TAMWORTH — The distillers who last year brought you whiskey infused with oil from the castor gland of a beaver are back at it again with a Halloween-themed rye they say is not only scary-good but may be haunted, too.
Recently introduced by Tamworth Distilling, Graverobber Unholy Rye is a 90-proof, 3-year old rye whiskey that’s been infused with maple syrup whose source is sugar maples whose roots stretch into a mostly unmarked colonial-era cemetery at Great Hill Farm in the heart of Tamworth Village.
A sign at the cemetery reads “Here lies early settlers, their names may be forgotten, but their souls are registered in heaven.”
Several years ago, Jamie Oakes, a distiller at Tamworth Distilling along with fellow Kennett High School grad Matt Power, accompanied a local resident to tap maple trees at Great Hill Farm, which is owned by Steve Grasse, who also owns the distillery.
When Oakes went to tap trees near the cemetery, the resident rebuked him, saying it was taboo to tap a graveyard maple, lest the action disturb the souls interred there.
Struck by the resident’s response, Oakes reported it back to Grasse who, he said, was immediately convinced that a haunted spirit, a la the Blair Witch, would be a great thing to add to the extensive and eclectic offerings at Tamworth Distilling.
The project was on hold for a while but moved forward this year, resulting in Graverobber Unholy Rye, which contains 10 percent graveyard maple syrup.
Tamworth Distilling describes the flavor of the rye as “spicy yet sweet, evil yet divine,” adding ominously on the label that “the life of the Graverobber begins...when yours ends.”
Asked about the possibility of souls transmigrating from the cemetery to the sugar maples and then into the Graverobber Unholy Rye, Oakes downplayed it, saying “I would hope those poor souls went to heaven before they went into the ground.”
Nonetheless, he continued, “Once you buy it (the Graverobber Unholy Rye) the onus is on you,” to deal with the consequences, said Oakes, with a sardonic smile.
On Oct. 24, Tamworth Distilling is a hosting a “Conjuring Spirits” cocktail workshop that will feature some of the distillery’s 50 alcoholic offerings, including Graverobber Unholy Rye.
Opened in 2014, the Tamworth Distillery has quickly made a name for itself in the boutique alcohol industry, with offerings such as Eau De Musc Castoreum Whiskey and Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial. The latter combines blueberries picked from the forest near the distillery and foraged black trumpet mushrooms provided by the New Hampshire Mushroom Company, also in Tamworth.
The cordial has been a perennial favorite, said Oakes, while the Eau De Musc is becoming one, with a new batch scheduled for release for this holiday season.
Overall, business at the distillery has been “growing every year,” said Oakes, and at times “it’s been an insane ride.”
This past summer saw a great number of visitors to the distillery, said Abby Drake, is a customer-engagement representative at the distillery. She said she fields phone calls daily for the Eau De Musc and the Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial, including one that day from Arizona.
Jillian Anderson, the sales manager at Tamworth Distilling, said while the Graverobber Unholy Rye has a sinister edge to it, it hasn’t scared off customers, who are buying it at a terrifying pace.