|Our first day in New Orleans, our first time here, was filled with several interesting things. We first drove through the Upper and Lower Nineth Wards where most of the Katrina hurricane devastation was. We were delighted to see lots of progress being made but there are still lots of abandoned homes right beside brand new homes and homes that have been redone. It was also the day we took one of Mike's favorite tours...to the Old New Orleans Rum distillery! It is the oldest premium rum distillery in the United States. Bob, our tour guide took us through all the steps of the process (including tasting), stating with the 4500 gallon tanks filled with molasses right by the front door. He then showed us the oak barrels where the rum is aged stacked clear to the ceiling. The molasses is cleaned with water then sent to a big stainless steel vat where it is mixed with yeast and left to ferment for 3-5 days. It then goes through a series of stills and charcoal filters to create the rum. When it first finishes the process the rum is 180 proof! It then goes through a process with special water to take it down to 80 proof which is required by the government. The clear rum is bottled immediately after distilling and has a real bite to it. Much of the rum is placed is placed in oak barrels to "age," some with spices which makes a mean "spiced rum ice tea" they give you upon arrival. The rum is then aged in the barrels for either 3 or 10 years. The longer it ages in the barrels, the darker the color and the more smooth the rum becomes. The 10 year is VERY smooth and is a "sipping" rum. All the products to make the rum come from within a 70 mile radius of New Orleans and the small distillery makes 55,000 bottles of rum each year. The distillery is owned by a celebrated New Orleans artist and the back label on every bottle on the inside has a photo of one of his paintings that you can only see once the bottle is empty. In the first photo of the distillery if you look closely at the wooden beam you can see where the water line came from Katrina. Even though there was 8 feet of water in the building, they only lost 15 percent of the rum as most of the barrels where stored above the water line and therefore not damaged. The distillery was reopened only 15 months after the hurricane. We enjoyed our time there and would like to give a special thanks to Bob and Julie (one of the distillers)not only visiting with us about the rum process but also about the area and the Katrina devastation. You can see more photos on my Facebook page. Mike says the rum is yummy so if you are a rum drinker or wanting to give a nice gift, you can order by going to their website at www.oldneworleansrum.com. They ship to most states.