Get single cask rums bottled for top Boston restaurants

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Would you like a bottle of rum handpicked by the legendary bartenders at Boston’s Eastern Standard? Or the house-brand rum used to make your favorite cocktail at Barbara Lynch Collective’s Drink and No. 9 park is used?

These days the fate of Eastern standard and sister restaurant The Hawthorn in limbo – both have been closed for almost a year and may never return. and Barbara Lynch collective Restaurants are closed for the month of January as the pandemic rages on. So you won’t be drinking at any of these places — nor many other Boston-area hotspots — as 2021 rolls around.

So it’s still Zoom cocktail hour, at least here in the Northeast… but Buccaneer Rum has a suggestion for a home bar upgrade — one that will improve your rum drinks and also benefit the ailing restaurant industry. The Craft Distillery in Ipswich, Massachusetts has bottled exclusive single cask rums for many of Boston’s top restaurants and is now selling a limited edition of these bottlings to the public for $46 each, with half of the proceeds reaping the benefit Mass Dining Unitedthe coalition of independent Massachusetts restaurant professionals formed to support and advocate for the industry in response to the devastation of COVID-19.

“These casks weren’t available to anyone but the restaurants,” says Bob McCoy, sales manager for the Ipswich, Massachusetts-based distillery. “We thought people would love the opportunity to get their hands on these kegs.”

They were right — more than 150 bottles of rum were sold in the first week of the new program, raking in more than $2,500 for Mass Restaurants United.

This is just the latest innovation for a fledgling distillery that has already won many well-deserved awards. Before the pandemic, people traveled from all over the world to get their hands on single cask bottlings from Privateer’s Distiller’s Drawer Series, each with different nuances from the casks, the weather and the swamp that surrounds the production and aging facility. And in early 2020, the brand caught the attention of Italian brand Velier, known for sourcing distinctive spirits from the world’s finest distilleries.

“Many places become more homogenous and consistent as they grow,” says McCoy. “We did the opposite. As we’ve grown, we’ve realized that with the uniqueness of some casks and climate, we have opportunities to bring out truly outstanding single cask expressions.”

In 2019, Privateer began offering restaurants the ability to have their own hyper-personal rum in an expansion of the Distiller’s Drawer series. Restaurateurs visited during the annual spring and fall “harvest” season – when the rums are looking good and ready to be bottled – to sample and select a particular cask. The restaurants name the rum, which is bottled and stored in Privateer’s warehouse, with the restaurants paying for it and delivering as needed.

The result is some unique offerings with fun names and unique flavor profiles – everything listed on the Privateer website. “stay salty” is, for example, the private barrel product for Paddle Inn, a Newburyport, Mass. restaurant that serves coastal cuisine from around the world. This double pot still rum has flavor notes of golden apple, cinnamon, cocoa butter, coconut and pear blossom. That Rapscallion Cask Strength Rum selected for Tiffani Faison’s tiger mom at 114 proof, with notes of seared clove and ginger. And the drinking forest barrelfor the Barbara Lynch Collective, offers a delicious selection of dried apple peels, plantains, starfruit, canned peaches, river rock, wet leaves and cellar rock.

Before the pandemic, the Private Barrel program for restaurants was a win-win because Privateer bottled unique expressions and restaurants received a Private Cask rum without taking the 30 or 40 cases that come from a single cask all at once have to. Like everything else, that all changed in March when COVID-19 hit Massachusetts hard. About 60 to 70 percent of Privateer’s sales were made on-site in bars and restaurants prior to the pandemic, and while the distiller quickly ramped up its curbside pickup and online sales, those private label bottles largely rested in limbo. Until now.

Partnering with Mass Restaurants United was a natural fit, says McCoy, noting that the organization represents the who’s who of the state’s hospitality industry. The Privateer retail site describes each restaurant and its current status (open for eat-in, takeout, etc.) alongside tasting notes. “Hopefully it’s an opportunity to raise a lot of money, but also to remind everyone of the importance of these restaurants and ways to continue supporting them.”

McCoy hopes the sale will raise at least $10,000 for Mass Restaurants United, as nearly all of the distillery’s own-brand customers have agreed to sell some of their stash. If you’re dying for a specific bottle but can’t make it to the distillery — the only place you get these specials — Privateer will hold your order in a “rum locker” until you can make the journey, however you choose long you need. According to McCoy, some customers have collected about eight cases of rum in their lockers and are waiting to make the trip. Like many limited releases, when they’re gone, they’re gone. “If you don’t buy it now, it may not be there later,” McCoy warns.

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