Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Andrew Cabot of Privateer Rum: History, Cheese & Jazz

Sipping a Guinness, Andrew Cabot's eyes lit with intensity as he related the role of privateers during the Revolutionary War. That intensity, that passion, was evident throughout our conversation, and it was not restricted to history.

On my recent visit to Privateer Rum, I did not get to meet owner Andrew Cabot but he contacted me after my article was posted. We agreed to meet for a drink, to further discuss his company and its rum, to get deeper into his underlying philosophy, and last Friday we met at The Sevens on Charles Street in Boston. Andrew is a fascinating man, and we found that we shared a number of passions, from history to cheese, as well as philosophical positions on a number of topics. From the role of wine scores to the type of meals that Andrew prepared at home, our discussion ranged across many topics, though rum was the primary focus.

Andrew's goal is to transform Privateer Rum from its currently small, local basis into a national brand. Yet he also desires to maintain high standards for his products, to create a quality rum which is unlike any other on the market. He believes that many rums on the market don't measure up to other spirits such as whiskey and brandy, and there is much truth in that regard. Though many people might enjoy a glass of fine whiskey several times a week, most would not do the same with rum. It sometimes seems like one of the lesser spirits, not as popular as it could or should be.

So Andrew's intention is to produce a rum that is far more enticing, which can stand proudly against any other spirit. He desires to create a rum that is inspired by other spirits but which still retains the essence of rum, possibly redefining the usual definition of rum. Andrew's palate is very sensitive to sugars, so he doesn't like rums that are syrupy, or have a dominant molasses taste. Thus, in his own rums, he tries to reduce the use of molasses to avoid that overly sweet flavor. In addition, he seeks a purity in his rums, so he won't adulterate his rums and tries to avoid manipulation. As an example, this means, despite its historical roots, he won't create a spiced rum.

In a slight correction to what I was told at the distillery, they do not use only Hungarian oak, but also avail themselves of French and American oak. They continually experiment with oak treatment, refining and revising their production to produce the flavor profile they desire. Andrew does not generally believe in the use of small barrels, and this belief has been supported by a number of master distillers. Andrew stated that "you can't buy time" and that the increased surface area of the rum that interacts with the oak concentrates the flavors too much.

Andrew does not desire to create a rum that is only sippable on its own, and cannot be mixed in a cocktail, but rather wants to create a more versatile product. He believes rum should be fun, and that consumers should be free to use his rum in any manner they choose, whether sipping it straight or blending into a cocktail. Rum should not be a pretentious drink, and Andrew tries to avoid making it so, an admirable goal. He enjoys connecting with consumers, meeting them and trying to engage them in conversation. To him, it can be a learning process, not only for consumers but also for himself. I found Andrew to be very down to earth, and lacking in pretension, and feel he is a persuasive advocate for his rums.

Though rum was the primary focus, Andrew's words on other topics also told me much about the man. Preparing a medieval dinner for his children, transforming a meal into a greater experience. The simple pleasure of visiting Paris, purchasing cheese from a local shop and enjoying it while sitting on a bridge. His difficulty in selecting his favorite local restaurant. His joy at watching a chef prepare a meal with some extraneous ingredient, or improvising because of the lack of an important one. His obvious affection for jazz, and how it relates to many topics. This is a man of many passions.

So check out Privateer Rum, and if you can, chat with Andrew. I am sure he would love to interact with you, to discuss his rum and so much more.


Jason said...

I agree about the general consensus on rum (mostly because I'm guilty myself), and it's a shame. I'll be keeping my eyes open in case Privateer Rum ever finds its way to Pennsylvania. His refusal to make spiced rum intrigues me.

It just might take a full-fledged fleet of privateers to break through the impenetrable fortress that is PA liquor law, though...

Carole said...

Nice blog. You might be interested in a post I did on my current favorite kitchen utensil - a jar key. http://caroleschatter.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/useful-kitchen-gadget-jar-key.html