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Cooper River Distillers Now Producing Scratch-Made Spirits in the Heart of Camden

by Robin Shreeves on Jun 23, 2014 in Liquor
Cooper River Distillers Now Producing Scratch-Made Spirits in the Heart of Camden

The morning after Cooper River Distillers’ first open house on June 19, chief distiller and owner James Yoakam sent out this tweet, “Thanks to everyone who came out last night - it was great to see so many friends old and new! I guess I need to make more rum now, eh?”

The distillery, housed in a former auto garage on 4th Street in Camden, sold out of Petty’s Island Rum when a larger-than-expected crowd gathered for tours of the distillery and tastings of the rum. The smartly-named spirit honors the island nestled between Camden and Philadelphia. Now a nature preserve, legend has it that Blackbeard and his crew once docked there.

Petty’s Island Rum is the first craft spirit ready for the public from Yoakum’s distillery. Future plans include aged rum, rye whiskey, bourbon and fruit brandy – all handmade from scratch in Camden. Yoakum, who lives in Philadelphia, chose to cross the bridge to start his business because of the city’s history, which he’ll call upon to name his beverages. Most will be named with a tie in to the history of Camden.

He also chose Camden because of its connection to Philadelphia. Philadelphians have easy access to Cooper River Distillers via PATCO. The City Hall stop is only one block from the distillery.

Visitors to the open house were treated to a free tasting of Petty’s Island Rum, hourly tours of the large, one-room distillery by Yoakum, and a pay-as-you-go bar where they could purchase the rum on the rocks or mixed in cocktails like rum and Coke, mojitos, and a Camden Cream – Petty’s Island Rum mixed with Kahlua coffee liqueur and half and half.

Yoakum plans to source many of the raw ingredients for his spirits from local producers. He was able to get some local corn and rye for the bourbon and rye whiskey he’s creating. When the time comes to make fruit brandies, he’ll be calling on local fruit farms. His commitment to the Delaware Valley region is strong.

Selling out of Petty’s Island Rum at the open house was good news for Yoakum, but now those who didn’t get a taste or buy a bottle that first night will have to wait for their turn to give the Philadelphia region’s latest craft rum a try. But, they won’t have to wait too long. Yoakum is hard at work making more rum and hand bottling it, four bottles at a time.

As more becomes available, it will be sold in bars and liquor stores. At the open house, Yoakum said that based on the success of the evening, he may also join Camden’s 3rd Thursday Art Crawl and do a similar open house each third Thursday of the month. Keep an eye on Cooper River Distiller’s website to find out when and where the craft distillery’s spirits will be available.

Cooper River Distillers, 34 N. 4th St., Camden, NJ, cooperriverdistillers.com

Photo: Robin Shreeves


Tags: Cocktails, Spirits
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