Alumni couple brews distinct rum, from the Berkshires to the Rockies

We all know that Williams College produces some pretty famous alumni. There is the ubiquitous Steinbrenner mentioned on the tours, and the art history department is constantly lauding its spawn of international curators. However, the creative spirit instilled at the College is perhaps most evident in the entrepreneurial alumni who walk from the Hopkins Gate onto the path less traveled. Karen and Brice Hoskin, both from the Class of 1990, have exemplified this cavalier business spirit since the moment after graduation.

After a fine Williams education, the Hoskins set out into the greater world with a keen entrepreneurial flair, and “a sense that we could do whatever we set our minds to.” Recognizing the coming boom in the microbrewery business, the Hoskins first considered investing their talents in small-batch beer. Alas, they were stymied by a lack of funding at the time. In the intervening 20 years, the Hoskins have dabbled successfully in businesses ranging from publishing to bespoke sled production. All of their ventures are either still in business or have been sold.

Despite their great results, the Hoskins have not lost the dream of turning their considerable business acumen toward alcohol. Though the microbrewery field is now overly crowded, Karen believes in the burgeoning microdistillery business. “We see a similar trend happening in a microdistillery area now to what happened in the microbrewery field 20 years ago,” she said. Now able to garner the necessary funding, the Hoskins recently opened their own micro producer: the Montanya Rum distillery.

A small operation hailing from Silverton, Colorado, Montanya Rum has had immediate success in its first couple of years. Yet producing two distinct, award-winning, boutique rums has not been easy from the get-go. “We had to combat a pronounced Caribbean prejudice within the rum distillation community,” Karen said. The powers that be in the rum tasting cabal had it very firmly in their minds that only traditional, island rum is worthy of top rating. The Hoskin brand, however, which is produced in the crisp Rocky Mountain air, shares little history with its southern brethren.

However, the sheer quality of the Montanya brand seems to have carried the day. One of its rums, the Platino, is poetically described as, “Aromas of coconut crème brulee and anise cookie follow through on a soft entry to a dryish medium body with slightly acidic peppery notes and a roasted nut finish.” It is a light mixing spirit that has been awarded gold medal status in international competition. The Oro is hailed as, “Fruity caramel and poached pear tart aromas follow through on a supple, buoyant entry to a dry-yet-fruity medium body with mocha, brown spices, and cola notes. Finishes a lively coffee, toffee and pepper fade.” It acts as more full-bodied stand-alone draught and has also found international acclaim. Needless to say, this bounty of praise has catapulted Montanya into the national spirit scene. Now, the Hoskin brand can be found in high-class bars and specialty shops nationwide.

Throughout their wondrous entrepreneurial journey, the Hoskins have not forgotten the wonderful Purple Valley. In fact, they intend to bring Montanya Rum to mixed drinks and shot glasses in Williamstown in the near future. They have even explored the idea of having Montanya products sold at ’82 Grill. Once Hoskin rum is available around campus, the journey will have come full circle. The very alums who once downed the same swill that we do will introduce their own form of higher learning – ‘alcohol style.’ The Hoskins even have a broad array of creative mixed drink recipes on their Web site montanyarum.com

If you choose not to drink, or are prohibited by archaic and arcane law from imbibing, then Montanya rum is not for you. However, even those students who do not partake should recognize the loyalty and creativity of the Hoskins. For those lucky students who can taste the elixirs produced Eph style in the Rockies, savor the hint of purple cow that dances across the palate.