When we opened Oregon’s first rum distillery in 2003, we wanted to create something different, a spirit that reflected the unique terroir of our home state. Led by that dream, we crafted our first batch of Rogue Spirits Hazelnut Spice Rum.
Few crops are uniquely Oregon as the hazelnut. Virtually all of the hazelnuts grown in the US come from the Willamette Valley. The same soil and climate that make this one of the best hop growing regions in the world also make it ideal hazelnut territory.
So in honor of Hazelnut Appreciation Month, we’re going to show how we craft our rum, from nut to bottle.
Pollination and Pruning
Mother Nature kicks things off in January with the pollination season. Hazelnut trees are unusual because they produce both male and female flowers. Pollen is spread from one tree to the other by the wind.
This is also the time of year when growers prune their trees. They want to open up as many branches as possible because, just like hops, hazelnut trees crave sunshine.
Budding, Filling, Ripening
After pollination, not much happens in a hazelnut orchard. Months go by before the first green nuts appear in late spring. It’s as if the trees need time to think about what’s next. Sounds weird, we know. But this is Oregon.
Meet Our Growers And Neighbors, Kirk Family Filberts
To find the hazelnuts we use in our rum, we only have to walk next door to our neighbors, Kirk Family Filberts. The Kirks have a 98-acre orchard where they grow the finest nuts possible. But the connection between Rogue Farms and the Kirks is much deeper than that.
For decades, the Kirks managed the hopyard here at Rogue Farms when it belonged to a previous owner. Lance, who runs the family orchard, grew up in our farmhouse and remembers playing in the hop rows as a kid.
Eventually the Kirks decided to go into business for themselves and began growing hazelnuts. Luckily for us they didn’t go far.
When it comes to harvesting hazelnuts, Mother Nature is in charge. The nuts don’t fall from the trees until they’re fully ripe, and even then it may take some strong winds to knock them loose. The Kirks hold off until about two-thirds of the crop has dropped before they sweep them off the orchard floor.
In some years they fall quickly, in other years it may take weeks. All the Kirks can do is wait.
Going Nuts At The Rogue Spirits Distillery
Once we’ve loaded the hazelnuts into the truck it’s a quick 77-mile drive from the orchard to the Rogue Distillery in Newport, Oregon. We roast the hazelnuts ourselves to bring out the nutty flavor and infuse them into the rum while they’re still warm.
Meanwhile, our head distiller Jake is fermenting and distilling a wash made from pure cane sugar.
Now comes the magic. We combine the fresh roasted nuts with a blend of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, orange peel and ginger and place everything in the still for a second run. This is how we infuse the flavors of the nuts and spices into the rum.
It takes a nearly a year from the time a hazelnut tree is pollinated, to the day we bottle by hand our Hazelnut Spice Rum. Could we speed things up? Of course. All we’d have to do is eliminate hazelnuts from the recipe. But if we did that our rum wouldn’t have that unique, only grown in Oregon nutty flavor.
From nut to bottle, we think Rogue Spirits Hazelnut Spice Rum is worth the wait. Try some for yourself and taste the difference.