Matt Colglazier is no stranger to the mystique of esoteric alcohols. Long before he made the first-ever commercially available distillate of sorghum, he was the publisher of a specialist website about American craft spirits, as well as a keen home brewer and director of marketing and spirits at Big Red Liquors in Bloomington.
Driving around his native southern Indiana, Colglazier would see jars of sorghum at roadside stands. It didn't take him long to realize that here was a fermentable sugar that nobody was making into alcohol. Besides which, sorghum reminded him of the malt extract he would use for brewing beer.
Being the inquisitive sort, Matt did some research before locating a source of five gallons of the sweet sticky stuff at an Amish farm near Bromer. Adding wine yeast and water to make a trial brew, he took the resulting product to Heartland distillers, where he met a kindred spirit in Stuart Hobson. The two joined forces to create what may well be Indiana's most unusual craft spirit - Sorgrhum - as well as a new company, Colglazier and Hobson Distilling Co.
Although not certified organic, Sorgrhum (it takes its name from a Caribbean spelling of rum) could hardly be more natural and un-tampered with. The process starts when drought-resistant grass is hand-cut and crushed in an ancient horse-driven mill. The ensuing juice is cooked down to make syrup. There are no additions or manipulations at any stage of production, making this as pure a raw product as you're likely to find anywhere.
In spite of its unique attributes and certain culinary appeal, the production of traditional sorghum isn't exactly profitable these days. In fact, before Colglazier began negotiations with the Bromers to supply raw material, the farmer was getting ready to sell his equipment and get out of the business. Such has been the success of Sorgrhum, however, that more acreage has been planted this year, ensuring that for the foreseeable future at least, this Indiana tradition will continue with renewed vigor.
Available in two versions, white and dark, Sorgrhum is a versatile spirit which happens to lend itself well to a number of classic and modern cocktails. Both are exceptionally clean spirits, with a purity and depth of flavor which only comes from expert distillation and premium raw materials. The white, at 43% alcohol, has a delightfully sweet and earthy nose leading to a full, spicy palate which gives the impression of sweetness while remaining dry. It's perfect as a substitute for rum in mojitos or caparenas, or any other white rum-based drink, for that matter.
The dark, which is aged for six months in new American oak barrels, is more complex, with creamy vanilla aromas and flavors, a hint of dark spice and a long, well-rounded finish. It's a great sipper, reminiscent of a fine Martinique rum, and it also lends itself well to mixing.