Local Distillery Now Serving Up Dark Rum

SAN LEON — With Galveston County home to such a large concentration of boats and boating enthusiasts, it's not surprising that the only distillery in the county produces rum, a liquor historically associated with sailors and the open seas.

"We're sailors, and rum is our passion," Kelly Railean said.

She and her husband, Matt, are the owners of Railean Distillers in San Leon, producers of Railean Handmade Texas Rum.

The Raileans recently released their second product, a dark rum that joins their original light rum on the shelves of restaurants, bars and liquor stores throughout the state.

"We're in 200 liquor stores in Texas now, including major retailers such as Spec's," Railean said, "and more restaurants around here are getting on board."

Both light and dark rum get their characteristic flavor from molasses. While the light rum is distilled to be less sweet, or "dry," dark rum's aging process develops more complex flavors that hold up in cooked desserts as well as in drinks.

"Dark rum gets its color from the barrels," Railean explained. "Our barrels are new oak that has been charred. A lot of mass-produced rum is aged in old whiskey barrels. That's good for color, but we want our rum to taste like rum, not whiskey. Nothing but rum has been in our barrels."

Aging the rum requires frequent monitoring.

"That's the fun part," she laughed. "We smell and taste, and check the colors. Even though the barrels are all the same wood, they age differently, and there are subtle differences in the rum from barrel to barrel."

The differences are smoothed out in the blending process.

"We blend it in large tanks to get a consistent premium product, and then bottle it," Railean said.

Railean cooks with rum often.

"A lot of people are afraid to cook with rum because of the alcohol, but most of the alcohol burns off. Dark rum has a caramelized flavor, so it goes well in desserts and tropical fruit," she said.

A career in food and wine, most recently as a wine sommelier and then as a distributor, added to the Raileans' repertoire of rum-flavored dishes.

"I like to cook, and I'm always on the lookout for recipes. I use epicurious.com as well as cookbooks, and over time I've tweaked the recipes for our tastes."

While the recipes the Raileans developed to showcase their rum have concentrated on classic rum drinks with a local twist (with names like the Kemah Libre, Texas Rum Punch and Clear Lake Shores Sunset), at home, Kelly Railean often serves rum-laced desserts. "Caramel bread pudding with rum sauce is one of my favorites, and I make rum balls and tropical crepes with rum sauce."

In addition to cooking at home, the Raileans enjoy eating out at the local restaurants that now feature their rum, in its distinctive bottles adorned with one of San Leon's most colorful residents, the Monk Parakeet.

"Our rum is served at Bailey's Tommy's, the Green Parrot, the Terrace, Noah's Ark, Clifton by the Sea and others in the area. I think there's always something a little special about a local product."

Galveston Daily News



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