Review: We tried a crab-flavored whiskey that went viral

This might sound like a crazy distiller’s joke—remember the SNL skit about weird hard selterers? – but it’s a real thing. Specifically, it’s Crab Trapper, a green crab-flavored whiskey from New Hampshire adventurer Tamworth Distilling.

And guess what? In fact, it delivers on its unpleasant promise in a delicious way.

I drank whiskey last week while on vacation in the Granite State and visited a distillery in the town of the same name, a perfect location between the mountains and the coast. I had heard of Tamworth when I had previously tried its venison-flavored whiskey, aptly named Deerslayer, but when an employee showed me the Crab Trapper, I had to do a double take. Or, to quote my reaction, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

But I quickly took my sample glass to the distillery’s waterfront and discovered the strange delights of clam-flavored bourbon. Crab is a must here – Tamworth says his recipe involves making clam stock and then mixing it with bourbon. However, the taste is skillfully balanced by the sweetness of the whiskey. There’s also a lingering hint of savory spice reminiscent of classic Old Bay seasoning.

It’s basically like an old Maryland crab dinner, but in a not-so-dirty liquid form. Except in Maryland, you’ll find blue crabs, and Tamworth whiskey is made from green crabs, an invasive species that has become a problem on the New England coast.

Unlike their blue cousins, green crabs don’t produce much meat, so there’s no real market for them – at least as a staple – and therefore no way to control the population. That’s why some smart people, including a special team from the University of New Hampshire that worked with Tamworth, are looking for other ways to use it in food. Why not whiskey?

All of this makes for a heckuva story. So it’s perhaps no surprise that green crab whiskey has become a viral sensation, covered by outlets ranging from Food & Wine to CBS News. I get it: there’s a shock factor here that’s hard to ignore.

Tamworth has offered a limited edition Crab Trapper, but distiller Matt Power expects the company to produce more.

Tamworth Distillation

Still, it’s important to bring some context to shellfish-flavored bourbon. First, it’s not as new an idea as you might think, say those in the alcohol business. “Mezcal has been doing this for years,” says Jared Bailey, a spirits expert who is the general manager of New York’s Soho Cigar Bar. Bailey is referring to pechuga, a style of Mexican alcohol that can be flavored with chicken, duck or maybe even wild rabbit. (I liked the version I tried a few years ago.)

In addition, there has been quite a lot of experimentation in the alcoholic beverage industry in recent years. Think finished scotch in specialty casks (or, for that matter, finished tequila in scotch barrels). Or consider orange-flavored Irish whiskey. Why are so many distillers going this route? In part, they simply draw inspiration from the world of food, which has embraced new and unusual tastes. (How about a scoop of bagel-flavored ice cream?)

Distilleries are also aware of the competitive landscape, which means they know there is a lot of competition for space on liquor store shelves. In the Scotch category alone, we’ve gone from a small number of popular blended whiskeys – mainly Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s and a few others – to a showroom of single malts. Thus, innovation becomes almost a means of survival. “You have to do a lot to stand out from the crowd,” says Noah Rothbaum, author of several alcohol books and director of Flaviar, an online membership club for alcohol lovers.

Of course, with innovation comes risk. I mean, while I liked the crab-flavored Tamworth whiskey, I didn’t think much of its venison-flavored liqueur. (The main problem? I just haven’t tasted the meat.) And there are some products that seem commercial to me. (Generally speaking, I’m wary of any whiskey that tastes like Jolly Ranchers.)

This point is echoed by Mark Emil Hermansen, CEO of Empirical, a leading spirits brand that specializes in what some call free-form alcohol, meaning spirits that don’t fit into any one category (eg whiskey, gin, vodka). . etc). While Empirical is pushing the boundaries — it recently launched SOKA, a sugarcane juice spirit — it also follows a strict rule, Hermansen says. “If it doesn’t taste good, it won’t go anywhere,” he says.

Which brings us back to Crab Trapper. Matt Power, a distiller in Tamworth, says the sudden buzz around whiskey has taken him by surprise. The spirit was originally supposed to be limited edition, but now he suspects otherwise. “I feel like we’re going to win a lot more than we expected,” he said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.