Rum with a Shot of History


Photo by Michael Piazza

The Turkey Shore Distillery, where award-winning Old Ipswich Rums are produced, was started in 2010 when Mathew Perry reconsidered his career as a history teacher and set out on the path to becoming a rum magnate.

During his graduate school coursework for globalization studies in New Hampshire, Mat was impressed by the locavore movement around meats and cheeses, but he was curious why there was less interest in local spirits. When he discussed this with his childhood friend Evan Parker, they began investigating. The two grew up on Turkey Shore Road in Ipswich, and between their two houses on the shore of the Ipswich River are what’s left of John Heard’s late 18th- and early 19th-century rum distillery. The dirt ramps they played on as kids are the remnants of the conduit that molasses barrels traveled from ships docked at the wharf into the distillery building, centuries ago.

With a bit of research, they were able to identify the type of pot still Heard owned and hired Kentucky still designers Vendome to replicate it. And with distilling knowledge that Evan learned at Chicago’s Siebel Institute, they fi gured out how to replicate old rums by using historically accurate grade A molasses instead of blackstrap, and how to adapt those rums to the modern palate. While Mat was more on the business side of things at first, after Evan’s departure from the company he now runs the distillation and barrel aging programs as well. Overall, Mat is happy that he is able to satisfy his passion for history while fulfilling the thirst for locally produced spirits.

Currently, the Old Ipswich Rum line consists of five rums: one white, two aged and two spiced. In the future, as the company expands, Turkey Shore Distillery hopes to add a whiskey line and a craft brewery to the mix.

The name of Turkey Shore’s white rum evokes the roiling sea surrounding the town of Ipswich. The molasses, as well as the distillery’s yeast, contribute flavors of baking spice, light molasses, butterscotch and a hint of vanilla to this unaged, filtered rum; moreover, the pot still method they use to make it gives a bit of body to the rum. White Cap is perfect in Daiquiris and Tiki drinks for the mixology set, and it works rather well in a classic Rum & Coke.

For this bold spirit, Turkey Shore researched old New England rums and worked from there; they discovered that local rums were drier than Caribbean imports and closer to whiskey in style, especially after barrel aging. Using a heavier-grade molasses and new American oak barrels, this aged rum offers caramel, butterscotch, tobacco and smoky notes that will win over even the most ardent whiskey enthusiast. Try it in classic rye and bourbon drinks like the Old Fashioned, Sazerac or Manhattan. In winter, it makes for excellent Hot Buttered Rum. And while it’s not the distillery’s intention to mix this special rum with citrus, it’s found its place in tropical Tiki’s resurgence at many a bar around Boston.

Influenced by the beer world and its seasonal offerings, the distillery opted for two different spiced rums. The first is named after the greenhead fly, a visitor to Ipswich beaches that serves as a herald to the beginning of summer; therefore, they kept things lighter and more herbal, with White Cap as the base, infused with lemongrass, green tea and mint. This spiced rum delivers citrusy notes, earthiness from the tea and a light minty tingle. It works well in Mojitos and Pimm’s Cup riffs, as well as in a cucumber-infused lemonade.

Turkey Shore’s other seasonal spiced rum is named for the local tidal marshes in fall once they’ve turned from green to gold. To capture this autumnal feel, Mat has used a blend of White Cap and Tavern Style rums as the base with an infusion of winter spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice, vanilla and orange peel. While the goal was to create the perfect rum for a Stone Fence cocktail—rum mixed with local farmhouse cider—its spices lend themselves to citrusy, summery drinks, too, making this a rum to enjoy year round.

LAB & CASK (not shown)
Named after the distillery’s logo—a rum cask and the owners’ Black Labrador Retrievers—this special release is not available on shelves but only by the barrel. Individuals, bars and restaurants can select a single barrel that yields the equivalent of about 30 bottles. Utilizing lower entry proof and smaller barrels, it is a bit deeper, darker and more aged than Turkey Shore’s other rums, even bourbon-like with its toffee notes. Lab & Cask can be swapped for the more traditional Tavern Style in many mixed cocktails, but it’s just as good alone over ice or sipped neat.