Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Tamworth Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Whiskey is having a moment in terms of cultural appreciation. It has been having a moment for the better part of the 21st Century, in fact. One of the benefits of widespread popularity beyond traditional whiskey drinkers is the proliferation of craft distillers in every corner of the United States, not to mention a growing number of overseas locales.
One of the more interesting craft houses you’ll find is New Hampshire’s Tamworth Distilling. Founded in 2015, it focuses on a wilderness-to-bottle model, using “local, house-milled grain, pure White Mountain water, herbs and botanicals from the woods and our garden, and local fruits and vegetables.”
And, it turns out, North Atlantic crustaceans. The distillery’s special-release Crab Trapper whiskey is more-or-less exactly what it sounds like – a corn whiskey base flavored with ground-up crabs.
Green crab is apparently an invasive species from Europe that is wreaking havoc on native New England fisheries, and it’s proliferating rapidly as ocean temperatures warm up. But there’s not much meat on green crabs, which makes them unsuitable for large-scale food production. So Tamworth decided to kill two crabs with one trap, as it were.
Crab Trapper whiskey utilizes stock from green crabs in a bottle sure to generate its share of “Hey, Martha” responses. (As in, “Hey Martha, get a load of this crazy idea…”) But they key here is that money raised from the sale goes to fund green crab eradication along the New England shores, in conjunction with researchers at the University of New Hampshire.
Tasting Notes: House of Tamworth Crab Trapper Green Crab Flavored Whiskey
Vital Stats: Four-year-old bourbon blended with green crab stock and then “steeped with a custom spice blend mixture – reminiscent of a low-country boil”; 92 proof/46% alcohol by volume; $65 for a 200 ml bottle; sold on-site at the distillery, at a single boutique gallery in Philadelphia and online via www.seelbachs.com.
Appearance: Light amber, with a greenish-yellowish tint. The 200 ml bottle looks like it should be in a crab pot, with a green crab on the label and rope twined around the neck of the bottle.
Nose: Banana, cinnamon, candied fruit, salt water. It’s mellower than you might imagine.
Palate: There’s nothing mellow about the taste, and it’s clear the crab flavoring is more than a gimmick on the label. My first thought was seafood chowder – which is not necessarily a bad thing, but not what you typically expect to find in a whiskey glass. I also taste fish, low tide, and fruitcake.
Distillery founder Steven Grasse describes Crab Trapper a “briny and better Fireball.” Briny, I absolutely agree with. And there is cinnamon flavor in there, so I’ll grant the Fireball reference, too. (I’m not sure being better than Fireball is a high bar, but that’s for a different reviewer to decide.) Tamworth, for reference, also makes a venison-flavored whiskey called Deerslayer. These specialty releases aren’t necessarily aimed at traditional whiskey drinkers. They’re novelties. But in the case of the green crab, what a novelty!
I can’t imagine drinking this regularly, but I guarantee that a lot of people who visit my bar would be happy to give it a try. Once.
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Scott Bernard Nelson
Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. Scott works in higher education these days, but he previously spent 22 years as a journalist, covering 9/11 in Manhattan, crossing into Iraq with U.S. Marines and contributing to The Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual...