Bourbon Turntable Tasting: Rolling Fork Spirits

My Bourbon Turntable co-hosts (Drew Crawley, Benjamin Eaves) and I had the opportunity to sit down recently with Turner Wathen, co-founder of Rolling Fork Spirits.  I’ll share the tasting notes of what we sampled here, but you can enjoy the live tasting, some more background on Rolling Fork and our conversation with Turner about music by going here for the YouTube video or here for a podcast format.

The Rolling Fork Spirits name was resurrected in 2016 by Turner Wathen and his business partner, Jordan Morris.  Rolling Fork was the name of the distillery owned and operated by Turner’s ancestors back in the late 1700’s.  Today, Rolling Fork is a leading importer of rum into the United States with plans to have 500 barrels in their stock by 2023.

Turner provided us with three different Rolling Fork rums to try.   The Bourbon Turntable crew only had the country of origin on the sample bottles.  So, we didn’t know age, proof, etc. It was about as “blind” as it gets.

El Salvador

The first rum we tried was from El Salvador.  The initial impression we had was that this is a “vanilla bomb”.  This rum has a beautiful vanilla note on the nose, palate and finish.  Allspice, raisin, tobacco, and citrus (like grapefruit and orange peel) were other notes we experienced. 

After the first taste, Turner told us that this was a 10-year, 110-proof rum.  Rolling Fork had finished the rum in rye, port, sherry and double oak barrels.  Some barrels went through each secondary finish, but others did not.  Combined, the rum was aged a total of 12 years before being dumped and blended. 

Before finishing, Turner said the rum was like “Crème Brulé in a glass”.  That characteristic carried through, but Ben noted some “port funk” which was definitely from the time in the port cask.  I picked up on some toasted marshmallow which could be attributed to the “double oak” barrel.  All in all, the barrel finishes were properly managed and only added to the flavor without drowning out the original spirit.

Drew gave us the #FatGuyTastingNote we are all looking for when he reminisced about his grandmother’s cinnamon rolls (that included raisin and orange peel) while sipping on this rum from El Salvador.

Turner told us that “if you like this one, we are going to have a very good evening because it only gets better from here”.

Barbados

The nose on this rum from Barbados was full of butterscotch.  On the palate and the finish we detected caramel/coffee flavors that Ben said would appeal to those addicted to their Starbucks’ macchiato.  I caught a spicy pepper note in the finish that the guys thought might be more like a chipotle pepper.  Drew said there was something recognizable in this rum with walnut and marshmallow notes and an earthy finish.

This was a 9-year rum from Four Square that spent a year in an Old Forester 1910 barrel.  Drew, who worked at Old Fo for a time, now knew what made this rum seem familiar to him.

Turner shared that one of the things he likes about Four Square is their process.  They put the rum through a column still and then a pot still.  They also pay very close attention to making tight cuts.

Jamaica

This Jamaican rum carried some of the traits that we found in the rums from El Salvador and Barbados that we had already tried.  Vanilla, caramel, citrus and walnut were all there in a delicious combination.  We also enjoyed a bit of banana, chocolate and Juicy Fruit as we drank.

What we were drinking was a 14-year-old rum at 126-proof.  Each of us thought we detected flavors that indicated a finishing.  Rye?  No.  Sherry?  No.  Bourbon?  No.

This rum did not go through a finishing process at all.  Turner said their policy is that older, single barrel rums will simply be bottled and sold as-is.   They have an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with the specific distillery for this spirit from Jamaica, but Turner did share that the rum goes through a two-week fermentation process and a wild yeast strain is used by the distiller.  It is also double-pot distilled. 

These rums were truly fantastic.  Rolling Fork is doing an excellent job finding quality barrels of rum to bring to Kentucky.  From there they can either finish them in a secondary barrel or simply bottle them and send these gems of the Caribbean on to the consumer. 

Rolling Fork rum can be found at several retailers in Kentucky as well as a few spots in Tennessee, Chicago and Mississippi.  However, there is a great selection of Rolling Fork products at Seelbach’s.  You can even find a discounted 3-pack special there.  The Jamaican Rum we tried is a Seelbach’s pick called “Mermaid with a Flamethrower” and is available on their site.

The consensus from the Bourbon Turntable gang is that Rolling Fork has some outstanding rum that is well worth your attention.  Even if you are more a bourbon drinker and not familiar with rum, we are confident that you will enjoy the quality and flavor from Rolling Fork Spirits.