A while ago, I was opining about the state of locally-produced liquor in Georgia — how it would be nice to see more of it, that the Atlanta bar scene would begin demanding it, etc., etc. Apparently we were on the verge of a microdistillery boom here in the Peach State…who knew? Georgia can now boast five active distilleries: 13th Colony, Dawsonville Moonshine, Georgia Distilling Co., Ivy Mountain, and Richland Distilling Co. The last of those, Richland, is producing the unique, land-locked Richland Rum.
I know, right? Rum? In Georgia? Yes, and it’s one of the tastiest rums out there…
Tasting Notes –
- Color: Ranges from honeyed gold to a slightly coppery topaz.
- Nose: Vanilla, Oak, Butterscotch Candy, Raw Sugar, Yeast, and Butter
- Taste: Vegetal raw sugar, with grassy vanilla notes in the mid-palate. A good dose of hogo. Very smooth when swallowing, with a lingering finish and a long-lasting sensation of warmth in the back of the throat. Vegetal honey aftertaste.
- Overall: A wonderful rum, aromatic, with a good balance between mellowness and grassiness. It’s very much like rhum agricole with a dose of musty hogo (the official term for “funkiness” in rum). Much more refined than, say, Cockspur or Pusser’s — it’s not nearly as sweet, rough, or vaporous. Also, it has much more body and viscosity than similar microdistilled rums — like Cane & Abe from the Old Sugar Distillery in Madision, WI — that tend to be woody and thin. Think Scarlet Ibis meets Barbancourt 8.
Yes, I like it. I’ll say Four out of Five stars.
The distillery was started up by Erik Vonk, a lifelong lover of rum and former head of Randstad North America. After moving to south Georgia, Vonk teamed up with Jay McCain, a farmer from Columbus, and the two began fermenting Georgia-grown sugarcane and apprenticing with master distillers to learn the craft of spirit production. The end result of all their efforts is the 14-month-old Richland Rum, which differs from other rums in its use of fermented sugar cane syrup as a base for distillation. Most rums are made from molasses, a byproduct of the production of refined sugar.
The exception, however, is rhum agricole, which — like its cousin cachaça — is made from pressed sugar cane juice. As a result of this process, most rhums — such as Barbancourt, Neisson, and Clément – have a “vegetal” or grassy, plant-like accent in their flavor profiles. Being made from cane syrup, Richland Rum shares that characteristic, and has a decent dose of earthy, musty funkiness that, for rums, is called “hogo.”
Erik Vonk’s rum basically popped out of nowhere and on to the market, taking us Georgians by surprise. Judging by its availability around Atlanta, however, the rum seems like it’s being enjoyed in the city’s booming cocktail culture. Though it carries a semi-hefty price tag ($50), it’s worth seeking out if you happen to be in Georgia — I think it’s the finest of our homegrown spirits yet produced (13th Colony’s Southern Rye is a close second). For some more info, be sure to take a look at Bob Townsend’s piece in the AJC, and to watch the accompanying video in which Vonk explains the process behind the rum. And if you’re ambitious, journey down to Richland and take a tour of the distillery.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to mixing Richland in a few cocktails — it makes a killer Daiquiri, it’s quite good in the refreshingly simple Terminus cocktail (from Graft Restaurant in Grayson), and I bet it’d work wonders in a Mai Tai.
Photos by IJL.