Where They Are Now

Good spirits

A pediatrician with a side gig: making rum.

Lenore Skenazy ’81 is the president of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting childhood independence and resilience, and founder of the Free-Range Kids movement.

Chris Cassidy

Chris Cassidy

Erin Armstead Wright ’99, a doctor, says she’s on “a level playing field” with her patients—-i.e., kids. But she and her husband also have another project. View full image

Erin Armstead Wright ’99 is a pediatrician—and a rum maker—in South Jersey. At Yale, she sang in Shades and majored in biology. She’s married to Kevin Wright, an IT guy who paused his career to become a craft rum distiller. Their son, a high school freshman, is about a decade older than their distillery, Striped Lion.

Lenore Skenazy: What drew you to Yale?

Erin Wright: When I was in middle school, my parents saw some high school scholarship in the paper for a private school. I didn’t want to leave my friends. But I ended up getting the scholarship, and doing some things I would not have done in public school.

LS: Such as?

EW: I’m six foot one, but I wouldn’t have played basketball in public school. It’s a little rough. But [in private school] I ended up making the basketball team. And I did some theater and was involved in my church.   

LS: All of which led you to apply to New Haven?   
EW: I applied to Rutgers and would have had a full ride, so I thought I was done.

LS: But—?

EW: My parents said, “You have to apply to these Ivy League schools.”

LS: What made you choose Yale?

EW: At minority recruitment weekend at Harvard, every single person was quoting to me how many different people of different ethnicities were there. Like, “fifteen percent are African American and of those fifteen percent, ten percent are first-generation.” It turned me off. At Yale, no one spat any stats.

LS: Did you always want to be a pediatrician?

EW: I love being a pediatrician. Really, I’m still kind of a kid in my mind, so I’m on a level playing field with my patients. Star Wars, Pokémon, the DC universe—I keep up to date. That part of my life is not going to go away.

LS: How did rum come in?

EW: My husband and I were in Bermuda in 2006, and we were drinking Dark and Stormies. But there was a bottle behind us, and I asked the bartender: “Can you put that in the Dark and Stormy?” And he said, “No, you drink it like bourbon. Do you want to try it?” I said yes. And so we tasted it, and if it was a cartoon, you could have seen our minds blown.

LS: I’m guessing you bought a bottle.

EW: Yes. But that was the week [in 2006] when officials uncovered a plot to sneak liquid bombs onto flights. No liquids would be allowed on the plane. Okay—which one of us was going to stay in Bermuda?

But by the end of the week, you could check it in your luggage. At the plane we said, “Be careful. There’s something in here we don’t want to break.” He said, “What is it?” “Gosling’s Old Rum.” He got some special tape, wrapped the bag, and said, “I’ll take it on the plane myself.” After that we were a little obsessed.

LS: How obsessed?

EW: We were collecting for a good five to seven years, when we passed a billboard for a whiskey fest—and I said, “I wonder if there’s a rum fest?” We had just missed it. I put it on my calendar for next April.

LS: Like a medical conference, except for rum. And then you opened your distillery?

EW: Then—long story, lots of violins—we needed sprinklers, funding. We were finally supposed to start in the first quarter of 2020.

LS: Oh no! Let’s skip the plague years. What is Striped Lion known for now?

EW: We have a great cocktail program. Last spring we did The Flower Show: our citrus rum, and a little bit of simple syrup and elderflower tonic, with a big cube made with butterfly pea flower tea—with a frozen flower in it. I also make Harry Potter drinks that change color. And a Baby Yoda that has little grapes for eyes, and I fold napkins so he looks like he’s wearing a little cloak. Give me a theme and I’ve got you!

LS: You had me at pediatrician/rum distillery owner.

EW: If someone found my phone and was going through it, they’d say, “Wow. All this alcohol!”  

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