In distilling, the tails are the last bits to come out of the still. Full of unwanted compounds and, as Maggie's Farm's owner Tim Russell puts it, "bitter, wet-dog flavors," the tails seem more fit for the slop sink than your rocks glass. Luckily for us, Russell knows better. He holds on to those flavorful tails and, through a second round of distillation, transforms them into the Queen's Share, a complex, high-proof rum.
Last year, on a whim, Russell aged a small batch of that rum in virgin oak barrels, then threw it in casks that previously held Stonewall, a colonial rum made by Glenshaw's Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries. The results were good. So good, in fact, that Russell entered the 10-month-aged "double barrel" rum in the New York International Spirits Competition. In November, it took home a silver medal — the highest award given to any rum in the competition — and Maggie's Farm was named Pennsylvania's Distillery of the Year.
Russell is hardly basking in the glow of the big win, however. Besides experimenting with a variety of finishes for Queen's Share, Maggie's Farm recently debuted a pear eau de vie, a brandy made from 300 gallons of New York pear cider. Though this first run is extremely limited, Russell plans to distill more fruit brandies.
And there are other new products on the horizon. "Soon I'll finally be able to lay down some white rum," announces Russell happily. Using barrels from Brooklyn's Van Brunt Stillhouse, Russell hopes to have his first-ever batch of aged rum ready by mid-2015. For now, though, he's scrambling to meet the demand for his flagship white and spiced rums. And now that they're being sold in a dozen state stores throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, that demand is greater than ever.
Maggie's Farm marked its one-year anniversary last month. And at this rate, it looks like it'll have plenty more reasons to celebrate in the months to come.