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The Rum History of Newport, Rhode Island

In the 18th century, the sugar trade was booming in the American Colonies and so was the production of rum. In those days the distilling was done in the New England colonies and particularly Newport, RI. By 1769  Newport was home to 22 distilleries in the heart of downtown, making the most and best rum in the world. In October of 2006, this tradition was brought back when the distillers of Thomas Tew were issued the first license in the state in 135 years. After the purchase of a 400 liter still, the founder of Newport Distilling started with the intention of reviving the rum tradition in Newport.

The Name

Thomas Tew, known as the Rhode Island Pirate, lived in Newport. He had careers as both a pirate and privateer commissioned by the governor of New York. His spoils were among the greatest in history, and like many of his peers, rum was an integral part of the rituals on board as well as a vital commodity for trading.  With such tight connections to Newport’s rum heyday, it seemed appropriate that the spirit bear his name.

The Rum

The distillery decided to make a traditional aged rum due to it’s historical connections to Newport.  After having unearthed records related to the distillation of rum in Newport centuries ago, the distillery was able to incorporate many of the same ingredients and methods that were used to distill rum in the late 18th century.  Thomas Tew Single Barrel Rum was the first spirit that Newport Distilling Company started distilling in 2006. Thomas Tew Widows Walk Overproof Rum was added in 2015. 

Traditional Ingredients and Methods

Newport Distilling Company makes rum with blackstrap molasses. More refined molasses or sugar might sound better, but for bold flavor, nothing matches blackstrap. They also use traditional methods such as fermenting with brewer’s yeast and distilling with copper pot stills.