Rum conjures up thoughts of Caribbean pirates, Fidel Castro and sugary cocktails with paper parasols.
But until now, it has not been associated with pink plastic flamingos and Bascom Hill.
Mad Bird rum, made by Dane County’s only producer of spirits, Yahara Bay Distillers, changes that. Named for Madison’s official city bird — the pink plastic flamingo — Mad Bird rum is amber, viscous and worthy of sipping without the camouflage of Coca-Cola.
Just one barrel of Mad Bird was opened in October and poured into 350 bottles, whose signed labels recount the tale of Madison’s curious relationship with plastic flamingos since 1979. That was the year the city awoke to find 1,008 of the creatures perched on Bascom Hill as the result of a student government prank.
750 ml bottles of Mad Bird rum are available for about $25 at local liquor stores and at the distillery, located at 3118 Kingsley Way, just south of the Beltline near Fish Hatchery Road.
More Mad Bird rum will be liberated soon from two additional barrels. Owner-distiller Nick Quint said enthusiasm for the silky elixir has been so strong that more will be produced.
Mad Bird rum began its journey along with Yahara Bay’s white rum, but it languished in a new charred oak barrel two years, which created its molten gold color. The liquor has so much body that it melts slowly down the sides of a glass when it’s swirled.
“The difference between the white rum and Mad Bird rum is night and day,” Quint said.
“I don’t really know what made it turn out like this,” he said. “Maybe it was because we agitated it, which isn’t usually done. That’s the beauty of being an artisan distillery — we can experiment.”
Another recent experiment involved a chocolate liqueur, which he claims turned out so well they’re not sure they want to bottle it for sale.
Yahara Bay Distillers, which opened about two years ago, also produces premium vodka, gin, apple brandy, limoncello and Apple Crisp liqueur in small batches using Wisconsin ingredients when possible.