[This article is the third in a series about North Carolina distilleries in honor of N.C. Spirits Month, which was first proclaimed in 2017. Each article is part of a “spooky spirits” theme ahead of Halloween.]
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina has a long-time history of shipwrecks and rum. Since the 1600’s, rum has been credited as the drink that is strong enough to kill the devil, and for a place that has been the site of many shipwrecks over the years, that has often proved a good thing. With more than 1,000 shipwrecks in its history, the Outer Banks is accurately entitled the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and although these shipwrecks have been horrific, they brought a liquor to the area that has not only shaped the coast of our state over the years, but inspired the story and experience found within Outer Banks Distilling Company.
Scott Smith, co-owner of Outer Banks Distilling Company, has always had a love of history, the Caribbean, and in his adult years, rum. “History was my minor in college, but I have always had a love and fascination for the history that is steeped into the Outer Banks of North Carolina, especially when it comes to rum,” he said, “I spent a lot of time in the Caribbean where I developed a love for the drink itself, but it’s been a long-time dream of mine to combine those passions to create a unique experience for people around the world.” Almost as if by fate, while working at a local brewery, Scott and three of his co-workers, Adam Ball, Kelly Bray and Matt Newsome, had the same idea to open a distillery that brings the history of the Outer Banks to consumers. “It’s funny how it all came together because none of us worked in the same area of the brewery we just all had the same idea,” Scott said, “but because we live here, rum is in our blood. It’s ingrained in our history and our community, so it’s a natural thing for us to love and want others to love as well.” Driven by their passion for history and love of rum, Scott and his team established the first legal distillery on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in March of 2013.
Although the history of the drink can seem quite ominous, don’t worry! There is nothing to fear in liquor from the graveyard. “Strong enough to kill the devil is a fun tag-line to use for rum but it shouldn’t scare people away because our main goal is to create a liquor that is not only drinkable, but appealing and enjoyable,” Scott said. Many aspects of rum’s history can sound discomforting, such as pirate plundering and coming from the graveyard, but Scott reminds consumers that all of these things are a part of our state’s history and shouldn’t be feared but remembered. “For example, Blackbeard died in Ocracoke, so keeping that legacy alive is a part of what we do,” he said, “and when you visit our distillery you will see many pieces from shipwrecks that happened along the coast, such as wheels off the boats, pieces of old rum bottles and other items that not only remind you of the history but immerse you in the experience and take you back to a time once lived.” From the building and its decorations, to the story and the rum itself, Outer Banks Distilling is bringing to life the tales of old in many delicious and fun ways.
Four series of rums are released throughout the year at Outer Banks Distilling with the Flagship Series being the core group year-round. The Flagship Series contains three types of rum: Silver, which was the first rum ever made at Outer Banks Distilling, Gold and Pecan. “We have trademarked the phrase ‘from molasses to glasses’ because our entire flagship series is made out of sugarcane molasses sourced in Louisiana,” Scott explained, “and our silver rum really highlights the molasses because it is pure, smooth rum with no sugar added.” The Gold rum is aged on-site at the distillery for 1.5 years before it is released. According to Scott, aging the rum gives it a fuller flavor with a hint of banana and taste of the salty ocean air. Lastly the Pecan rum, or this time of year the Pecan Honey rum, is 80-proof rum infused with local pecans and local honey. “We get our pecans for this rum from the Harris Family Farm, which is nearby, and we source our honey locally as well,” Scott said, “this really gives that rum a sweet texture and homegrown feel.”
The Shipwreck rum series is released at the distillery twice a year and serves as the fun and experimental batch. “Our Shipwreck series allows us to be creative,” Scott said, “and each batch is dedicated to a historical Outer Banks shipwreck with the story included on the bottle.” To date, the distillery has released eight limited release rums through the series, including The Monitor, Metropolis and Irma. They also offer two seasonal spice rums that are released twice a year, one in the fall and one in the spring, through their Solspice Series.
Although Silver rum is Scott’s favorite to drink, his favorite series offered at the distillery is the Angels’ Share Series. “Our Angels’ Share series allows us to give back to the community in areas that really matter,” he said, “it’s made out of red ribbon cane and aged for up to two years. It’s a very mellow tasting rum that is rich in molasses and has a fabulous oak finish.” Every penny made on the Angels’ Share series is directly injected back to the community for projects such as neighborhood playgrounds and hurricane relief.
Every batch of rum made at Outer Banks Distilling is fully controlled through each stage of the process. “We take our process very seriously here because we want to offer the very best to our consumers,” Scott said, “we have controlled fermentation, which means that everything is temperature controlled, bottled and aged on site so that every step of the process is controlled by us.” According to Scott, the Silver rum is the hardest to make because it is pure rum with a variety of flavor profiles. “It takes a lot of hard work and effort to make a pure high-quality rum with a good, smooth taste because there are no additives or sugars to mask the flavors or imperfections,” he said. That hard work and dedication, however, give Scott and his team an immense sense of pride in the liquors that they provide to their customers. Liquors from the distillery can be found in ABC Stores across North Carolina as well as Virginia and Washington D.C.
As we approach Halloween, Scott’s suggestion for anyone looking for a spooky treat that isn’t so tricky to make is what he calls The Devil In Cider. “Add our Pecan and Honey Rum to either hot or cold Apple Cider, based on personal preference, and then add a few orange and fig bitters and a cinnamon stick to garnish,” he said. Not only does this cocktail have a fun fall color, but a name and flavor that fit the haunted holiday. See the full recipe below to feature this delicious cocktail at your next bewitching hour!
The Devil In Cider Recipe
- 1.5 ounce Outer Banks Distilling Pecan Honey Rum
- A couple dashes of orange and fig Bitters (they use Crude’s Bitters)
- Your favorite apple cider, hot or cold
- Cinnamon stick
- Add the rum and bitters to hot or cold apple cider
- Add cinnamon stick for garnish
- Serve to your friends and family for a delicious Halloween treat
In the future, Outer Banks Distilling Company is looking to expand both in size and in liquor. “We will always be working on new types of rum for our Shipwreck series and being creative in that avenue,” Scott said, “but we are also looking to expand our physical space in the next few years.” By adding new staff and more fermentation banks, Scott and his team continue to keep up with demand and feel blessed to have a job where they love what they do each and every day. It’s a pirates legend life for them!