I was never really a rum drinker. I hate too-sweet drinks, so frozen red daiquiris were not part of my repertoire, and Malibu always smelled too much like Banana Boat suntan lotion to be considered an actual beverage. After a particularly rough summer house party in my early 20’s (yes, one of those experiences), it was rum—not SoCo, not tequila—that I swore off forevermore.
Then I met Zach Brinley and my rum worldview changed considerably.
Zach’s family business, Brinley Gold Rum, started in 2002 with his dad Robert, a scientific product developer who had been working in St. Kitts for two decades and saw an opportunity to reinvigorate the tiny country’s rum industry by taking over a former Rothschild rum factory on the island. Zach, fresh out of college, saw the opportunity to be more than the low guy on the trading rung in New York City and the father-son team jumped right in.
Though maybe not on the magnitude of the 1976 Judgment of Paris, where a Cabernet from California’s brand-new Stag’s Leap Winery shocked the world by defeating venerable French wines in a blind tasting, it was still a coup for the fledgling Brinley Gold Rum brand to win multiple gold medals at the International Rum Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada in its first year of production.
After the first flush of recognition for Brinley Gold’s initial vanilla and coconut flavors came a long distribution slog to make the U.S. believe in the Brinleys’ high-quality, high-proof flavored rum. Laughing off questions like “Are you guys making this in your bathtub?”, Zach and Bob crisscrossed the country to bring the rum to the people. It’s now sold in 25 states and features six different flavors, including last month’s launch of the newest flavor and biggest departure, Brinley Gold Shipwreck spiced rum.
The name was inspired by the wreck of a British military ship sunk off the coast of St. Kitts in 1782 that’s a favorite of island scuba divers and treasure seekers, and which was long rumored to be carrying a massive shipment of rum barrels (always a sailor’s favorite drink). Shipwreck is a four-year-aged rum—the first premium rum of its kind to do so—lightly punctuated by vanilla, orange, and some aromatically bitter hints of nutmeg and clove.
It packs a punch, but has deep caramel undertones that give it a whiskey-like profile so you can sip it straight. Just try that with your usual off-the-shelf rum. It makes a hell of a Cuba Libre too, but I’ll be drinking mine like I do my Scotch: neat with two ice cubes.
Taste it. Mix up a Born To Rum or splash some Shipwreck into your Coke. Support small, family-owned businesses like Zach and Bob’s. You’ll find Brinley Gold in better wine and liquor stores, and select grocery stores like Whole Foods.