On a visit to New Orleans, my friend and I were looking for something to do before our late-night bus home. She did some research on her phone and found a distillery on Frenchman Street, where we were staying. Obviously, we had to check it out.
The nice folks at Celebration Distilling, the company behind Old New Orleans Rum, picked us up from the French Quarter, driving us through the Ninth Ward to their distillery. The company was founded in 1995 by artist James Michalopolous. It’s now the oldest still-operating rum distillery in the country, embracing the city’s longtime ties to the spirit.
Touring Old New Orleans Rum Distillery
Upon entering the warehouse-type building, we were immediately greeted with a rum drink to sip as we toured the site. Our guide led us through the building, showing us where the floodwaters reached during Hurricane Katrina. While it took them many months to recover, half of the rum was salvaged and able to be sold.
Old New Orleans uses barrels from whiskey and bourbon makers in Kentucky and Tennessee to store and age their rum. We were taught about the rum-making process, including the evaporation of some of the liquid during this aging period.
Tasting Old New Orleans Rum
At the end of the tour, we were lead to the tasting room, where we got to sample each of the distillery’s offerings. We started with their original rum, the Crystal rum, made with Louisiana-grown sugar and vanilla. It’s a light rum similar to Bacardi and lends well in cocktails.
Next came the Amber, a dark rum aged three years, with hints of caramel and molasses. My favorite was the Cajun Spice, with cayenne and cinnamon, because it is so versatile. It was similar in flavor to what I’d tasted at Bayou Rum in Lake Charles.
We were lucky enough to try the 10 Year Special Rum, which is only available at the distillery and was one of the barrels that survived Katrina. If you find this bottle on your visit, it’s the one you should splurge to purchase.
One of the other rum products we tried was Gingeroo, a blend of Crystal rum and ginger soda that is dangerously delicious. They’ve added strawberry and tamarind versions since my visit. There’s also Gris Gris, a cayenne liqueur.
When you purchase a bottle at the distillery, be sure to check out the owner’s original paintings on the inside label.
Tips and Advice on Visiting the Distillery
Tours of the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery cost $10 and include a tour of the distillery, a welcome drink, and samples of each rum. They last approximately 45 minutes.
Pickup is available from the French Market but must be arranged in advance. Tours run at 12, 2 and 4 during the week and at 2 and 4 pm on Saturdays.