Rum Review: Maggie’s Farm
Maggie’s Farm Rum Review
Photo by Tim Russell
Music buffs will instantly recognize “Maggie’s Farm” as the title of a famous Bob Dylan protest song, but it was the Rage Against the Machine version that changed the course of Tim Russell’s life.
“I can’t think of anything more motivating to get you off your ass and quit going down that soul-sucking career path to do what you’d rather do. That song…came on the radio when I got back to my desk after a particularly exhausting work meeting. That’s when my decision to move on was made.”
What Tim was moving on from was a successful career in project management for a defense contractor. He had been making beer for the better part of a decade by that point, and initially thought he’d like to open a brewery. But as luck would have it, Pennsylvania had just passed a law making it easier to launch distilling operations in the state, and Tim decided to use his knowledge of fermentation as a bridge to something a bit stronger.
“Pennsylvania is pretty notorious for being a control state and having a lack of selection. The law change allowed distilleries to sell direct to the public by the bottle or glass, so we provided Pennsylvania residents with a new craft rum and built out a small cocktail bar to go with it.”
And so was born Allegheny Distilling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tim secured the space and purchased a beautiful copper pot still from Hoga, a popular Spanish still maker situated near Portugal’s northwest border. He decided to begin with rum because the state-controlled liquor stores didn’t have much in the way of American-made craft rums, and the other craft distillers in the area were focusing on other spirits. Rather than use molasses, Tim makes Maggie’s Farm rum from turbinado sugar. His slow, temperature-controlled fermentation process yields a complex profile that is full of flavor.
I recently received samples of the entire Maggie’s Farm rum line. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Queen’s Share aged rum
Queen’s share = The hearts of the tails. This rum is made by re-distilling the tails from the other distillation runs. It’s full of heavy congeners as a result, and Tim’s small heart cuts make this work.
Color = Golden, deep straw. Definitely no caramel color added.
Swirl: Leggy, but liberally flowing
Nose: Fairly non-astringent for a 60% rum.
Aromas: Chewy, tons of congeners, but not funky. Ground cashews, butter cream icing, persimmon, hint of pencil shavings and Meyer lemon zest.
Palate: Hot entry lights up the entire mouth with tracer fire, preparing the palate for bright notes up front backed by earthy tannins at middle. The rum is chewy, making me want to move my jaws with each sip. By the third sip, the sides of my cheeks feel as though they’ve been dosed with Novocaine. The flavors are a bit difficult to pick up because of the heat, so I add a drop of water. Once diluted, a floral bouquet opens, showing tropical blossoms backed by the butter cream we noticed on nosing. The nutty rancio notes reappear now adding to the substantial flavor floor, and are followed by dark cherries and a hint of the lemon zest. The entire palate is anesthetized, but I’m not unhappy.
This rum is a challenging one, and definitely not for the rum newbie. For those among us who enjoy real unadulterated rum, however, this is a lovely and unique beast. Never before have I experienced so much chewy mid-palate action in a rum. The nuts, the cream—it’s the stuff most rums miss out on. It’s easy to make fruity, oaky rum—especially if you correct it with a bunch of sugar. But this rum takes the road less traveled, and you will be better for having tasted it.
Queen’s Share unaged rum
Color: Crystal clear.
Swirl: Razor thing ring created on swirling. Droplets form, but fall hesitantly.
Nose: Butter cream and freshly trimmed hedges. Black and red pepper followed by balsa wood and a bit of lemon.
Palate: White hot entry with butter pepper aioli and jalapeno. The heat is attenuated by the butter cream which keeps this crazy dichotomy from becoming an unbalanced mess. Once attuned to the spirit, the sweetness becomes more pronounced and the whole thing really starts to gel. Adding a drop of water now, the heat drops while the pepper notes become more pronounced, and a hint of truffle oil appears at rear with the slightest suggestion of melon.
Maggie’s Farm Rum White
Color: Perfectly clear
Swirl: Razor thin ring and multitudinous droplets that almost refuse to fall
Nose: Pepper and a bit of sage backed by butter cream
Palate: Smooth entry with a pronounced star anise note. The anise is followed by ripe red grapes and sweet dark cherries. The herbs persist here led by sage and oregano. The suggestion of sweetness remains from the dark fruit flavors. Finishes kindly but with assertiveness.
Maggie’s Farm Spiced Rum
Color: Amber color
Swirl: Liberal legs—appears unsweetened
Nose: Bitter orange peel and dry Curacao, cardamom, allspice
Palate: Seville orange, orange whip, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon. Decidedly dry—appears to have no added sweetener. Subsequent sips reveal more bitter orange and creamsicle. The bitterness may be too much for some, but is nice and approachable for those of us who enjoy amari.
As you may know, I’m always a bit wary of new rums from domestic craft distillers, but my trepidation was quickly assuaged in this case. Maggie’s Farm is off to a great start, and I eagerly await Tim’s future releases. Maggie’s Farm rum is available directly from the distillery, and can be shipped within the state of Pennsylvania. The rums will soon be available in the state liquor stores as well. Find out more at http://maggiesfarmrum.com/.