NEW SPIRITS: Rum & Vermouth

Here are a couple noteworthy products that crossed my desk in recent weeks…


Barbados favorite, Mount Gay Rum, recently released Black Barrel Rum, a rum finished in charred bourbon oak casks.

For American whiskey lovers like myself, it makes for a fine marriage of bourbon and rum, balancing caramel-vanilla-sweet notes from sugar cane molasses and wood with subtle hints of pepper and spice. Barbados’ acclaimed water, naturally filtered through coral layers, is said to contribute to the smooth taste of the rum.

Its subtle elegance especially works given the value. It can double as a sipping rum and elevates cocktails, like a simple mix of Black Barrel, lime juice and St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram.


Atsby is a newer artisanal vermouth out of Upstate NY. Atsby’s two, non-traditional vermouths are best enjoyed on their own.

Atsby Amberthorn is the lighter of the two, fresh and sweet with botanicals like French lavender, basil, Chinese anise, which intrigue though none dominate. It’s soft so a squeeze of lemon brightens it up.

Atsby Armadillo Cake (yes, there’s a story behind the name) makes a bit more of a statement with a dark caramel sweetness (from Indian Muscovado sugar) and complexity from cardamom and unusual botanicals like wild celery and Japanese shitake.

There’s little bitterness to either vermouths so they should both be approachable to a wide range of drinker. Though soft, they stand strong solo, but I have a harder time mixing them in cocktails as the unique botanical profiles of both aren’t an easy replacement in classic recipes. There’s a number of recipes on the website, though it’s the simpler ones that work better, like a twist on a classic Martinez using Bols Genever, the Armadillo vermouth, Maraschino Liquor, and Angostura bitters garnished with an orange peel strip.