While San Diego's Ballast Point may be more famous for their award-winning beers, they also run a small boutique distillery that produces an outstanding Old Grove gin, Three Sheets rum and in the near future, a few styles of whiskey. I was lucky enough to visit the distillery recently, and Yuseff Cherney, the head brewer and head distiller gave me complete access to their facilities.
While I was at Ballast Point to learn more about their whiskies (a subject for another time, I'll just say that I'm very excited about what they are doing), I had the opportunity to taste their Three Sheets rum. While I enjoy rum, its rare that I taste a rum that really interests me. However, Three Sheets rum floored me, it was that good. When I asked Yuseff why his rum was so unique, he smiled and let me in on his secret. Three Sheets rum is made from turbinado sugar, as are many rums (rum being a product of either sugar or molasses), but what gives Three Sheets its complexity and flavor is that it is aged in new American oak charred barrels. Aged in the barrels for 18 months, Three Sheets develops a harmonious vanilla, oak, caramel profile similar to many bourbons. The new oak also adds a bit of an elusive creosote flavor on the palate, something not seen in most rums. So why is this flavor and the new oak barrel so unique? It has a lot to do with how the bourbon industry in America is regulated. Bourbon has to be aged a minimum of two years in new American oak barrels by law. The barrels are used once, then sold off to manufacturers of other spirits, particularly scotch and rum. Used barrels do contribute some flavor to distillates, but a newly charred barrel offers far more vanilla and oak notes and has a much more pronounced effect overall on the outcome of the spirit. By aging in new American oak barrels, Ballast Point's rum is drawing those flavors out and into their rum. Even more interesting, from what I can tell, Ballast Point may be the only rum distiller in the world to use new American oak barrels for their product. The result is a rum that will appeal to both rum connoisseurs and whiskey aficionados alike. Simply put, this is a high quality, unique spirit that belongs in any serious collectors liquor cabinet.
Unfortunately, Ballast Point's Three Sheets rum initial release is relatively small. Look for this rum to hit shelves by April 15th. My suggestion is to search out retailers in the San Diego/Los Angeles area to locate a bottle. Drink this neat, or try it in a Three Sheets Bijou cocktail; equal parts Three Sheets rum, green chartreuse, sweet vermouth and a couple of dashes of orange bitters. Either way, Three Sheets rum gets my Top Recommendation.