Maggie Campbell | Head Distiller, Privateer Rum

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“There really isn’t a beginning or an end in distilling,” says Maggie Campbell. “What I make today is intended for years in the future, and what I am tasting now is from years in the past. The experience leaves you unstuck in time, like the movie Arrival.”

Sharp observations like these come easily to Campbell, president and head distiller of Privateer Rum in Ipswich, Massachusetts, so it’s not that surprising to learn that she was a Philosophy major at the University of Colorado. Distilling didn’t come into her professional purview until later, after a job at a spice house helped the Los Angeles native realize she had a natural predilection for aromas and flavors.

She made whiskey and brandy in Colorado and California before landing at Privateer, an award-winning rum-making operation, in 2012. “I love that rum is so global and varied,” says Campbell of what separates this spirit from others. But she still finds time to mess around with non-cane side projects, like the single cask of whiskey Privateer plans to release early next year.

Campbell strives to help others in the business—she’s passionate about collaborating with other industry leaders to improve and increase industry job opportunities for women, people of color and members of the queer community. But she hasn’t stopped investing in improving her own perspective, either. Campbell hopes to be the first distiller to pass the infamous Masters of Wine Examination, an accomplishment most frequently associated with the world’s top-ranking sommeliers.

So what does Campbell do when she’s not distilling rum? Here, she takes a stab at our Lookbook Questionnaire to share her love of Joni Mitchell and Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle, as well as the most horrible thing she’s ever had to drink. – Zachary Sussman

Current occupation:
President, Head Distiller at Privateer Rum

What do you want to be when you grow up?
In my marriage and life I’ve been inspired by Genesis P-Orridge [artist, member of bands Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV]. On the obvious surface I live my life very differently than them, but the fact that they and Lady Jaye turned their life and love into a piece of living performance art really spoke to me—it was the first time marriage really made sense to me in a real way. I don’t think my husband and I will surgically alter our bodies to become one entity or anything, but in my career and life, some elements really speak to me and keep me grounded in the chaos.

Best thing you ever drank:
I had a large-format 1977 vintage port with Paul Symington of Oporto on my birthday. After dinner, we went on a short walk where he showed me the house he was born in. It was pure magic.

Worst thing you ever drank:
A “Daiquiri” with no ice or citrus. It tasted like stomach acid.

First time you ever got drunk:
Not until I was 22 or 23. I wasn’t a very trusting person, so I kept my wits about me for a long time.

If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Joni Mitchell, Blue. I couldn’t live without it. It’s a totally different album based on what phase of life I am in.

What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
Oh my, I sadly have a lot of these. I did glass-blowing to make money during college. I also worked as a farrier assistant holding horses as they got their shoes put on. Beekeeping isn’t weird, but it is the most restoring and stress-relieving hobby I have ever found. All other thoughts leave my mind, and I’m just there buzzing along with my ladies. I also love honey, so that part is a nice bonus.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I wish I had known better and more effective ways to approach the Masters of Wine. I was fortunate to pass theory first try, but I feel I could be much further toward passing tasting had I been studying more effectively my first year. As of this writing, I am waiting for my results on my second attempt for tasting. Everything about the Masters of Wine informs my distilling work. We bottle our single-cask rums very much like the en rama style in sherry (direct from cask, no filter, no proofing). The MW perspective changes how I taste and look at how our rum is enjoyed.

Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
About five years ago, I went to a dinner where the chef paired the meal’s course to Purple Rain. I wanted to make a purple daiquiri. I used a touch of blue curacao and homemade pomegranate grenadine and let the pH of the lime juice alter it to an electric purple hue. It tasted pretty okay and looked great.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
My husband and I live on a colonial-era farm that we are constantly working on. This year was all about the heritage and heirloom apples. We did grafting seminars and scion exchanges all spring. Next season I am putting in a series of pollinator beds that I am planning now — lots of buckwheat, radishes that will be left to bolt, and mustard.

Weirdest drink request you’ve ever gotten:
I have a lot of sober friends, so I have made a number of non-alcoholic cocktails I never thought possible by their request. Recently I was inspired by a Columbia Room cocktail made by J.P. Fetherston that was called ‘This is Not a Rosé,” made with our silver rum, cucumber water, and some other ingredients, served ice-cold in a wine glass. It looked and smelled just like rosé! I tried to see if I could do the same non-alcoholic with grapefruit juice, clarified cucumber water, and a bit of garrigue herb-infused distilled water … I’m still working on it.

Your favorite bar, and why:
We have three favorite spots in rotation: Sarma and Bar Mezzana in Boston, as well as The Baldwin Bar in Woburn. We call these our “home bars” because we can really be ourselves. It’s nice to go out and not have it become work. I travel to London six to eight times a year and I never miss a chance to go to Coupette.

Best meal you’ve ever had:
An orange I ate in Portugal. My hands smelled like blossoms for the rest of the day.

What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
Rum Boulevardier. One of my local places calls this order a “Killjoy” after me. It’s a long story.

Wine bar?
A lean and mineral Chablis.

In a dive bar?
A bottle of beer. Mostly I hate the taste of dirty lines.

Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
I rarely drink to excess and think I have had two, maybe three hangovers in my life. I stay in bed, really pamper myself with junk TV or movies, and drink an ice-cold Coke.

The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Eh, let the people do their thing. I’m not the drinks police.

The last text message you sent:
“Candy, Carhartts and kittens at the Pennyworths!” followed by many nonsense Emojis, mostly mermaids.