Standing in the barrel warehouse of McIlhenny Company on idyllic Avery Island, Louisiana, two cousins inhaled the warm scent of freshly emptied bourbon barrels. Delivered from a Kentucky distillery, these barrels were destined to age Tabasco™ pepper mash for years to come. Surrounded by the amazing smell of the barrels combined with the humid marsh air wafting through the warehouse, they began to discuss future business endeavors to consider. Inspired by a long tradition of family business and hand-crafted products, they contemplated distilling as a venture to consider.
“Avery Island used to be a sugar cane farm, right?” Indeed, it was. And they wondered if any relative of the larger Avery family of which McIlhenny was a part of ever distilled rum from the sugarcane grown in the Island’s fertile fields. The cousins, Chris Puckett and John Reily Thomason, inquired whether or not this was the case with the Avery family archivist who was skeptical at the time. After a few days, the archivist came back with some surprising news – the original patriarch who had purchased Avery Island had once distilled the molasses from his sugarcane and sold his rum throughout the South. His name was John Craig Marsh.
Armed with this knowledge they became obsessed with whether or not it was feasible to reintroduce their rum heritage. Over the next few months, Chris and John Reily met with the family archivist and gathered all the information they could find on John Craig Marsh, his sugar cane business and mercantile, and the rum he distilled and sold. They began to immerse themselves in all things rum and the world of spirits.
Later that year, Chris was introduced to rum expert Wayne Curtis and over daiquiris at famed Cane & Table in the French Quarter of New Orleans and outlined the family heritage of rum distillation and the idea of reintroducing that rum heritage 200 years and six generations later. After hearing the historical details and the potential future plans, Curtis fully encouraged Chris to move ahead at full steam. A short pedicab through the French Quarter to famed Galatoire’s restaurant, Chris dined with his wife Leigh Ellen and longtime friends Ben and Marta Hamawy. With excitement boiling over, he shared the project with Ben and asked if he had any interest. The next day, Ben joined in and things got serious.
Ben and Chris developed a business plan and brought Brett Dougall into the partnership to be the Creative Director. Learning that Marsh’s rum was not branded as spirits are today, they settled on branding their rum after John Craig Marsh’s homestead located on the highest point of Avery Island, overlooking what was once his sugarcane fields. Still standing and in impeccable shape, “Marsh House” is still used by the Avery family privately for family gatherings and events to this day. In an ode to their ancestor who made his home on Avery Island, his rum heritage created from an entrepreneurial spirit sparked by the Louisiana Purchase, and the homestead the Avery family focuses on today, they branded their rum … Marsh House.
Four years to the weekend that our founder Chris Puckett met Wayne Curtis for the first time and shared his idea over a few cocktails at Cane & Table, he again shared cocktails with Wayne in the same establishment. However, this time Chris was joined by cofounder Ben, and they presented Wayne with his own bottle of Marsh House Rum, (from the first bottling) and they enjoyed cocktails crafted with the very rum that Wayne implored Chris 4 years earlier to pursue; Marsh House Rum.