The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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july 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  63 ciated brown spirit. "The 'aha moment' for me with rum came in a restaurant in Sonoma. They had a rum list on the back page of the dessert menu, and they were bringing out rum in a snifter like it was a brandy," he recalls. "I had never taken it seriously until I saw it in that venue." The revelation eventually inspired the launch of 3 Badge's Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum. Named after an old rum-runner that ultimately became a training vessel for the U.S. Coast Guard, the brand serves as an homage to this history, as Coast Guard confiscation tags hang from the neck of each bottle. According to Sebastiani, one major point of differentiation between Kirk and Sweeney and other rums is the method behind the age statements. "When Kirk and Sweeney was first launched, it was hard to find a vertical age statement in rum, let alone 12, 18, and 23 years," he says. "Now we're even working on an XO." In regards to aging, Kirk and Sweeney adheres to a non-solera style of maturation. "When aging, we marry the barrels from the same year," Sebastiani explains. "The angel's share becomes much more substantial because it's not new rum being added, so you get a lot more of that mellowing oak influence where the flavors of caramel, molasses, and syrup come through." Dylan Holcomb, Beverage Director at Caribbean restaurant Bang Up to the Elephant! in Denver, Colorado, says he discovered 3 Badge products while at a party for a friend with "horrible taste in liquor." At a loss, he took a chance on a distinctive-looking bottle sitting amongst the dross. "I saw 3 Badge's Uncle Val's Gin, took a quick drink, and stared at the glass completely blown away by how good it was," he says. After Holcomb enlisted another friend with connections to 3 Badge to make an introduction, he now develops cock- tails for the 3 Badge brand (in addition to featuring his creations at Tales of the Cocktail, he also serves as the resident mixologist on Fusion television show HOTMIXOLOGY). When it comes to rum specifically, Holcomb says he sees Kirk and Sweeney as an "approachable" entry point into the broader category. "Kirk and Sweeney is the perfect gateway rum for novice drinkers," he says. One of Holcomb's most popular cocktails at Bang Up to the Elephant!'s 22-seat bar is the Kirk and Sweeney My Thai; a riff on the classic drink, his version is an aromatic powerhouse of Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum, lemon juice, cream of coconut, and a housemade Chinese five-spice curry syrup. Swizzled in crushed ice in a Collins glass, this drink isn't your sailor grandfather's Mai Tai. And while Holcomb is an expert mixologist, he can often be found contemplating the depth and breadth of spirits on their own. "Rum is as diverse and rich as any Cognac or whiskey," he says. "When I drink my Kirk and Sweeney, I prefer to drink it neat in a snifter." Despite being a relatively new brand, Kirk and Sweeney is already making a name for itself within the wide-ranging rum category. "The brand is up more than 30 percent in dollars and case sales in the past year. Distribution is growing by double digits, and the 18 Year is our fastest growing expression," Sebastiani says. With business also showing significant growth in Europe, Kirk and Sweeney looks to be a product on which the Sebastiani family can proudly stamp their name. "Kirk and Sweeney is a brand that we're very excited to sell. We're looking forward to a long, healthy future," Sebastiani says. "My family has been in this for 120 years—I'm looking to continue that and build a brand that people can be proud of." Although Holcomb prefers to drink his rum neat, his My Thai cocktail with Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum is a hit at Bang Up to the Elephant! Dylan Holcomb, the Beverage Director at Caribbean restaurant Bang Up to the Elephant! in Denver, CO, develops cocktails for 3 Badge Beverage. Kirk and Sweeney My Thai Created by Dylan Holcomb ◗ 1½ oz. Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum ◗ 1 dash Angostura bitters ◗ 1 oz. lemon juice ◗ ¾ oz. Chinese five-spice curry syrup ◗ ½ oz. cream of coconut ◗ 1 Thai basil leaf Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and swizzle. Top with fresh crushed ice and garnish with Thai basil leaf and dehydrated lime.

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