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The History Behind the Denizen Rum Name

April 29, 2011

We’re at the Miami Rum Renaissance festival this week supporting the cause. Anytime we’re out like this introducing people to Denizen we get asked ‘What’s up with your name?’ and a lot of the time ‘What’s it mean?’

Here’s the story. It’s really the story of how we came up with Denizen in the first place.

The Search

We started out with a clear mission: to free the flavor that has been distilled out of rum by mass producers who, ever since Prohibition, seem intent on dumbing down one of the world’s great spirits. Based on our backgrounds growing up around the great bars of Manhattan and respecting the bartending craft, we wanted a rum that could return the rum drink to its former glory; that wasn’t just spiced up to cover up mass manufacturing blending or was too dark and overpowered your cocktail.

To find someone to help us create it we started interviewing and taste-testing the work of dozens of different rum makers from all parts of the world. The people we found were in one of the last places we expected.

Amsterdam rum history


A place rich in history and rich in love of freedom and craft. There’s a quiet little side street there; not a lot of traffic on it, and nothing particularly exceptional to set it apart. But down that street we found some of the last practitioners of rum alchemy in the world. They’re master blenders and they’ve been doing it since the 1700s since the start of trade routes between the Caribbean and the old world. Over the centuries they quietly became specialists in taking relatively common ingredients, and turning them into remarkable blends.

Following The History of Rum

Once we challenged them to free the flavor of rum cocktails, they took us back along those trade winds to Trinidad, where they hand-selected individual barrels of white rum, that had been aged for more than 5 years, maturing, mellowing, and developing complexity in oak casks.

Then over to Jamaica where they selected 15 different types of pot still rum, the finest examples of this traditional Jamaican method that they could find.

Lots of subtle variations later – with extensive testing by friends and mixologists – the final blend they created for us draws on their years of experience to create what we think is a very unique rum, one that mixes extraordinarily well to create great cocktails yet has a personality strong enough that you recognize it.

Denizen Phoenix Daiquiri

Now A Name

So with the journey complete, the question was: what do we call it?

We liked one idea immediately. (After a few cocktails naturally, it made even more sense.)

The word Denizen is derived from the Latin word Deintus, translated “from within”. It was widely used between the 17th and 19th centuries to describe free spirited people who traveled around the world seeking new things and exploring new places. People who inhabited a place but were not a citizen of it; existing in a kind of middle state. Later, in America, it was a word that was given to African-Americans who were free from slavery prior to abolition.

It also paid homage to the Dutch, Trinidadian and Jamaican heritage of our rum, reflecting three places; all of which have histories rich with liberated spirits.

We also hope it reflects the type of people who enjoy it. People who believe in great mixology. People who are comfortable everywhere and mix well themselves. Liberated spirits who believe a great cocktail with character is a GIVEN RIGHT of every free drinker and free thinker.

Liberated spirit in the bar

So far, so good.

Free the flavor.


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