For a few years, my coworker, Andy Nabreski, has logged his fish-themed beer reviews on our website with the written series, Fish Beer Friday. As OTW’s kitchen connoisseur and host/author of the column turned YouTube series, Living Off the Land and Sea, Andy’s goal was to taste test and share honest, thoughtful feedback on fishy beers with our like-minded readers. So, I’ve decided to put a little spin on those fish beer write-ups with fishy spirits that pack a bit more of a punch.
To kick things off, we did an office taste test of Crab Trapper Whiskey by Tamworth Distilling in Tamworth, New Hampshire. The distillery has a history of making unique, tasty, wilderness-inspired spirits, and what better way to incorporate the wild into your cocktail than using an invasive species—the green crab.
Green crabs can burrow into sandy bottom where they feed on shellfish like clams, oysters and mussels, and each crab is capable of consuming 40 to 50 shellfish per day. With few natural predators in New Hampshire aside from tautog, their increasing presence takes a toll on the livelihoods of New Hampshire’s shell fishermen, and on the greater marine environment. In search of a unique solution to their overpopulating, Tamworth Distilling partnered with the University of New Hampshire to address the growing problem in their coastal waters.
The small batch, bourbon-based whiskey is aged for nearly 4 years before it is infused with a crab stock, which was cooked down using over 90 pounds of green crabs trapped in Seabrook, NH. The result: a sustainably sourced whiskey steeped in a green crab, corn and spice blend.
I lean towards bourbon and tequila as my choice spirits for cocktails, so when I heard of a bourbon infused with green crabs, I was intrigued. Green crabs are one of the most popular bait choices among tautog anglers on the East coast, and for good reason. They’re smelly, oily, and with their fiery-orange-tinged bellies, they’re easily noticed by blackfish dwelling around reefs, wrecks and boulders. I enjoy tautog fishing as much as any bottom fishermen, but I must admit, I never considered cracking open a greeny to taste for myself.
Upon breaking the seal, the sharp, unmistakeable aroma of green crabs wafted into my nose. The scent immediately transported me to a jetty with a pair of rusty shears and a box of hot-tempered green crabs. I had the sneaking suspicion this was going to be a tough drink best suited to fishermen with strong stomachs.
Chilled over ice, I tossed back the first sip and my tastebuds were met by a spicy concoction with notes of clove, cinnamon, maple and vanilla—a pleasant surprise. It was a very smooth introduction for this pretty-looking booze that smelled of the sea. As I thought to myself, “where’s the green crab in this?”, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This bourbon finishes with a bite, holding true to the scrappy demeanor of green crabs. The crab flavor was there alright. A second sip allowed me to polish off the remainder of my pour, and again, the smooth opening taste consisted of comforting flavors like vanilla and cinnamon, masking the spicy crabbiness until the finish. It was like taking a shot of whiskey during a day of tautog fishing, and chasing it with a quick lick of the fingers.
I didn’t love it, but I certainly didn’t hate it either. Crab Trapper Whiskey would act as a nice base in a Hot Toddy this holiday season, especially with an extra dash of honey.
All things considered, Crab Trapper would be a great gift for the tog fisherman or conservation-minded angler in your life. I’d imagine it pairs well with a platter of stuffed quahogs, crab cakes or a warm bowl of Andy Nabreski’s tautog chowder. Or, if you fancy a glass of brown liquor, and one you can feel good about consuming after a long outing on the water this fall, you’ll probably enjoy this flavorful, sharp-finishing blended whiskey. I recommend tasting it with a drop of water or ice before tossing it into some sort of crustacean cocktail.
Now you can justify a little post-fishing booze by saving New Hampshire’s shellfish populations, one glass of Crab Trapper at a time.
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