From below to on the rocks: Invading crabs become whiskey
The company said the body of this particular infusion has notes of maple, vanilla oak, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. And no, you won’t get crab legs in the drink.
WHY DID THE COMPANY CHOOSE GREEN CRABS?
In search of fresh flavor, Tamworth Distilling set its sights on the sea. Distiller Matt Power said the company heard about the problems caused by invasive green crabs from Gabriela Bradt of the University of New Hampshire Extension .
The crabs, which arrived on ships from Europe in the mid-1800s and landed on Cape Cod, have taken over the area. These saucer-sized crustaceans with a murky green color have decimated the region’s marine ecosystem, displacing native species for food and shelter.
Bradt, a fisheries extension specialist, said crabs are “so plentiful that they’ve really impacted habitats and shellfish fisheries because they’re also voracious predators.” A good example, she says, is the clam fishery, which suffered millions of dollars in losses.
HOW DO YOU MAKE CRAB WHISKEY?
The crabs, caught off the coast of New Hampshire by fisherman Dwight Souther, are taken to the distillery, where they are boiled to produce what Power calls “robust crab broth.” Power said the broth is fortified with alcohol and then goes through a distillation process that separates the funky smells of crab from the more inviting aromas.
The goal, Power said, is to get rid of smells he has compared to mudflats, leaving behind those that might be reminiscent of “the sea breeze on a hot day on the coast.” Then the distillery adds a corn and spice blend that includes coriander, cinnamon, bay leaf and mustard seed. This mixture is then added to a cask of bourbon from the distillery which has aged for several years.
WHAT DOES WHISKEY TASTE?
The company said the body of this particular brew has hints of maple and vanilla oak, and ends with heavier notes of cloves, cinnamon, and allspice. What it doesn’t have is anything that might be associated with a crab dinner: even though the distillery uses about a pound of crabs for every bottle of whiskey, you won’t get flesh, shell or crab claws with your shot.
The distillery’s sales manager, Jillian Anderson, said the whiskey, available onsite, at Philadelphia’s Art in the Age and online, has grown in popularity. In the distillery’s tasting room, Anderson said, customers were intrigued but a little hesitant until they heard the story behind the whisky.
CAN THIS WHISKEY GET RID OF THESE INVASIVE CRABS?
The short answer is no. As Power said, they would have to drastically increase their whiskey production to reduce the number of green crabs. But other efforts are underway to deal with the crab threat.
Over the past six years, Bradt said, the NH Green Crab Project worked to find uses for crabs similar to fishing for soft-shelled blue crabs, such as using green crabs as bait, compost, and adding them to the menu of local seafood restaurants.
Some places, including Ipswich, Massachusetts, have a bounty program that pays fishermen to remove crabs from estuaries. But Bradt acknowledged that until these efforts reach a much larger scale, they are unlikely to have a significant impact on crab population numbers.