The history of the Outer Banks includes a number of unsavory characters, namely, derelict pirates. This brings to mind the old saying, “Ho, ho, ho and a bottle of rum,” and the exciting new topic of an upcoming business, Kill Devil Rum and Outer Banks Distilling, that has everyone talking.
Located in the town of Manteo, partners Scott Smith, Matt Newsome, Adam Ball and Kelly Bray just opened the first Outer Banks distillery. Or, more accurately, the first legal distillery on the Outer Banks! The partners have an extensive background in beer brewing, having worked at the Outer Banks Brewing Station before venturing into the world of distilled spirits.
Why rum? Their website spells this out clearly, “Out of all the spirits that can be distilled, we have come to the conclusion rum is a former brewer’s dream, because of the incredible variety of rums that can be produced, white, gold, spiced and aged rums just to name a few.”
The name is significant to our area as well. According to one legend, the town of Kill Devil Hills got its name from rum that was “strong enough to kill the devil.”
The retail store, located in what was once the Dare County Board of Education building, is currently open and by this spring the partners will be carrying three original creations.
Their silver rum is molasses based and Scott says, “It has a more subtle taste profile.” He went on to explain that molasses was often used because cane juice begins to ferment within two hours of harvest—making it unsuitable for a distillery that is not located next to a cane field. Molasses would have been a very traditional way of making rum before refrigeration and modern transportation systems existed.
A third distilled spirit offered this year is named Buffalo City Rye Whiskey. Buffalo City was a once thriving logging community near the current location of East Lake. Around 1900, there were over 2,000 residents in the town, but overharvesting of cedar and pine trees led to the demise of the logging industry.
When prohibition swept the nation in the 1920s, Buffalo City became the center of a Dare County moon shining operation due in part to the isolation of the area. Until prohibition was repealed in 1933 the town experienced resurgence in prosperity. After repeal, Buffalo City withered away, and today there is almost no evidence that it existed; the verdant swamp of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge has overgrown all signs of these times.
Buffalo City Rye Whiskey is a paean to the spirit of those early 1920’s moonshiners. “We’re paying homage to the distilleries that were there, and they were using rye for their whiskey,” says Scott.
The initial response to the Outer Banks Distilling is very positive. “This spring, all the Dare County ABC stores are going to be carrying our product, and a lot of local restaurants will have it too,” Scott says. “We’ve also had interest from as far away as Boone.”