Outer Banks Distillery brings "Devil Water" rum back to North Carolina
Centuries before North Carolina's Outer Banks became a wildly popular tourist destination, it was a terrifying waterway known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic - with more than 5000 ships resting at the bottom. But a funny thing happened after those ships went down - the first things to pop to the surface were barrels of rum. The phenomenon was so common that locals would rush to the shore to collect the spoils whenever a ship went down. When it was first made in the Caribbean, rum was looked on as the cure for water's dangerous bacteria and therefore thought to kill the "devil" within you, which gained it the nickname "Devil Water." Fast-forward about 400 years, and finally devil water is being distilled right in the place where it has so much history: at the Outer Banks Distillery in the town of Manteo on the island of Roanoke, part of the Outer Banks, North Carolina. So far, the distillery is just making rum, which they appropriately call Kill Devil Rum.
Distillery tour is great alternative to the beach in Outer Banks
If you're on vacation in the Outer Banks, you may need a break from the endless beach fun. For imbibers who love delicious spirits, a tour at the Outer Banks Distillery is a great alternative. For only $5, you get a well-organized tour, replete with local history and a nice tasting at the end.
Taking the Outer Banks Distillery Tour
It's sometimes hard to catch a tour at distilleries and breweries, but not here! Convenience and organization are the watchwords. You're advised to call ahead to get on the list for either the 1:00 or 3:00 p.m. tour, which run Tuesday-Saturday. When you arrive, you'll be led on an informative tour in which you'll hear the story of how four friends working in the craft brewing business decided to go into business for themselves. Rather than compete with other breweries, they decided to capitalize on the Outer Banks' rum heritage and create the first *legal* distillery in the area.
Investment in German copper still and American ingredients
The most impressive part of the tour is seeing the grand copper still that the owners bought from Germany. It towers over the fermentation room and is a rightful point of pride for the team. My tour was led by Scott Smith who told us that the distillery is devoted to using only American products in the production. They source their Grade A distilling molasses from Louisianna, their glass bottles from Pittsburgh, and their cork stoppers from California. The team wanted to create a special spiced rum that reflected local products, and so they developed a unique rum that is finished with a steeping of local pecans and honey.
Kill Devil Rum aging program
The distillery, which has only made rum for a little more than a year, is just begining an aging program. It gets its barrels from Kentucky bourbon distillers. The barrel room isn't climate controlled, which makes for a sultry tour indeed. But, it's all to benefit the rum. Scott explained that the expansion of the barrels in summer helps to accelerate the rum's maturation, as the spirit gets more contact with the wooden staves at that time. Then the wood contracts again in winter. Over the course of several seasons of this, the rum picks up some of the charred bourbon barrel flavor, adding some deeper character on top of the sweet notes of the rum's flavor. One specially aged rum will be released in 2018 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the infamous pirate Blackbeard's death.
Tasting the Kill Devil Rum
The light and airy tasting room provides guests with welcome air conditioning as well as two small snifters of rum and a delicious rum ball - all of which are for sale in the gift shop. The Kill Devil Silver Rum was pretty and smooth, a clear rum that can be sipped straight or added to mojitos or other fruity cocktails. The Kill Devil Rum with Honey and Pecans was a gorgeous treat, a real sipping rum. Scott likened its flavor to butterscotch and recommended it to be mixed with local cream soda or ginger beer or to replace the vodka in a white Russian. The stringent state liquor laws only allow visitors to purchase one bottle of rum from the tasting room per year (they'll scan your license to comply). But, luckily Kill Devil Rum is also available at North Carolina ABC stores as well.