After many rum-soaked adventures around the globe, Todd Thrasher is channeling the spirit of the Pacific Rim, West Indies, and Caribbean into the nation’s capitol. His urban distillery in DC’s District Wharf, Potomac Distilling, opened in 2018. There, he crafts Thrasher’s Rum, a rich, oaky, molasses-based rum. This style, inspired by the kind found in the Caribbean, is often imported, making Thrasher’s Rum one of few that’s domestically produced.
Among the six styles of Thrasher’s Rum, the green-spiced has earned particular renown. Its distinct profile is reminiscent of gin, with notes of lemongrass, lemon palm, mint, lemon verbena, and green cardamom.
Beyond the distillery, Thrasher’s Rum guides the Hawaiian-inspired cocktails at the neighboring Tiki TNT, a three-story waterfront bar connected to the distillery. The Local Palate sat down with Thrasher to learn more about his signature style and the colorful story behind the brand.
The Story Behind Thrasher’s Rum
You come from a background in bartending and restaurant service. What inspired you to go into distilling? How did you learn about the process?
In 2010, I was sitting in a bar in Wellington, New Zealand, and I noticed a bottle of pisco on the shelf. I recognized the name of my Peruvian distiller-friend on the label, and the dream of doing something like that for myself took hold. People kept telling me I should build a bourbon distillery, but I don’t even drink bourbon! I love rum, and I decided that it would be my calling.
I learned about the process through an intensive distilling course, and I began experimenting with a small still at home. While I was in the early stages of researching distilling, I visited the El Dorado Distillery in Guyana. I pulled a lot of my inspiration from the brand. My rum is influenced by the distinct English-Caribbean-style of rum that El Dorado produces, using molasses.
Your travels in the South Pacific paved your entry into rum production. Was there a defining experience with rum in a particular destination that stands out in your memory?
I vividly remember spending many years, witnessing picture-perfect sunsets after a long day of scuba diving in the South Pacific, Caribbean, and West Indies, with a neat pour of dark rum in my pruney fingers. I have a deep love for the ocean. I wanted to create a rum that, to me, was synonymous with my experiences as a scuba dive master.
In a world where craft spirits are on the rise, what do you think sets Thrasher’s Rum apart?
We only use natural sugars and molasses—with zero preservatives. We follow a process that has been a tradition for hundreds of years by using the purest of products. Of course, I put my own spin on it.
Of the six different rums you produce, which do you consider classic rums and which are more unique to the Thrasher’s brand?
I consider my white rum to be classic—it has nutty notes of brown sugar and coconut, and it’s the most versatile rum in my collection. The gold rum is similar to my white rum, but I age it for six months in medium-char American oak barrels. It’s soft, mellow, and round, with subtle hints of caramel.
My more unique ones are: green spiced, spiced, coconut, and my most recently released, relaxed rum.
The green spiced is the first of its kind, made with a botanical-based blend that is reminiscent of English gin. I utilize a rooftop garden to grow the herbs I use in my distilling process: lemon verbena, lemongrass, lemon balm, mint, and green cardamom.
The spiced rum is a dryer, more spice-forward version in comparison to the usual spirit that comes to mind when thinking of a spiced rum. I steep star anise, clove, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla bean, and orange peels in my white rum to make this aromatic, zesty rum.
The coconut rum is toasty and bright, and it’s smooth enough to sip on its own. The most unique element of this rum is that it’s one of the few coconut rums on the market that doesn’t use coconut extract. Starting with 60 pounds of raw Thai coconut, heated to a sizzling 180 degrees, it’s then placed in a gin basket to integrate its vapors into liquid.
The relaxed rum is a breezier approach to an aged rum, using a “relaxation period” of laying dormant for twenty-four months in new American white oak barrels. The deep hue of the rum marries with the smooth, bourbon-like flavor, with an essence of vanilla and tobacco with smoky notes.
What are the next steps for Thrasher’s Rum?
This summer, we’re debuting Thrasher’s Jamaican Rum, a partnership with an established rum distillery in Jamaica. This extremely rare rum has been aging in barrels for thirty years. When I discovered these barrels, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
We’re creating a rum experience—so, it won’t be branded as Thrasher’s Rum. My purpose is to share its taste with others by bringing it to the States. This will be the creme de la creme of rums—it truly can’t compare to anything else. We’ll only have a limited supply of 500 bottles.
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