The October issue of Portland Magazine includes a feature article on the history of the rum industry in Maine.
The rough and rowdy history of Maine rum turned violent in the 1850s, as under the growing temperance movement spearheaded by mayor Neal Dow, ‘the Napoleon of Temperance,’ alcohol production and sale of liquor was prohibited. However, it was discovered four years after the passage of the law that Dow himself was keeping large stocks of brandy set aside for ‘medicinal’ purposes–necessary to maintain the temperaments of solid, respectable citizens, of course. But for the working population of the city, alcohol was often their only escape, and many of the rioters decried Dow’s attack on what they viewed as their culture.
Ned Wight from New England Distilling in Portland was interviewed for the article.
Ned Wight, whose Eight Bells Rum hit shelves in September, agrees that it’s not all about the sea. Much of the rum produced in Maine was likely produced in stills in the back of public houses, produced not for bottling and off-site consumption but to be drunk on the premises by the patrons. “To me, that’s the real essence of Maine’s connection to rum, less than sailing or piracy.