Dogfish Head distiller Alison Schrader is a perpetual favorite in the local ladies-only arm-wrestling league, and she owes it all to Brown Honey Rum.
It's not the liquid courage it could offer beforehand, or the pain relief after. It's the nearly two dozen 60-pound buckets of molasses she dumps into each batch.
"Lifting all those heavy buckets trained me for arm wrestling," says Alison, aka Punky Bruiser. "When I started 7 or 8 years ago, I could hardly lift one."
Last week, Alison earned another medal to go alongside her arm-wrestling trophy. For the second year in a row, Brown Honey Rum won best-in-category in the American Distilling Institute's seventh-annual Judging of Artisan American Spirits.
"This is a favorite of mine, so I was really excited to hear the news," says Alison. "I like whiskeys, and Brown Honey Rum is as close to a whiskey as we get."
The judges, including Bourbon Women founder Peggy Noe Stevens and former Maker's Mark master distiller David Pickerell, gathered in Starlight, Ind., in early March to sample 317 artisan American spirits from 124 producers. The tastings were blind and evaluated the nose, palate, finish and balance of each spirit.
Brown Honey Rum, made with Delaware honey from Bee Natural, was second-to-none in the "Flavored Rum" category.
"Then tannins in the oak and the sweetness of the honey smooth it out," says Alison. "It's very drinkable."
Want a taste? Production is limited – Alison is a one-woman show – and Dogfish Head's spirits don't make it outside of Delaware's borders. Your best bet is to go to the source.
At Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, you can order a $6 flight of four signature Dogfish spirits: Blue Hen Vodka, Jin, Peche Brandy and Brown Honey Rum. (Bottles are available for takeout for $25 each.)
If you're feeling indulgent, pair your flight with White Chocolate Chicory Stout Bread Pudding, topped with a chocolate sauce made with Brown Honey Rum. For the cocktail crowd, the latest is made with blackberry puree, hot peppers and pomegranate juice.
"It's got a sweet, spicy, oaky component that's so good," says Alison. "We're calling it Diablo Raja … red devil!"