The Mojito. The Daiquiri. The Cuba Libre. The Bahama Mama. The Pina Colada. The Dark & Stormy. The Mai Tai. What do all of these perfect summer libations have in common? Rum. Whether it was Blackbeard in Ocracoke, Ernest Hemingway in Cuba or Jimmy Buffett in concert; rum is perhaps the liquor most synonymous with warm weather and beautiful beaches. And now, at long last, you can finally and fittingly buy rum distilled and bottled right here on the picturesque shores of the Outer Banks of North Carolina!
Outer Banks Distilling has opened the first, and only, local distillery in the town of Manteo, located on Roanoke Island. Their flagship product, Kill Devil Rum, made its highly anticipated debut at local ABC stores on Tuesday, May 5th. Jose Cuervo and Corona took a backseat this Cinco de Mayo as Outer Banks locals instead clamored for the first batch of Kill Devil Rum to hit retail shelves.
The brand new distillery is the product of hard work by local Outer Banks residents Matt Newsome, Scott Smith, Adam Ball and Kelly Bray. Together these four, from their past backgrounds, brought numerous years of craft brewing & bartending expertise to their new venture. When asked about their impressive first day of retail sales, Matt responded, “We just want to thank the Outer Banks Community for all of the support we have received. Our dream would not be a reality without it, and we are so proud to call the Outer Banks our home! The first day of sales was surreal, we kept pinching ourselves thinking we were going to awake from a dream.”
The distillery is located inside of a historic building in downtown Manteo. Prior to the beginning of any sort of rum production, the building first needed to receive a complete overhaul renovation. Having personally toured the distillery myself, I can say that the building is absolutely stunning. The distillery features retro brick walls on both the exterior and interior, and a beautiful hardwood bar where product sampling will be conducted. In addition to the tasting bar, there’s also a merchandise counter that sells items such as hats, t-shirts and glassware; some of which feature their slogan “From Molasses To Glasses”. This motto being a reference to the use of sugarcane products, such as molasses, in the process of distilling rum.
Rum may have originated in the Caribbean; however, the Outer Banks itself is deeply steeped in rum lore. In fact, the Outer Banks town of Kill Devil Hills’ name is a direct reference to rum. A brief synopsis on the crossover history between rum and the Outer Banks taken directly from Outer Banks Distillery’s website:
“The first reference to rum is found in the 1650’s from the island of Barbados. The liquor was referred to as “kill-devil.” Rumbullion, along with kill devil, were popular names for rum at this time. The trade in rum soon expanded to the colonies in New England, which is when the Legend of Kill Devil may have arrived on the Outer Banks through shipwrecks.
The more than 1,000 shipwrecks along the Outer Banks have led it to be named “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” and some of the wreckage contained barrels of rum. The town of Kill Devil Hills is believed to have been named for either barrels of rum of the brand name Kill Devil or for a rum that was “strong enough to kill the devil.” Some believe the ships were lured close to shore on dark nights by a lantern hung from a horse’s (or nag’s) neck and walked along the dunes, causing the ships to wreck on the shallow shoals. This practice gives the adjacent town of Nags Head its name. The story continues with these plundered barrels of rum being hid behind the hill which is now the site of the Wright Brothers Monument. A rarer story talks of the silhouettes of foxes at sunset on the same hill giving the appearance of devil horns, and leading to the name Kill Devil Hill. However Kill Devil Hills got its name, and there are many other legends, in 1873 the area Lifesaving Station adopted the name followed by the town in 1953.”
Outer Banks Distilling hopes to sell over 12,000 bottles of their silver rum in the first year. The rum, which cannot be sold at the distillery directly due to state laws at present time, is available by the bottle in ABC stores, and by the pour in approximately 50 local bars and restaurants. If you don’t fancy rum, fret not, the company plans to release a whiskey in the very near future. Keeping with the local history theme, the whiskey’s moniker will be Buffalo City Whiskey, named after the infamous Prohibition-era logging and moonshine town in Dare County. Taken from the Buffalo City, North Carolina Wikipedia page:
“In 1920, Prohibition laws were passed in the United States and moonshine became a popular way for Buffalo City citizens to make extra money. When logging camps at Buffalo City began to close in the 1920s, moonshine became the primary revenue source for citizens. Almost every family in Buffalo City operated a still. Speakeasies throughout the eastern United States sold moonshine made in Buffalo City. The liquor was made deep in the woods and transported by the same methods as logging: by mules and boats. A 30-foot (9.1 m) boat named the Hattie Creef sailed down Milltail Creek and across the Albemarle Sound to Elizabeth City, where the liquor was sold. The boat returned with large amounts of sugar, an ingredient in making moonshine.”
Outer Banks Distillery offers tours at their location in Manteo Monday – Saturday at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. If you’re looking for an adventurous day trip during your Outer Banks vacation, then I highly suggest a visit to Roanoke Island. In addition to touring the distillery, Manteo offers the North Carolina Aquarium, The Lost Colony Outdoor Theater Production, and a quaint downtown area full of local boutique shops and restaurants. Furthermore, you can swing over to the other side of Roanoke Island and visit the town of Wanchese, which is home to the freshest seafood markets here in the Outer Banks!
For further information on Outer Banks Distilling and Kill Devil Rum:
Outer Banks Distilling
510 Budleigh Street, Manteo, NC 27954
Open Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm
Twiddy’s very own staff photographer, Mel, took a tour of Outer Banks Distilling. To see her collection of amazing photographs from her visit to the distillery please click the link below:
Outer Banks Distilling Photos