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The Best American Unaged Rum

The Manual Spirit Awards recognize the best craft liquors distilled in the U.S. We blind-tasted bottles from around the country in eight categories — Bourbon, Single Malt Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, Unaged Rum, Aged Rum, and Liqueur — to determine our champions. Each of the winners was judged on aroma, palate, and finish. Cheers to your next drink and to American craft spirits.

Best Unaged Rum

Iron Fish Distillery Michigan White Rum

Thompsonville, Michigan

The Manual Spirit Awards 2019 Best Unaged Rum
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Rum is a distillate made from fermented sugar cane juice, sugar cane syrup, molasses, other sugar cane byproducts, or some combination thereof. The product is distilled at less than 190 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof. Typically known as Caribbean spirits, rums are produced around the world and were a key product during the colonial era here in the United States.

Made with Caribbean molasses and Michigan honey, the Michigan White Rum from Iron Fish Distillery — the winner of the Unaged Rum category in The Manual Spirit Awards 2019 — manages to capture the joy of tropical rum from (nearly) the shores of Lake Michigan. The rum is light and easy-drinking, making it great for everything from a rum and coke to a more complex cocktail. The addition of honey created another layer of intricacy to the rum, adding what we registered as floral notes. These gave a nice counterpoint to the inherent nature of the spirit.

Iron Fish Distillery’s Michigan White Rum is 40% alcohol by volume and available in Michigan and Illinois.

About the Distillery

Iron Fish Distillery, located in Thompsonville, Michigan, is the state’s first farm distillery, located on the grounds of a now-reclaimed farmstead from the 1890s. The founders, Heidi Bolger, David Wallace, and Sarah and Richard Anderson, set out to create small-batch spirits that utilized the rich environment around Michigan. From growing grains to sourcing them from other Michigan farmers to working with native yeast strains found on the farm, the distillery’s goal is to make everything as local as possible while still maintaining a high level of excellence.

Iron Fish makes a variety of spirits, including gin, rye vodka, winter wheat vodka, barrel-aged gin, an experimental barrel-aged gin, white whiskey, maple bourbon whiskey, Caribbean cask bourbon whiskey, dark rum, tawny port cask bourbon whiskey, and imperial stout bourbon whiskey. As the team works on a native yeast program, they will also release special spirits from those experiments.

best unaged rum iron fish distillery michigan white rum mojito cocktail
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tasting Notes

Nose Crisp and clear, with vegetal characteristics mixed with sugar cane and slight floral notes.
Palate Soft pineapple notes are mixed with cooked banana. Light on the tongue, sweet molasses flavors also come through, mixing with the lightest hint of honey-coated citrus peels.
Finish A short, clean finish with notes of caramelized bananas.

How to Enjoy It in a Cocktail

The mojito is a staple drink for countless around the world thanks to its simplicity: rum, lime, mint, soda, and sugar. You’ve got some power in the rum, crisp freshness in the mint, a zesty pick-me-up from the lime and the bubbles, and sweetness thanks to the sugar — all of which make a pretty perfect drink that can be enjoyed at just about any time of the day, especially in tropical climates. It was created in Havana, although the year of its birth is highly debated, as is the case with many classic cocktails.


Glass: Collins

Tools: Muddler, straw

  • 1.5 oz Iron Fish Distillery Michigan White Rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • 5-7 mint leaves, and 1 sprig for garnish
  • Soda water, to fill

Method: Add mint leaves, lime juice, and sugar to glass and muddle together. Add rum and ice. Top with soda water and use a straw to mix. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Best Unaged Rum Runners-Up

Owney’s Distiller’s Reserve

Owney’s Distillery – Brooklyn, New York

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The first rum distilled in Brooklyn, this release from Owney’s is big and bold with plenty of flavor from beginning to end.

4 Spirits Silver Rum

4 Spirits Distillery – Corvallis, Oregon

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Tropical and slightly sweet, this rum is a blend of molasses and sugar cane for a more complex flavor.


Written by Sam Slaughter

Copy editing by Nicole Raney and Jeremy Abrams

Photography by  Riley Young and Dan Baker

Video by Riley Young

Art direction and page layout by Genevieve Poblano

Creative team: Will Hawkins and Chris Raymond

Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
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