Outer Banks Distilling: Keeping Rum History and Pirate Legends Alive

kill devil hills rum

From molasses to glasses” is more than just a slogan for Outer Banks Distilling in Manteo, North Carolina. It is a belief and homage to the rum and nautical histories of the Outer Banks. Now is an exciting time for the craft distillery as it produces legendary, premium spirits known as Kill Devil Rum.

Rum and pirates just go together, right? How about rum and shipwrecks? Turns out, all of the above are prevalent in the history of the Outer Banks. With more than 1,000 shipwrecks off the Outer Banks coast, the area has become known as The Graveyard of the Atlantic.

The Kill Devil Tale

Found aboard some of those shipwrecks were barrels of rum, known back then as “kill devil”. One explanation for the very ominous-sounding name is that the rum was believed to be strong enough to “kill the devil” and was often used to try to cure diseases caused by drinking tainted water. As the legend goes, early colonists realized the pirates were onto something with that kill devil stuff. Soon after, the rum trade exploded.

outer banks distilling

Preserving Rum History in the Outer Banks

What happens when four brewery employees spend a whole lot of time together and have a shared interest in the history of rum in the Outer Banks? They start their own craft distillery, that’s what.

Adam Ball, Kelly Bray, Scott Smith, and Matt Newsome began turning their dream into reality in 2014. They bought a historic building that was once a furniture store in downtown Manteo and got to work. About 13 months later, in February 2015, Outer Banks Distilling opened to the public and on May 5th of that year, celebrated the first release of their Kill Devil Rum.

outer banks distilling north Carolina

The Outer Banks Distilling team takes it a step further to preserve the rum and nautical history of the region while also being creative and inventive. In addition to their flagship spirits, each year they release a new rum in their Shipwreck Series. It is an extremely limited release, normally selling out within hours, and each new rum is dedicated to a different local shipwreck.

“From Molasses to Glasses”

Outer Banks Distilling takes great pride in using only distillers’ grade molasses from Louisiana. The distillers use more than 24,000 pounds of molasses a month to craft their award-winning rums. Kill Devil Silver Rum is rum in its purest form, involving no aging or spices. The Kill Devil Pecan Rum is rather delightful, made with pecans (of course) and honey, both of which are locally sourced.

The Kill Devil Gold Rum is the company’s flagship barrel-aged spirit. It ages for 18 months in once-used bourbon barrels, resulting in a smooth sip with hints of bourbon and oak. In addition to the Shipwreck Series, Outer Banks Distilling creates two more special releases: Summer Solspice and Winter Solspice. As one might imagine, each is released to coincide with its respective solstice. Again, these limited releases typically sell out within a couple of hours.

kill devil hills rum

Visiting Outer Banks Distilling & Where to Find Kill Devil Rum

Guests 21 years of age and older are welcome to tour the distillery and enjoy a tasting. Reservations are required. Kill Devil Rum can be purchased at the on-site shop along with other merchandise. It can also be found throughout North Carolina as well as in Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, DC.

outer banks distilling equipment and tasting room

Article written by Francesca Mazurkiewicz of The Working Moms Travels.

The author was hosted by Visit The Outer Banks and received a complimentary distillery tour and tasting. All thoughts and opinions are those of the author.

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Check out our other North Carolina posts:

Dirty Dancing Festival in Lake Lure

Finding the Best Desserts in Raleigh

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