IPSWICH — In two years, Mat Perry and Evan Parker have morphed from a schoolteacher and clam farmer into rum-makers.
“The learning curve is still straight up,” Perry said. “I’m used to getting a paycheck and being told what to do. ... It’s a learning experience every day.”
The duo, Ipswich natives and childhood friends, started Turkey Shore Distilleries in 2010; their first bottles of Old Ipswich Rum hit the market in June 2011.
This fall, Turkey Shore won two industry awards from the Ministry of Rum: a silver medal in the flavored rum category for its Old Ipswich Golden Marsh Spiced Rum and a gold medal in the dark rum category for its Old Ipswich Tavern Style Rum.
It all started with an idea “that wouldn’t leave me alone,” Perry said: to start a rum business. Perry pitched the idea to his friend Evan Parker, who grew up down the street from him.
The two did some research, decided it was a viable idea, and “next thing you know, we’re quitting our jobs in a recession,” Perry said.
They make their rum in a warehouse on Hayward Street, next door to the Ipswich Ale Brewery. Perry’s dog, Delia, who is pictured in the Turkey Shore logo, or Parker’s dog, Tank, often greet visitors at the door.
On a recent morning, the sour smell of fermentation permeated the space, while a gurgling sound meant rum was passing through the copper still into the condenser. Stacked oak barrels lined the walls, and a 2,200-gallon molasses tank sat in the corner.
It takes roughly 21/2 weeks for molasses, water and yeast to combine in open-top fermenters, take two trips through Turkey Shore’s 250-gallon distiller, and go through a condenser and filter system. After that, it ages in new oak barrels for roughly one year before being sold.