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Rum Review: Owney’s Original

Owney’s Original Rum Review

Owney's Original Rum

Owney’s rum is made in Brooklyn, New York at The Noble Experiment. The rum is distilled by Bridget Firtle, a former Wall Streeter and Brooklyn native who found distilling rum was a far better way to spend her days. Owney’s is not yet distributed in California [UPDATE: Owney’s is now distributed in California by Young’s Market.] but I was fortunate enough to taste it at the Miami Rum Festival; a sample was subsequently provided for review.

The Owney’s rum bottle boasts a distinctive design that simultaneously elicits thoughts of Prohibition-era labels on medicinal spirits and WWII-era tattoo art. The rear label tells the story of the brand’s namesake, Owen “Owney” Madden, a notorious New York rum runner and speakeasy proprietor. The custom square bottle bears raised glass letters and hand-numbered batch information. At the top of the bottle is a plastic-topped synthetic stopper.

Owney’s rum is distilled to 82.5% in a hybrid still. The unaged spirit is carbon filtered and proofed down to 40% ABV for bottling. It retails for $35.

In the glass, the rum is perfectly clear. A swirl in the snifter produces a razor thin ring atop the glass; droplets form and fall slowly and steadily.

The nose bears a bit of astringency as one might expect from an unaged white rum, but it’s not at all off-putting. More interesting are the aromas that appear after the alcohol dies down a bit—despite being distilled from molasses (non-GMO, 5-day fermentation) there are notes of fresh cane wafting up with the molasses. After the grass and molasses comes a bit of butter cream and a hint of brine followed by a dusting of black pepper.

As the rum washes over my palate, the smooth, slightly sweet and round mouthfeel fools me into believing there is no kick to be had. As soon as this notion is formed, a dose of heat and spice appears, proving me wrong. As things begin to gel, the roundness quickly reappears, playing down the spice considerably. The flavors are nearly identical to the aromas: butter cream, molasses, and a bit of grass followed by some black pepper and a briny note.  There is also a bit of vanilla. The fairly short finish displays a bit of phenols and a small dose of baking chocolate.

I must admit that I am always a bit worried when I try domestically produced rum. As a rum promoter, I want to like it all, but many of these (relatively) pricey rums miss the mark badly. Not so with Owney’s. Bridget has managed to create a white rum with a flavor profile that calls back to its sugar cane roots while maintaining a smooth and silky mouthfeel that will please rum-lovers and easily draw in imbibers of other white spirits. If pressed for criticism, I might say that the rum is so smooth that we would benefit from seeing it at a higher ABV. As for what’s next, Bridget has of course laid down some rum in oak. With a new make rum that tastes this good, I can’t wait to see what the aged stocks end up like.

On to the scores:

  • Appearance: 1/1
  • Nose: 1.75/2
  • Mouth feel: 1/1
  • Taste: 3.5/4
  • Aftertaste: 1.75/2
  • Total Score: 9/10

Buy Owney’s Rum Online

Have you tasted Owney’s Original rum? Please share your thoughts below.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2014 9:27 am

    A very nice review and presentation, Josh, thanks. I doubt we’ll have this in the world’s capital of rum, Ft. Lauderdale, lol, but this is an interesting rum. It’s worth a visit to her website – yes, her – and you can find your way to the pages that describe the process.

    In sum, it seems she doesn’t use blackstrap molasses, but seems equally clear she is not using expensive food-grade (first boil) either (Phil Prichard does). A compromise, but she’s very new. The fermenters and equipment seem very nice, lots of copper and uses a hybrid still. A pot feeds an 8-plate tall column still/rectifier, and thence via a very small horizontal lyne arm to the condenser.

    She claims to make a narrow cut, but without much detail to a distillation alcohol of about 82%. Not thin, not thick. Another compromise. The original fermentation is a good one – 5 days – nice. There is no mention of what are done with the heads, tails, or residue. Her website borders on too professional, but that’s just my old marketing talking.

    All in all, a rum I’d love to taste someday, as small distillers like this young woman – in Brooklyn yet – need to be supported. The big marketing issue will be price: my guess is she will be forced to sell it a bit too dearly, and she’s up against some extremely fine offerings (think Seales, Flor de Cana, Appleton, Matusalem, even Wray & Nephews).

    With competition like that, I believe she needs to expand her story and the production a bit more. Her presentation now is based on “hard working young woman seeks to slay the dragon”, with just a passing mention of the molasses, and her cut. To justify what will surely be a higher price, she must appeal to the educated and experienced (and slightly moneyed) crowd who want’s more detail about the rum and her process.

    Sadly, her process is described in very brief, Introduction to Rum fashion, wherein what she needs is My Rum 102 for the knowledgable (which will work for the monkeys as well). Just my dos pesos…

  2. June 5, 2014 1:21 pm

    I’ve seen this one online and have been wondering about it. Great review Josh. I will be adding this to the collection!

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      June 5, 2014 9:49 pm

      Right on, braddah Paul!

  3. John Monroe Rum connoisseur permalink
    August 19, 2014 3:47 pm

    This is indeed a great spirit. I bought the final bottle in my local store. I personally can’t wait to try the aged version. I do have a concern with rum. That would be the lack of a proper seal over the bottle top. The adhesive label covering the cork is too simple and not tamper proof. In the vast bottles I have bought over the years I felt this cork covering was not ample and someone could easily take a small swig from this bottle or worse and put the adhesive cover back down. This is especially possible given that each bottle seems to be filled slightly to a different level as it is done by hand. Some low on the neck some high. This bottle is impossible to tell if someone prior opened it up and that is a problem. Some type of plastic seal that can clearly show it was broken should be added over the cork.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      August 25, 2014 9:38 pm

      Good feedback, John. You might consider sharing your thoughts with Bridget herself so she can address the seal issue. Cheers


  1. New Rum Review: Owney’s Original | Inu a Kena

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