Published by Carl Hedinger. Last Updated on February 29, 2024.
You’ve probably seen Kill Devil Rum in ABC stores throughout North Carolina. In case you’ve tried this amazing spirit and loved it (like us!), then you should visit its producers—Outer Banks Distilling in Manteo!
At the time of writing, they’re the only distillery in the Outer Banks and one of the only rum-makers in North Carolina. If you’re lucky enough to visit them in person in the OBX town of Manteo on Roanoke Island (staying at one of these rentals, perhaps?), you’ll learn why and how this distillery existed.
This guide will introduce you to OBX Distilling and offer insight into the history of rum in the Outer Banks and more. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll find as you continue reading:
- Outer Banks Distilling Quick Guide (Location, Website, and Social Media Info)
- Outer Banks Rum History
- Outer Banks Distilling’s History
- Outer Banks Distilling Tours, Tastings, and Merch
- Kill Devil Rum (Flagships and Special Releases)
- More Things to Do in the Outer Banks (Related Posts)
Outer Banks Distilling Quick Guide
- Address: 510 Budleigh St, Manteo, NC 27954
- Online Store: outerbanksdistilling.com/online-store
- Tour Info: outerbanksdistilling.com/distillery-tours
- Phone Number: 252-423-3011
Outer Banks Distilling
The information in this guide to Outer Banks Distilling came from our research and an interview with co-owner Scott Smith.
Outer Banks Rum History
Graveyard of the Atlantic
Before sharing more about this awesome Kill Devil Hills rum distillery, let’s talk rum.
Thanks to the tough nature of its seas, shifting sandbars, and intense storms (hurricanes and nor’easters), more than 5,000 shipwrecks have occurred off these shores. As such, the Outer Banks earned its nickname as “Graveyard of the Atlantic.”
A really cool museum commemorates this history down in Hatteras Island.
Kill the Devil with Rum
During the colonial period, many of these ships were hauling spirits in lieu of bacteria-filled drinking water. Sipping or shooting the rum served various purposes, including medicinal ones. Legends arose that stated this spirit could, in fact, kill the devil inside you.
This is why many referred to one particular batch as “Kill Devil,” which ended up as the first name for rum.
More than a few barrels of Kill Devil reached our shores, and many folks hid them in the sandy hills near today’s Wright Brothers National Memorial. This is how today’s Outer Banks town of Kill Devil Hills got its name.
Outer Banks Distilling’s History
The future co-owners of Outer Banks Distilling knew this history and implemented it in 2013. As Scott Smith told us, “We knew we were going to make rum here on the Outer Banks. Wherever you see saltwater, there are people drinking rum.”
Scott, Matt Newsome, Adam Ball, and Kelly Bray became friends at Outer Banks Brewing Station, getting together to plan and write their business plan and look for property to operate.
They eventually came across a 7,200-square-foot building in Manteo. Built in 1946, it had been sitting empty for 11 years and, according to Scott, “It had good structure, good bones. So we came in and started working with the town, and we put an offer on it.”
At the time, downtown Manteo was the only place capable of handling the wastewater and filtration systems that Outer Bank Distilling would need to maintain operations.
Everything was contingent on approvals from the town, but Smith says everyone in the area supported their effort. It took the four about a year to renovate the building. Opening day was on February 26, 2015.
Outer Banks Distilling Tours, Tastings, and Merch
North Carolina liquor laws have since loosened up, but when OBX Distilling first opened, you couldn’t even sell your own bottles from the Outer Banks distillery.
Back then, you could only do tours, offer tastings, and sell non-alcoholic merchandise. Today, they still do all three, the tours filling up pretty quickly during the busy times from March/April through the end of summer.
During the hour-and-15-minute tour, you’ll see the production facility, learn more about the rum history we shared earlier, and finish up with a tasting of some fine Kill Devil Rum.
Kill Devil Rum (Flagships)
Speaking of that rum, you can always find it in stores away from the distillery, but one major reason to visit OBX Distilling (besides the wonderful smells) is to get a look at the rum in production.
Outer Banks Distilling’s three Flagship Rums (Silver, Pecan, and Gold) are typically found in ABC stores throughout North Carolina. “Silver” is their clear rum, “Pecan” is an interesting mix of honey, pecans, and butterscotch, while “Gold” is their amazing white oak barrel-aged flagship.
You can try all three Kill Devil Rums when visiting, but there’s an even bigger incentive to stop by this rum distillery in Manteo—special releases!
These small-batch releases include “Shipwreck,” “Solspice,” and the Angels’ Share! If you’re familiar with distilling, you’ll know that the last one refers to the percentage of liquor that’s lost to evaporation.
At OBX Distilling, they donate the proceeds from their Angels’ Shares to local community organizations around the Outer Banks! If you haven’t been convinced yet to visit, hopefully you are now!
We mentioned North Carolina’s evolving liquor laws earlier; in recent years, distilleries have been allowed to sell their spirits and, as of September 2019, open cocktail bars on their premises.
Outer Banks Distilling added its own cocktail bar named the Wheel House Lounge, where you can buy frozen and non-frozen concoctions that incorporate their spirits.
Ready to Visit?
If you enjoy rum (responsibly), I encourage you to seek out Outer Banks at your local ABC Store in North Carolina (also, Virginia and Washington DC at Scheider’s of Capitol Hill). If you’re in either of these places and don’t see them, simply ask for more Kill Devil Rum.
Of course, if you love the smell of rum or enjoy rum-soaked pecans, you should visit Outer Banks Distilling and see the production facility in person!
If you’re familiar with Manteo, you’ll know that Outer Banks Distilling isn’t too far from Waterfront Park and other fun things to do in the small town.