile into three parts: the yeast which creates floral and vanilla notes out of the molasses, the molasses which donates sugary and caramel notes, and the barrel which contributes butterscotch and tobacco notes. Their Ipswich White Cap Rum is filtered in charcoal, but I did not inquire if it is barrel aged as well. Their two other rums that I tried are seasonal spiced ones. Their Greenhead Spiced Rum is unusual with green tea, lemongrass, and spearmint and was designed for spring and summer mixing. Their fall and winter one, Golden Marsh Spiced Rum, is more traditional with a few unique spices like peppercorn.

Mat summed up their operation by comparing it to Nantucket Nectar's Tom and Tom; they are two friends producing a product. And here, they are trying to recreate something that was lost to the region.

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