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Privateer Rum - Distiller's Drawer Review (#9, #21, #31)

Updated: Oct 3, 2019

In Ipswich, a stone’s throw from Boston, is Privateer rum distillery. Founded by Andrew Cabot in 2011. He walked away from a tech career to start distilling spirits. When researching his family history, he found one of his ancestors, also called Andrew Cabot, was a rum distiller in the 18th century. Inspired by this he traveled to the Caribbean to learn the ins and outs of rum making.

One of the best decisions he made was to hire Maggie Campbell as head distiller in 2012. Her application letter and resume she sent to Andrew must have looked something like this: Before finishing a degree in philosophy she decided to take a trip to Oban, a Scotch whisky distillery. This opened her eyes to the world of distillation. Once she got her philosophy degree, she started taking wine courses , got a job in an wine shop soon after. Next, she started being mentored by Todd Leopold at Leopold Bros. distillery in Denver. She earned a craft distilling technologies degree from the Siebel Institute in Chicago and then landed an assistant distiller position at Germain-Robin, a California based brandy distillery where she learned Cognac techniques. While working towards getting a WSET level 4 diploma, she was hired by Privateer. Quite the list of accomplishments, especially in a male dominated industry.

I’ve met Maggie a couple of times and have chatted offline on numerous occasions. My first impression is that she has a genuinely good heart, a strong passion for authentic rum making and an incredible amount of knowledge she is willing to share. Check this article on yeast for example. In teaching rum, she has a level of patience that reminds me of Richard Seale, who also has a ton of patience, even with a rum illiterate like myself. It’s an incredible tool to keep some of your target audience interested, but at the same time….which master distiller has the willingness and passion to share this much information with rum enthusiasts? Not that many.

This is all great, but what matters most in the the rum any good?!

“Privateer is disregarding commonly accepted practices of larger rum producers including sweetening, flavoring, filtering and spicing their industrial distillate, to establish a new standard in rum – one of honesty and purity. Best ingredients. Best practices. Never sweetened. Never filtered.”

It’s a quote from Privateer’s website. A very strong statement and one that sounds like music to my ears. What doesn't sound like music to my ears is that they make rum from cane sugar. Before I had heard of Privateer I had tried several rums (typically from North America) that were made from cane sugar and never liked them. The good news is, they’ve completely switched over to molasses now.

Privateer uses a 6 day fermentation, which is long compared to many other distilleries. This results in an 8% abv wash. They then distill in a Vendome pot still up to 35%. This low wine is redistilled in a second still. That German made still has a pot with a small column attached to it. The website states the following:”We have a still that allows us to change how many, if any, ‘plates’ we want to run the still with. What does this mean? It means we can choose to make a light clean spirit with high purity (more plates) or we can make heavy rich spirits with lots of flavor (few plates or pot distilled). We change the way we run the still’s plates often. Some of the spirit we make is light and pure to offer more aromatics and some of the spirit is rich and heavy to add weight. Much of the spirit we make falls between the two of these.”

Privateer rum isn’t available in Canada, of course. But thanks to great rum friends Meredith & Jeff Olszewski and Steve Leukanech, I’ve been able to get my hands on a lot of different expressions. The ones I’m trying for this review are:

Distiller’s Drawer #9 – The Iron Dram

Source material: Blend of Grade A molasses and Real Boiled Brown Sugar

Cask: New American Oak, #3 char

Age: 2 Years and 10 months

Abv: 52%

Bottles produced: 196

Distiller’s Drawer #21 - True American Reserve

Source material: Blend of Grade A molasses and Real Boiled Brown Sugar

Cask: Used American Oak

Age: 2 Years and 5 months

Abv: 45%

Bottles produced: 296

Distiller’s Drawer #31 – Bottled in Bond

Source material: 100% Molasses

Cask: New 53 gallon American Oak Cask, #3 car

Age: 4 Years

Abv: 50%

Bottles produced: 231


Distiller’s Drawer #9 – The Iron Dram

Orange peel is something I found in all 3. More fruit with red apple and then vanilla, oak, caramel, toffee and leather. It's a nice nose.

Distiller’s Drawer #21 - True American Reserve

Orange peel is strong, together with citrus, oak, raisins, milk chocolate and faint banana. It’s a light nose.

Distiller’s Drawer #31 – Bottled in Bond

This one keeps on giving! Oak, vanilla, baking spices, coconut, cinnamon, dark chocolate, orange peel, tobacco, leather, marzipan....and since many shops in Toronto are already selling Christmas items....I smelled pine as in.....Christmas tree.


Distiller’s Drawer #9 – The Iron Dram

It's quite oak spicy and a little bit sweet with vanilla, caramel and leather. It's more oaky than the others, I’m finding myself searching for flavours under the wood. The finish has lots of oak again and is somewhat bitter.

Distiller’s Drawer #21 - True American Reserve

It's peppery with oak, vanilla and chocolate. Finish is long with a hint of bitter caramel. Like the nose suggested, it's on the lighter side.

Distiller’s Drawer #31 – Bottled in Bond

This one is also very oaky and peppery but it's not dominating as much as The Iron Dram. It's giving me some flashbacks to my youth with pencil shavings, vanilla, chocolate, coconut, and leather. It's a smoky affair with a long finish. This really is good.


It's a bit of a mixed bag for me with these three. The Iron Dram has a heaviness to it that I like but the oak is a bit overpowering at the same time. The True American Reserve is fruity on the nose but not so much on the palate. It's a light rum that I think would appeal to people who appreciate non sugared rum from Panama, like Grander.

The Bottled in Bond is a big winner for me. First time I tasted it was at Chicago rumfest. I instantly liked it. However, sitting at home with a full bottle can change things a bit. It did, I liked it even more. This is a very bold, round, flavourful and complex rum. It's heavy on the oak but not too heavy. It's remarkable how good this rum is at the young age of four years. Can you imagine how good it could be in another four years?!

Maggie is doing an incredible job with these young rums. She's lifting the North American rum category to a higher level, all by herself. There is quite the variety of expressions you can buy and you might not like every single one of them, but the chances of purchasing something good are high. So buy this stuff! Even if it's just to make sure that Privateer still exists in another 4 years with Maggie at the helm, so I can taste the Bottled in Bond at 8 years and score it in the 90's!


Distiller’s Drawer #9 – The Iron Dram - 75

Distiller’s Drawer #21 – True American Reserve - 71

Distiller’s Drawer #31 – Bottled in Bond - 85

Click here for info on the scoring method.

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