With almost 2,500 miles of shoreline, Nova Scotia is home to lots of secrets ocean alcoves and hidden ports. These secluded spots are thought to have given way to the province’s favorite drink: rum.
Said to have started with pirates in the 1700s, Nova Scotia became most known for rum running during prohibition. Distilleries in the province were the first major industry in Halifax — even before fishing or ship building — and this meant that there was product to share, especially with the US and their infamous Rum Row. Off the coast of the States, Rum Row was where almost hundreds of thousands of cases of alcohol were delivered illegally, meaning there was demand for transport of this sweet, amber liquid.
Instead of being restricted to trolling the waters for tuna and salmon, fisherman decided to take it upon themselves to fill this demand by repurposing their boats to smuggle spirits. In fact, the trade became so large that boats started being built for the sole purpose of rum running, mostly due to the fact that fishermen could make more money running rum than fishing each day. Besides allowing fishermen to turn a pretty profit, Nova Scotia’s rum running also helped the post-World War economy in Atlantic Canada.
Prohibition was overturned in the 1930s, but Nova Scotians hung onto their relationship with rum — they love to imbibe after all, as evidenced by the province having Canada’s first craft brewery, distillery, and winery trail. Now, travelers can get a taste (quite literally) of what shaped this province’s love for rum.
Ride the Rum Runner Trail to Lunenburg
The port town of Lunenberg is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s also one of the spots that became busy as a result of rum running long ago. A kitschy example of a British colonial settlement in North America, this community has been around since 1753 and has the architecture to prove it.
Take the Rum Runner Trail, a trail that’s perfect for walking or biking, that runs from Halifax to Lunenburg. Along its 74 miles, you’ll get to experience the province’s coastal beauty. Pass Mahone Bay, Chester, and other coastal communities, while taking in the unique scenery, dining at sea-side restaurants, and stopping by local attractions and artisans.
Taste the past at Ironworks Distillery
The craft distillery scene is now popular again in Nova Scotia and Ironworks Distillery is at the center of it all. Opened in 2009, this distillery in Lunenburg (about an hour outside of Halifax) uses locally grown produce to make their spirits. They started with fruit-based options, but now make rum to cater to Nova Scotia’s taste and tradition. Located, in a renovated blacksmith's shop in an old port, the ambiance and their spirits and cocktails will transport you to a different time.
Go back in time with Fortress Rum
Keeping with tradition, Fortress Rum embodies facets of the past, while appealing to tastes of today. A collaboration between the Authentic Seacoast Distilling Company, Parks Canada, and the Fortress Louisbourg Association, Fortress Rum is the first rum in almost 300 years to be brought to life at this historic site.
The Fortress Louisbourg National Historic Site, once a trading port, played host to rum running when barrels of rum were delivered from the Caribbean. Today, the rum is brought from the Caribbean and carefully aged in the Magazin du Roi, where it’s said to take on a distinct Cape Breton character. The best part? You can have a taste of the past in the form of an 18th century rum punch recipe from May to October when daily tastings are offered.
Sip the sea with Sea Fever Rum
Head to Guysborough Harbour to experience Sea Fever Rum. Amber, spiced, and coffee maple are the flavors they serve up in their renovated heritage building. At Sea Fever, spirits are currently imported to the site, then blended and aged on site in American oak barrels for three years, but there are plans to distill on site in the future. Check out their tasting room to sip on their spirits, enjoy a tour of the facility, and leave happy — with a designated driver of course!
A perfect mix of history and flavor, Nova Scotia’s rum is more than just a tasty drink. Get to know a little bit about the province’s rum running history, then imbibe to truly feel like a local.
Thirsty? Check out a variety of options throughout the province by visiting Tourism Nova Scotia’s website.