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Kill Devil Rum

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by Gail Clifford MD (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer and photographer traveling the world, often following my daughter. Visit our site at and follow us on Instagram @ABLETravelPhoto
Published June 11th 2022
Kill Devil Rum, Outer Banks, OBX, Manteo, North Carolina
Kill Devil Rum Distillery Manteo NC OBX

During our recent trip to the Outer Banks, we had the opportunity to meet with one of the co-owners, Matt Newsome, of Kill Devil Rum and tour the facility. With Covid restrictions, group tours of 40 and over people have been restricted but visitors to the store and bar can view the distillation operation through the window. We visited at the tail end of a nor'easter so missed the outside tables and large umbrella but sounds like it'd be great fun.

I live in Ireland so I've been to the Jamison Distillery, so one of my first questions was "Can you tell me how different it is for distilling rum versus whiskey?"

Matt replied, "So, we don't use any kind of grain or anything. We use molasses so it remains gluten-free. That's the big thing. Modern distillers still use the same three ingredients of sugar, water, and yeast, but each distiller has their own recipe to master the art of balance and blend.

We have a small batch called the Shipwreck Series. It comes out twice a year. I'm sold out of it here right now, but the idea behind that is we do these three (Gold, Silver, Pecan) all the time, so we have these in wide distribution. We do the shipwreck series to (one) be creative in the distillery and (2) be able to tie in our local history here.

We're surrounded by all these shipwrecks, this is called the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," and that's really how the rum arrived on our shores here. So we always dedicate every batch, spring, and fall, with a shipwreck story on the bottle describing the shipwreck and what makes that specific rum unique. This most recent one was made out of sugar and unrefined sugar in the raw from Costa Rica. The first year we used bourbon barrels. The second year, we used Norton red wine barrels.

That creativity is a passion of ours. We always want to create something new to do with rum. We're very lucky to have a great fan base and a great customer base because we want to create something and provide something unique for everybody… and I'm a big history nerd so I get to talk about history all the time."

His partner, co-owner Scott Smith, says, "We all live in Kill Devil Hills. A town named after rum, Kill Devil, was the first term used for the spirit during colonial days. Being on the Outer Banks, we are surrounded by thousands of shipwrecks from trade ships carrying barrels of rum on board, and when they wrecked on our shores, the barrels would wash up on the beaches. So locals began to collect these barrels and hide them in the hills. One of these hills became known as Big Kill Devil Hill, where the Wright Brothers made their first flight. Being immersed in the history, we wanted to see it come back to life."

Kill Devil Rum, Outer Banks, OBX, Manteo, North Carolina
Kill Devil Rum Distillery

Matt handed us over to their first employee who's now worked with them for about 7 years. Behind the glass door stands a two-story still. It's just finished a batch and we're able to take in the deep aroma and feel the heat let off from the equipment.

He describes the differences between their three flagship flavors and how the environment (the back of the distillery is open, allowing the salt air to permeate the area) affects the end product. They keep the raw ingredients pure and authentic, with no artificial ingredients or extracts. The Silver Rum, he tells us, provides instant molasses flavor with "hints of crème brulé and toasted marshmallow. That's the kind of rum you'd use for daiquiris and mojitos." The Gold Rum is distinguished based on the 18-months it's aged in American white oak barrels. "That's our most sippable rum. It's smooth." The Pecan Honey Rum is unlike anything you may have tried previously. "We infuse the rum with pecans grown right across the Sound. Then we add honey which adds a little texture. You'll like the bold body added to holiday drinks."

It seems like the biggest struggle they have is keeping anything in stock. Between their regional sales and current facility, they're limited only by how much rum they're able to manufacture. They're being very thoughtful about how they'll expand and when.
Matt's advice as we left? "Seasonal, small-batch rums are offered throughout the year, so keep checking in."

Kill Devil Rum, Outer Banks, OBX, Manteo, North Carolina
Kill Devil Rum Outer Banks Distillery
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Where: 510 Budleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954, United States
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