From CBD coffee to CBD water to CBD sports drinks, American brands have been quick (and enthusiastic) to embrace the infused beverages trend. However, there’s one field in which they lag behind the international competition: CBD spirits, and CBD rum in particular.
While the U.K. might be better known for its gins and whiskeys, it’s quickly become a world leader when it comes to CBD-infused rum. The latest iteration comes courtesy of U.K. beverage brand Dead Man’s Fingers, which recently added such a drink to its portfolio that already includes spiced, coffee, and coconut varieties.
In a description not far out of step with that of cannabis’s natural terpenes and flavonoids, the hemp and CBD-infused rum is said to carry an aroma with “hints of cola, coffee, hops, and pine with a grassy herbal back note.”
Dead Man’s Fingers hemp rum launched across the U.K. in July, supported by a £2 million ($2.41 million) marketing campaign. The bottles are expected to retail at £22 ($27).
The new tipple isn’t the only CBD-infused rum on the market. The Wee Hemp Company, a CBD-based firm which won Scotland’s Micro Business of the Year in 2019’s FSB Awards, is said to have created the first CBD liquor in May 2018, according to the Ministry of Hemp. The brand currently sells a CBD-infused rum and gin.
To hear co-founder Calum Napier tell it, the CBD element is personal for the husband-wife team.
Rebecca Napier has both Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia, two chronic conditions that are hard to treat. The pair found out about CBD use in the U.S. for both conditions, then headed to Amsterdam to acquire some. Although the cannabinoid has always been legal in the U.K., market demand had been absent — the first CBD producer in the U.K. was only licensed this year.
Once Rebecca started taking CBD, the changes were remarkable. “Over the next few months Rebecca regained her life back,” Calum said. “She changed her diet, did intolerance tests and had great success using CBD. We then trialed many different CBD products before jetting off to a lab in Europe to create our own product line and start our own company.”
Though bureaucratic intransigence got in the way of plans to grow their own hemp, they soon came upon the idea of using hemp as a botanical in the distilling process. They contacted a distillery which agreed to let them experiment, and went about creating a CBD liquor aging technique.
“All spirits have hemp seeds and hemp plant material as botanicals,” Calum said. “The rum has been aged in charred hemp stalks. This is a world’s first aging technique that gives our rum a subtle smoky yet sweet finish, and a beautiful golden color.”
In the months since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD in the U.S., there has been a lot of confusion as to what Americans can actually do with the substance.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CBD-infused beverages of any sort are illegal. While that hasn’t stopped trend-hunting bars from offering CBD-infused cocktails — in practical terms, that’s the local Department of Health’s purview — it has stopped U.S. liquor brands from attempting the sort of CBD crossover products becoming increasingly popular in the U.K.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a clarification as to where they stand on hemp-infused liquor. While the bureau understood the 2014 Farm Bill to legalize the use of hemp products in beverages up to and including liquor, it also says that it first consults with the FDA before approving a formulation — which is where such beverages run into a legal roadblock, according to the Canna Law Blog.
The only hemp-infused alcoholic beverages that currently pass muster are those made with parts of the hemp plant that do not contain CBD, such as hulled hemp seeds, hemp seed protein, and hemp seed oil.
One reason for the FDA’s reticence in granting alcohol privileges to CBD is the relatively hazy scientific understanding of how both substances work in combination. James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center, told VICE that CBD may amplify alcohol’s effects.
“The more you drink, the more CBD you’re taking, you get a potentiated effect that’s greater than the effect of either alone,” he said. “The level of intoxication is going to be greater: greater loss of control, inhibition, motor coordination, and that becomes problematic.”