It still might surprise people that the production distillery opening Wednesday is in Upper St. Clair, which is almost completely residential, but, hey, early residents of these wooded hills and hollows were big supporters of the post-Revolutionary War Whiskey Rebellion.
This surely won’t be the first booze made here, but as the name says, Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery is making mainly rum in its new digs on the far end of McLaughlin Run Road, and making a lot more of it than ever.
The place opens with a tasting room with a cocktail bar and full-service restaurant a decade after Tim Russell started up the original distillery and bar in an old industrial warehouse on Smallman Street in the Strip District. That neighborhood changed so much over that time that it seemed impossible to expand there, and that’s the short version of how he has grown into this new building, formerly a wig factory. (So don’t scratch your head when you type the address into your phone and the Google lady guides you to “The Wig Co.”)
You can’t tell when you walk in and are met by a view of the rum-making factory, anchored by a gleaming new stainless steel and copper still so tall — 15 feet — that they removed a section of the second floor so it would fit. It looks like they planned it, along with the big new windows, so guests in the upstairs tasting room have great views of the still and of the wooded ridge on the other side of the road and McLaughlin Run.
“When I walk into a brewery, I want it to look like a brewery,” says Russell as he leads a tour. When the distillery begins offering official tours soon, they’ll start at his original 250-liter copper still displayed here as a sort of museum piece. The new still — a custom design from Specific Mechanical Systems in Vancouver, British Columbia — triples capacity and will allow the distillery to add states to the 10 plus Washington, D.C., where it’s already sold.
As of now, all the rum and other spirits will be made here. On Saturday, Russell is releasing a celebratory blueberry eau de vie. It’s the first spirit off the new still — a recipe he last made before the COVID-19 pandemic. It’ll be available at both locations.
The original location will remain open for drinks, but the rums, canned seltzers and more — they’re looking into canned cocktails — will be made and packaged here at the new one. This 22,000-square-foot project wound up costing about $4.5 million, jointly financed between Enterprise Bank and the Regional Development Funding Corp. in conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All together, Maggie’s will employ about 30 people.
Mr. Russell & Co. will be looking to continue the distillery’s run of international and national acclaim for his products, which is why the website bills it as “possibly America’s most awarded rum.” In 2021, at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the distillery’s collaboration rum with Hidden Harbor was named best overall rum as well as best white rum and awarded a double gold medal, the distillery’s second. It also won double golds in 2022 and 2023 for its Single Barrel Rum, but that’s just the tip of a pile of metal it’s earned.
You can buy bottles and cans for takeout in the retail space that greets guests as they exit the freight elevator or steps on the second floor. There’s a big square cocktail bar and seating for about 120 people there and in the full-service restaurant.
Chef Addi Klobusnik sums up the menu as “elevated comfort food inspired by rum,” including dishes such as spiced-rum braised short ribs and pineapple upside-down rum cake.
What else would you expect from a brand that’s spent a decade putting Pittsburgh on the Caribbean map?
Hours are 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Maggie’s Farm Rum Distillery is located at 1387 McLaughlin Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15241. The phone is 412-564-5354.
The original Strip District location, at 3212A Smallman St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201, is open for cocktail bar and takeout hours (412-709-6480). Learn more at https://www.maggiesfarmrum.com.
Bob, a feature writer and editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is currently on strike and serving as interim editor of the Pittsburgh Union Progress. Contact him at email@example.com.