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Well, shiver me timbers! In the past year, the number of Utah rum makers has jumped from zero to four.
That's enough sweet-molasses booty to make a liquor-lovin' pirate wonder, "What be goin' on in the Beehive?"
Utah liquor laws and polices have changed in recent years, helping to increase the number of distillers in the state. Today, there are 12, up from just three in 2014.
Most of these new distillers are small operations that can't afford to wait years while their whiskey or brandy ages. They need to get something distilled and bottled quickly to bring in cash. Vodka and rum are perfect options as both have quick turn-around production times usually around two weeks.
At least five Utah companies are producing vodka which is the reason Dented Brick Distillery, Distillery 36 and Outlaw Distillery all launched their businesses with rum. A fourth company, Sugar House Distillery, opened in 2014 by selling vodka, but began producing rum last March.
To earn its name, rum must be distilled from sugar cane or a byproduct, such as molasses or sugar cane juice. In the past, most rum has been made in Latin America and the Caribbean and famously associated with pirates. But a growing number of artisan distillers in the U.S. are making their own versions. The spirit is used in bars and restaurants as the key ingredient in daiquiris, mojitos and Cuba Libres aka rum and Coke.
While they all make the same distilled spirit, the Utah rum makers have something unique that separates them from their local competitors. Here are each of their stories along with information on how to buy their products.
Dented Brick Distillery
Utah's newest distillery opened March 25 with its Antelope Island Rum. Named after one of Utah's most famous landmarks, the white rum is made with organic cane sugar, molasses and Utah spring water, said distiller Ethan Miller. The distillery's location, in an industrial area of South Salt Lake, was selected because there was a natural, artesian well on the property. The fresh spring water "is something that sets us apart," said Miller, who grew up in West Valley City. He worked at High West Distillery in Park City and New Deal Distillery in Portland, Ore., before local investors Marc Christensen and Celeste Royal, lured him back to Utah to launch Dented Brick. The company's state-of-the-art facility is one of the few in the country built specifically for distilling. With a 28-foot tall Vendome copper still from Kentucky, Dented Brick will be able to increase its capacity in the future, eventually reaching 3,000 cases a month. "We can make any spirit we want: vodka, gin or whiskey," Miller said. Not everything about the 14,000-square-foot facility is new, though. Old bricks even dented ones were pulled from the site's original structure and incorporated into the building, giving inspiration for the distillery's name.
Cost • $26.96 for a 750-ml bottle. Available at the distillery.
Where • 3100 S. Washington St., South Salt Lake ; 801-326-3913 or dentedbrick.com. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Much ingenuity has gone into making Brigham's Rum a white rum from the new Distillery 36 in West Valley City. The three distillery owners with engineering and machining experience have built their still from scratch using a re-purposed fermenter and other equipment. "Every still is going to create a different flavor and because ours is handmade, no one will be able to copy it," said Jensen Dobbs, who helps with production. Creed Law is the head distiller, while John Gregersen oversees sales. Dobbs and Law have been friends since they attended Brighton High. Gregersen is a mutual friend. Brigham's Rum, made with evaporated cane juice and local spring water, earned a bronze medal last month at the 2016 Denver International Spirits Competition. The distillery name is a reference to Utah being the 36th and deciding state to approve the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which repealed Prohibition.
Cost • $26.99 for 750-ml bottle. Available at the distillery and select Utah liquor stores.
Where • 2374 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City; 801-983-7303 or distillery36.com. Open Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
Utah's first spiced rum comes from Outlaw Distillery in Midvale. Owner Kirk Sedgwick distills fancy molasses which he believes is better than the blackstrap molasses used in most mass-produced rums and then steeps the spirit in fresh-ground spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and cardamom. "The way we spice the rum, without extracts or artificial coloring and flavorings, really sets us apart," he said. "It adds a lot more flavor and a bit of character." Outlaw Distillery also makes four other products: a white rum; rum aged in French oak barrels; moonshine; and bourbon.
Cost • $23.99 for a 750-ml bottle. Available at the distillery and in select Utah liquor stores.
Where • 552 W. 8360 South, Midvale; 801-706-1428 or outlawdistillery.com. Open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sugar House Distillery
James Fowler, founder and owner of Sugar House Distillery, was the first modern-day rum distiller in Utah. He sells Silver Rum and a Gold Rum, which is aged in malt whiskey barrels for almost a year. Both rums are made with high-grade molasses. After launching Sugar House Distillery in 2014 with vodka, Fowler said he and head distiller Dan Feldman decided to try their hand at rum. "It's an up-and-coming product and I like the taste and flavor," he said. "I wanted to do something different and, at the time, no one was doing rum." The move paid off, last week, when Sugar House's Silver Rum earned a bronze medal during the 2016 Spirits Conference and Expo, sponsored by the American Distilling Institute.
Cost • $34.99 for Silver; $38.99 for Gold; available at the distillery and in select Utah liquor stores.
Where • 2212 West Temple No. 14, Salt Lake City; 801-726-0403 or sugarhousedistillery.net. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sugar House Distillery's strawberry mojito
1 shot of Sugar House Silver Rum
4 whole strawberries, stems removed
4 whole mint leaves
1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
1/2 of a lime, juiced
1/4 of a lime, sliced
Sparkling mineral water (San Pellegrino brand recommended)
In a glass, muddle rum, strawberries, mint leaves and sugar until strawberries are macerated. Add lime juice and the sliced lime. Muddle a few times to break down lime slices. Add ice and top with sparkling mineral water. Garnish glass with lime wheel, mint and strawberries.
Servings • 1
Source: Sugar House Distillery
Rum education class
Learn and sample Sugar House Distillery's Silver and Gold Rums during a cocktail workshop. Participants will learn how molasses and yeast are distilled into rum. They can sample products and enjoy small bites. The class is sponsored by Craft Lake City and is the third in a five-part series focusing on Utah spirits and craft cocktails.
When • Wednesday, April 20, 6:30 p.m.
Where • Finca, 27 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City,
Cost • $50 for those 21 or older at craftlakecity.com/workshops