Modesto's big winery has partnered with a distillery in Barbados to market a new brand of rum.
E.&J. Gallo Winery is launching Shellback, adding rum to a fast-growing spirits portfolio that already features brandy, gin, vodka and tequila.
The rum comes in two versions -- Silver, which has no added flavors, and Spiced, which has plenty of them. It is priced at a suggested $17 for a 750-milliliter bottle.
"Our opportunity in the marketplace is focused on consumers who wish to progress in the rum category to a modern, premium, progressive rum," Gerard Thoukis, Gallo's senior director of marketing, said Wednesday.
The liquor is made from cane sugar at West Indies Rum Distillery, founded in 1893 on the Caribbean island. It is bottled at Gallo's headquarters plant off Yosemite Boulevard.
Gallo, founded in Modesto in 1933, has become the world's largest winemaker and still deals mostly in that business.
It started distilling E.&J. brandy in 1977 and launched the New Amsterdam brand of gin in 2008. It later added vodka to the New Amsterdam line and started distributing Familia Camarena tequila from Mexico.
Rum ranks third among spirits in U.S. sales, after No. 1 vodka and whiskey, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Sales of rum rose from $1.4 billion in 2002 to $2.2 billion in 2010, the Washington, D.C.-based industry group reported. In that time, flavored rum rose to 51 percent of the category.
A variety of natural flavors go into Shellback Spiced, including cinnamon bark oil from Sri Lanka, ginger oil from China and Africa, clove oil from Madagascar and India, nutmeg from Indonesia, cassia from Vietnam and China, vanilla from Madagascar and allspice from the Caribbean.
Shellback Silver is just rum, but a news release tells of "floral overtones layered with the suggestion of vanilla and tropical fruit, followed by a smooth, clean finish."
"Shellback" is an old naval term bestowed on sailors who crossed the equator for the first time. Also on the label is the motto "Rum Found Worthy."
Shellback could find favor with the "younger cocktail crowd," said Lexy McCallum, general manager of Bistro 234 in Turlock.
"We love to support local vendors," she said.
Her bar already stocks four other rum brands and offers a Bistro Hemingway cocktail with rum, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit juice and lime.
With its new rum, Gallo now has a role in all of the main spirits except for whiskey.
"We are actively looking at all of the major spirits categories," Thoukis said, "and as opportunities arise, we will take advantage of them."