You’ll Never Guess What This Rum Is Made From

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Max Vogelman, right, custom-built the column still for Stoneyard Distillery, which he co-founded with Jim Benson, using parts sourced from the historic Hostess cake factory in Florida.

Would you drink rum made from beets? Not from sugar cane. Not from molasses. Beets. Now you can. Stoneyard Colorado Rum is billed as the state’s first “farm to flask” rum. And while sugar cane, the traditional ingredient used for making rum, grows well in tropical climates, it doesn’t do so well in Colorado’s colder temps. But beets, which also produce sugar, thrive there.

Stoneyard Distillery, located in Western Colorado’s Eagle Valley, about 30 minutes away from the famed ski slopes of Vail and Beaver Creek, opened its doors in late summer 2014. The distillery was founded by two pilots, Jim Benson and Max Vogelman, after they banded together to pursue larger production of Vogelman’s hobby garage-brewed rum.

Built on a plot of land leased from Vogelman’s family, who had operated a stone quarry on the site (hence the distillery’s name), Vogelman custom-built the distillery’s column still using parts sourced from the historic Hostess cake factory in Florida. The name of the still: Twinkie.

So how does beet-sugar rum taste? Bottled at 42 percent ABV, it’s clear in the glass, with a distinctively sweet marshmallow-like aroma and flavor, and an elongated finish. “The style is very simple,” says Vogelman. Compared to spirits made from grain, sugar cane or molasses, he describes the beet-sugar distillate as “clean” and different from the sticky-sweet flavor profile many people associate with rum.

In contrast to sugar cane and its preference for tropical climates, beets thrive in the colder temperatures of Stoneyard Distillery’s location in Western Colorado’s Eagle Valley.

Stoneyard is sold solely in Colorado right now ($20 for a 750 ml bottle), but the company hopes to expand distribution eventually, says Vogelman.

Forthcoming bottlings include a gold rum, which Stoneyard currently is aging in bourbon barrels sourced from Colorado’s Breckenridge Distillery and Laws Whiskey House. “It’s been sitting in barrels for 18 to 19 months; it’s ready to go,” says Vogelman. A Cinnamon Fire flavored rum, loosely inspired by the popular cinnamon-flavored Fireball whiskey brand, will also be launched in the coming months.

Clarification: Some rum fans have protested that a product distilled from a raw material other than sugar cane cannot be considered rum. Nonetheless, the TTB has indeed approved Stoneyard to be labeled as a rum.

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  • t_tom_thomas_71b071a posted 1 year ago

    I dont live in the USA but I read that you use to produce a lot of rum before the prohibition in 1920. Due to better smugling routes from Canada, the US began drinking whisky - and when the prohibition was lifted in 1935 that was the new thing to produce. In the later years som rum production has started again on US soil, and I had the pleasure of sampling parts of it on my summertrip to the eastcoast.
    While producers like Richland, Wiched Dollphin and Owneys produce young but promissing rum (based on sugarcane) I did see a lot of producers trying to do what is described in this article; ride the new wave, with a liquer spiced to taste like rum.
    That they are promoted! by tells me all about your quality of journalism.

  • xt99ss posted 1 year ago

    From the TTB's website, as per the existing DEFINITION of Rum in the U.S. (which is in line with other international definitions of the category)

    Class: Rum
    General Class Definition: Spirits distilled from the fermented juice of sugar CANE, sugar CANE syrup, sugar CANE molasses or other sugar CANE by-products at less than 95% alcohol by volume (190 proof) having the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum and bottled at not less than 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)

    The issue really is that this does NOT fall under the definition of Rum. n315 has an excellent explanation of the issue.

  • youyou22 posted 1 year ago

    Interesting topic here and so many furious comments. I looked them up and they do have approval by the TTB to call it a rum. They also have a rum called Lucky-Oh "Horchata Specialty Spirit" that I picked up at a local liquor store. It doesn't have cream in it and it is gold in color. By far the best tasting spirit I've had in a long time regardless of what it's made from. Good Ole' American RUM. I love it!!

  • n315 posted 1 year ago

    It should be noted that in recent legal precedents clearly state that TTB approval is not a "safe harbor", and also that TTB regs explictly state that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for non-compliance, even in the face of an approved label, formula, or permit. TTB is reviewing 1,000s of labels a year, and it is inevitable that some oversights will be made. Producers are expected to have an understanding of the law and make their best effort to comply. The regulation is unambiguous, rum must be made specifically from sugar CANE, not just from any old sugar from any source. I commend the effort to source locally and showcase the flavors of local agricultural products, but the (certainly delightful) spirit is clearly not a rum any more than it is a whiskey. This is not to shame the clearly thoughtful and well-meaning producers, but hopefully to save them from headache down the road.

  • Sheryl Barto posted 1 year ago

    At Stoneyard Distillery, we have never hidden the details of the process in making our unique rum. While we may not make a strictly traditional style rum we do make a refined sugar rum – distilled to a point were we retain a great deal of flavor from the ferment. It made sense to get it from a source inside of Colorado rather than ship sugar from half way 'round the world. So we use sugar from sugar beets. The TTB looked at our process and categorized it as rum. They approved our recipe and label as such. Hence, why we call it “Colorado Rum.” If you have the chance to try it, we would love to hear what you think of it!

  • colbertgrande.848e66 posted 1 year ago

    Would be much more interested in a broad cut of spirit distilled from whole sugar beets that retained some interesting earthy aromatic quality, in the same way that mezcal or vestal potato vodka does. This is just trading on a tradition from another climate to make a product that is not that distinctive. Use the whole beets, and call it that, man!

  • thekkannuck.5b0316 posted 1 year ago

    A polluted product signed Monsanto. Beets that are drenched with Roundup, causes cancer and, I don't give a hoot what yankee regulations are because rum is made with SUGARCANE! nothing else. guess what, you wont be able to peddle your junk outside the Empire because there are regulations out there!

  • drdabu.d4e717 posted 1 year ago

    It's disingenuous to call this rum. It's beet liquor not rum.

  • flechamiguelgmailcom1422823277 posted 1 year ago

    I'm amazed by the fact that publishes this in a way that it promotes this product rather than advise the readers about the fact of this profuct NOT being rum despite its label. Rum is only made by SUGAR CANE in any of its formats/derivates (juice, syrup, molasses...). Beet doesn't make rum. Period. Did they also consider calling it "Beet Whiskey" or "Beet tequila"?

  • opinionated.alchemist.1f0d posted 1 year ago

    I have to agree with the others... even though if US law allows to call it a rum (does it?), it is far from it. Can producers stop to confuse everyone, in doing their own thing (totally legit), but then categorise it as something completely different?
    In rum producing countries following things have to apply, to be "a rum":
    • all fermentable sugars have to come from sugar cane.
    • the wort is made of sugar cane molasses and/or sugar cane honey (syrup made out of sugar cane juice - however without stripping out the sugar).
    • It has to be distilled.
    • It then has to be aged in oak, for a minimum time, depending on the countries regulations (from 6 months to 4 years).
    • Minimum alcohol content of 40%.

    This isn't the definition by law in the United States - but by most major rum producing countries (I believe you should look up where a spirit is made rather than always take the US as guideline - not long time ago, cachaça was called rum, only because people took the American regulations as guideline).

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