Meet Dan DeHart – Grander Rum

Dan DeHart is the Founder of Grander Rum. He describes himself as “a guy from Kentucky who makes a Panamanian rum with a guy from Cuba.” He lives in Central Florida with his family who all support him on an amazing journey to craft a rum that folks will appreciate.

FRS: Why rum?

Dan: This is very cliché but here’s the truth – being from Kentucky, I didn’t grow up with Rum and when I thought of Rum it had to be a frozen daiquiri, pina collada or mixed with a coke. I think many folks have this view, still today. My wife, Jill, and I started sailing bareboat in the Caribbean and once we rented a boat that came with an unopened bottle of Pussers rum. Of course we would mix it but I decided to have it neat one evening and my jaw dropped. I had never tasted a Rum like that before. I enjoyed it neat but also liked it in a cocktail – just like how I drink Bourbon. That was my awakening experience. I had always wanted to get into the spirit business and always thought it would be Bourbon but that all changed after that experience!

FRS: How did you end up selecting Panama/Las Cabras as the place to source the rum for Grander? 

Dan: I took a trip to Panama to meet with Don Pancho and Carlos Esquivel. I loved what they were doing and knew I could work with the distillate. Also, it’s nice to know that they grow their own sugar cane and don’t need to worry about hurricanes.

FRS: How has that relationship developed over the last few years?

Dan: The relationship has been collaborative and mutually beneficial. The team in Panama has been very supportive in my desire to do things they haven’t done previously.

FRS: We know you came from the Bourbon world prior to being into rum and creating the Grander brand. How would you characterize the difference in the two spirits with regards to the industry and their respective communities? 

Dan: Wow, that is a big question. First, I must say that Rum is way more diverse as a spirit than Bourbon. There are many more countries producing rum with their own twist yielding unique flavor profiles. However, in America, Rum is still being discovered by consumers where as Bourbon has been enjoying a renaissance. Regarding communities – I would say they are similar. You have casual consumers and you have consumers who can’t stop thinking about their spirit of choice.

FRS: The Rye barrel finish was a big hit with many rum fans and it’s rare to see a rye finish in rum overall.  How did that come about?

Dan: I like Rye whiskey and thought it may add an interesting layer of flavor to our rum. I also had some connections in Kentucky that allowed me to secure some freshly dumped rye barrels from Heaven Hill. This was my first offering in the Barrel Series program (finishing rums) and they all are experimental. Meaning if they don’t taste good, they don’t make it to market. Shipping barrels to Panama for this is not cheap but I think it is important to do any extra aging in Panama to maintain the single origin aspect of Grander.

FRS: How much of your time is spent thinking about what to do next and how to grow the brand? And anything you are able to tell us about what you’re planning next for Grander?

Dan: I think about this everyday. I am a “one-man-show” and manage production, marketing, sales and strategy. I love every minute of it. As for what I am planning next, some things I can share but some things are still way off and may or may not happen. But in the immediate future, we just filled more barrels with aged rum for our Barrel Series. Some of these barrels are ex- Bourbon, Rye, Wheated Bourbon, California Madiera and Angelica Port as well as Tequila.

FRS: What can you tell us about the Trophy release and how it differed from the 8 year release (beyond a jump in ABV)?

Dan: I am really excited about the Trophy Release. It’s my chance to select and blend my own product. I do a lot of sampling of rums when in Panama and I’m really drawn towards the rums between 8 and 15 years of age. The Trophy Release is a small batch of rums I select between these ages and will be bottled at a higher ABV than the regular 8 Year Old. Each batch will differ, showcasing the differences in rums we produce. The first batch is ‘sweeter’ due to many of the barrels were sherry seasoned. The second batch is ‘drier’. Both have lots of flavor.

FRS: Will more batches be produced or is this a limited edition that is gone when it’s sold out?

Dan: I plan to release new batches of Trophy Release, in fact now we are just releasing Batch #20B08.

FRS: What can you tell us about your barrel selection program and the process?

Dan: I love single barrels and am always amazed how one barrel can be so different from the next. I introduced single barrels four years ago and it has been well received. Interestingly, I started it because I had a retailer in Kentucky ask for it. The team in Panama had not bottled single barrels previously so this was exciting (or maybe painful) for them as well. What was very important to me was to bottle these uncut and unfiltered. This technique gives you the closest to what it’s like to sample straight from the barrel – like I do when in Panama. You will see sediment in some of the bottles because of this process. I sell single barrels to retailers, bars, restaurants, and groups. For people interested – they just need to contact me and we make it happen!

FRS: I’ve heard the FRS selection is sold out in almost record time. Will there be a sequel?

Dan: Yes!

Learn more in a Virtual Happy Hour with Dan later in July: Register

Meet Zan Kong – Worthy Park Estate

Zan is the Commercial Manager – Spirits for Worthy Park Estate. He comes from a Chinese – Jamaican background, grew up just outside of Toronto, Canada… the first generation of his family to be born in Canada. He grew up there but left once he graduated university to work in the hotel industry… which, eventually, brought him to the beautiful Worthy Park Estate…

FRS: Tell us about your personal rum journey.

Zan: I’ve been surrounded by rum throughout my life. It was always interesting to see the contrast towards rum (and alcohol in general) growing up in Canada but spending almost all of my vacation time in Jamaica where rum is a part of the culture. All that to say, I’ve always been surrounded by rum – but was completely and totally biased towards Jamaican rum (I mean, I still am…). I had the luxury of not starting to drink rum with a “cheap mixer” type but my starter rum was Jamaica rum! Working in the hotel industry I spent most of my time in the F&B side of the business so my relationship with rum (and bars) came from the purchasing and operational side. but never thought of making a career of it until I started working with Worthy Park.

FRS: What brought you to join the Worthy Park team?

Zan: Fate, serendipity maybe? I was working at my previous job and ran into Gordon Clarke the CEO and Managing Director for Worthy Park. I was ready for a change and he happened to be ready to start expanding his team and opening the export department. He took a chance on me and I have been here going on 6 years now.

FRS: Worthy Park is best known for their historic expressions of Jamaican rums… Do you have a clear favorite when it is time to sit down and sip at the end of the day?

Zan: That’s like asking who my favorite child is. If it is just me and my glass I’d probably go with Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve. Although my go-to has been Worthy Park Select and ice since we launched it a couple months back. If I can get my hands on some lime (it’s out of season right now) I’ll definitely go with an Overproof Daiquiri. Maybe I will split base it with Rum-Bar Gold if I want to have a couple. So to answer your question, no, I guess I don’t have a favourite!

FRS: Is there anything upcoming that you are truly excited about (even if you can only give us hints)?

Zan: So much! We’ve got a lot in the pipeline for releases this year. I can say I’m super stoked that we’re getting Rum Cream in market and I think the 109 Proof is going to turn some heads (in a positive way) when people get their hands on it. Now, I can’t get into specifics, but we are super excited for the barrel picks that are coming out.  It sounds so common, especially for any of the bourbon fans out there but for us the first time we’ve done this so it took a bit to get off the ground but I can say that they’re on their way to the US of A!

FRS: Before the “COVID times”, you traveled a lot, sharing the good word of rum… When travel starts to be welcomed back to the world is there anywhere that you just cannot wait to pack your bags and head off to?

Zan: At this point I’m on a plane the first chance I get to go anywhere LOL.  Well from the personal side, I definitely want to get the kids up to visit Grandma in Canada, they usually saw her for a few months at a time but obviously we’ve been kept apart of the past year+. From the work perspective, I hear there is some fun stuff going on in Florida. Would love to get there as soon as I can. On that note, 2020 was the year I was supposed to spend a lot of time working in that market but maybe 2021 will be the year.

On the global scene, I’m dying to get out to London. It’s one of my favourite cities out there and it’ll probably be high on my visit list once the world opens up. Oh, but how can I forget about Paris! The energy of that city is super contagious. Never mind the fact that I love to eat.

FRS: When not sipping rum what do you enjoy doing in Jamaica?

Zan: Do you want the fun, travel around the island, beach hopping, hotel staying, waterfall chasing, mountain climbing, forest exploring story? Or the going cooking dinner for the kids and in bed by 9pm story?

I joke, kind of. The beauty of Jamaica is in the raw-ness of Jamaica. Yes, we’re a country that is heavily indebted and lacks the conveniences of the first world so there is a much different pace of life down here. We have some bustling city centers, like Kingston, where a lot of the arts thrive; and you have the huge, all inclusive resorts on the north coast; but far and wide my favourite side of Jamaica is the rural side. I love getting out into the hillside and finding some rivers and waterfalls amongst the beautiful flora and fauna of the island. Your reminded that not having cell service or a Frappuccino is not necessarily a bad thing.

FRS: Rumor has it that you once crashed a Ben Jones Virtual Happy Hour and gave him a (friendly) hard time… if someone was to crash your VHH and bump you off you’re a-game who would that be?

Zan: OHHH yes, I forgot about that! I love Ben and have so much respect for him and the Spiribam team. But yes, I love to give him shit at any chance I get. I’d probably say if you got an Ian Burrell crash – he’d probably bump me off because it’s hard to get a word in versus him. Or a Maggie Campbell, just because she’s so damn knowledgeable and could definitely stump me in pretty much any subject!

FRS: MANY FRS members are hoping to travel to Jamaica when things open back up… besides a visit to the WP estate, what else should they not miss when visiting your beautiful island?

Zan: So much to visit! But I’d say you definitely need to get out to some of the rum bars that are around the island. The vibe and the energy are so different than what your used too in Florida. Plus you have to find your favourite jerk chicken spot, there’s so many across the island and all have their own secret recipes. Also, just as a general tidbit of knowledge – the spots you see cooking in the drum pans (the oil pans cut and turned on their side). This is pan chicken. Which is NOT jerk chicken but it’s own thing. I guess you could say some pan chicken can be jerk, but not all pan chicken IS jerk chicken. The authentic Jerk chicken is smoked over pimento wood. Both are very good, but very different!

FRS: There have been whispers of a collaboration between Worthy Park and your favorite rum community, the FRS… any truth to those rumors?

Zan: ….


Learn more about Worthy Park & Zan on this month’s RotM Virtual Happy Hour! – Register

Shop Worthy Park products in the FRS Shop

Rumdemic from Privateer

One of the early goals of the Florida Rum Society was to ensure that the best rums make their way to Florida. One of the best, if not THE best, rum made in the U.S. is from Privateer in Ipswich, MA.

Maggie Campbell, the President and Head Distiller, is one of the best in the world and Andrew Cabot, CEO, is an all around wonderful human being! Read more about Privateer on their site.

In Spring, right before COVID 19 turned the world upside-down, we were fortunate enough to be selected to relaunch Privateer’s “single barrel” program (now known as their Letter of Marque series).

Letters of Marque were issued during the Revolution to authorize merchants to act as Privateers. Our Letter of Marque collection comprises single batch spirits from the Privateer cellar, selected in cask by our trade partners as stand out expressions and bottled to specifications in partnership with the Privateer distilling team. This bottle is one of a limited release, never to be available again.

From the Privateer Letter of Marque bottle label

Samples were provided to us in April and six members of the Florida Rum Society connected virtually with Maggie Campbell to walk through six different rum expressions.

It was nearly unanimous that we selected a 109.2 proof New England Rum. It was aged 2 years and 10 months in a New American Oak Barrel. Because of the timing of the selection we decided that it should be known as “Rumdemic” (we think it fits).

The new oak gives it the character of a bottled-in-bond bourbon with a depth of flavor and tastes of oak, caramel, toffee, black cherry, dried pineapple and hint of cinnamon. It is fantastic neat, on the rocks or even in a simple cocktail like a classic daiquiri.

I’m thrilled to be able to bring this once in a lifetime rum to the rum lovers of Florida! There are only 214 bottles of it so don’t wait if you want to grab a few. It is only available at Five Star Liquor & Wine in Longwood, FL. You can visit to call (407-389-0710) for orders.

Black Tot Day turns 50!

For those that follow rum, there is a good chance you’ve heard about “Black Tot Day”. For those that haven’t, I’ll give you the short version…

From 1655 to 1970 the British Navy gave their sailors a daily rum ration or tot. This was until July 31, 1970 when the last tot was distributed. This day became known as Black Tot Day (ready more here).

This year was the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day and was marked by a 24 hour Virtual Rum Event hosted by the Black Tot Rum company. The Florida Rum Society was asked to join said event and made the video below. ENJOY! Up Spirits!

Summer of Rum: Islamorada Distilling

Every year for 39 years my family has taken a pilgrimage down to the Florida Keys for the opening of Lobster Season. While I have missed years here and there, my parents have continued the tradition without a break. This year myself, the Junior Traders and my lifelong friend Sailor Rick joined the trip.

While fishing/lobstering was the overall focus, I’m always on the hunt for a Tiki Bar or new Rum. As I was about 12 miles from the end of my drive south, Islamorada Beer Company caught my eye. I noticed something that I maybe didn’t notice on my last trip two year previous… the side of the building also says “Distillery”. I immediately reached out to the Islamorada Distilling Team and scheduled a visit with Master Distiller/Brewer Stephanie Harper.

Upon arrival, Sailor Rick and I were given a warm welcome by the Manager Larissa. She invited us to the tasting bar and went through our rum lineup.

The set up is very unique… on one side of the building is the Beer Co, with full bar and high tops and merchandise then “next door” is the Distillery where you can do tastings and purchase their liquors. Some information that Larissa provided us is that under Florida law you can’t combine a Brewery and Distillery, so they have to remain separate.

Larissa explained that the Distillery has been in business since 2017 and they currently have four rum profiles for sale to the public (as well as two gins and a vodka). We strapped in to try the Silver, Spiced, Select Barrel Aged and Dark Barrel Aged. While the Dark Barrel Aged uses black strap molasses, the others all use Pearl Select Molasses, which includes a blend of sugars from throughout the Caribbean.

We started with the Silver rum, which is aged over oak chips. It was very smooth and light. It is a great mixing rum that still holds a lot of its oaky flavor. Stephanie later explained that originally they were aiming for a 100% clear rum however the filtering was removing too much of the unique flavors. They settled on a more silver color as to not lose the heart of the rum.

We next moved on to the Barrel Aged Rum. This rum is under a continued journey and will soon be re-branded as their Select Rum. It is first distilled in a copper pot still and then run through the column for the spirit run. It is then barrel aged in new white oak barrels at a medium toast and, at the moment, aged for 8 months (soon will be a minimum of a year). The flavor profile had nice hints of vanilla and, of course, a tinge of oak. It reminded me of a lighter bourbon.

Their Spiced was next… I will say that for quite some time I haven’t really been a fan of spiced rum. I know that some on the market have a lot of additives and some are of a high quality but I tend just to avoid them all together. If I want cinnamon or cloves or vanilla in a drink then I like to just added it separately using a homemade syrup. But I went into this with an open mind and I was pleasantly surprised. Islamorada’s Spiced Rum was very “spice forward” and well balanced. It starts with vanilla and ends into a great cinnamon but without the burning of something like Fireball. I would actually almost compare it to St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. It is a spiced rum that I wouldn’t mind having around.

Finally, we stepped things up a notch with the Dark Rum. This rum is, in my opinion, their best offering. (It won a gold medal from the International Rum Expert Panel in 2018.) Like the Select Barrel Aged, it is currently being aged at 8 months but soon will be at a year. They are using New Oak barrels with a Char 3. The Dark has gone through a revolution. Currently you can purchase batch 9 and Master Distiller Stephanie loves its “richness”. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to also try batch 6, which used Hungarian Spiced Oak Chips, as well as batch 10, which was BOTTLED THAT DAY.

I have to say that I loved the batch 10! The butterscotch and caramel shine and it makes it a good sipping rum. It is fun that they are bottling all their rums as Single Cask so you get a slightly different experience each time you dive in. While blending is essential for the big distilleries, single cask allows smaller, independent shops to offer some wonderful flexibility and different experiences.

After our tastings, Stephanie invited the Sailor and I back into the distillery! She was an amazing hostess and really has learned her craft (and loves to share it, which is wonderful). Stephanie was a dive instructor who really took the job of Brewer on almost a dare (“you think you can do better, then come in here and show me”). She then migrated to Distilling when, without much warning, Islamorada Beer Company was granted their Distilling license.

Currently they are doing all their distilling and barrel aging and bottling and labeling right on the premises but soon will have an additional location further north in Ft. Pierce, FL. While I like the thought of having everything happen in Islamorada, I get the need to grow and I know that having more storage space will allow for longer aging and more profiles. The plan is still to distill everything in the Keys but then use the extra space in Ft. Pierce for storage and aging. Stephanie told us that they have a Queen’s Share (saw the barrel) and Reserve in the works as well as a Rye and a Bourbon.

We were fortunate enough to be there while a spirit run was working through the column still and even were able to sample some still strength rum which, while STRONG, was extremely delicious. Not sure if an overproof rum in in their future however, I’d purchase it if it comes to pass.

We spent over 2 hours with Stephanie and Larissa and we could have stayed even longer! Their hospitality and information was invigorating and infectious but we knew they also had jobs to do. Before leaving I knew I needed some of the Dark to bring back to Trader Jay’s (and some Hibiscus Gin for Mrs. Trader) however, batch 10, my favorite, was not quite ready. Stephanie invited us next door for beverage from the Beer Company and offered to wax a few bottles of Dark Batch 10 for us. (As a side note, I tried the No Wake Zone Key Lime Coconut Ale and it was delicious and refreshing.)

For one final treat, Stephanie invited us back to watch our Batch 10 bottles be waxed and presented us with bottles 1-4. It was an extremely kind gesture and now I’m kind of hesitant to open bottle 1.

I cannot speak highly enough of Islamorada Distilling! While still very young, they are well on their way. They have an amazing staff down there at Mile Marker 82 who all offer a wonderful, casual Florida Keys hospitality. If you are in the area then I would definitely recommend stopping in to say hi and for a taste, I do not think you’d be disappointed.

Mahalo Stephanie and Larissa! We will be back!