BRAINSTORMING A BREW AT 30,000 FEET
By Kristy Tolley
Who could imagine that casually scanning through an in-flight magazine would spur the creation of the first legal rum distillery in North Carolina?
That was the case for Robbie Delaney, owner of Muddy River Distillery, who was racking up frequent flyer miles during his construction job. After reading an article about craft brewing, Delaney got busy.
“I started ‘moonshining’ in my kitchen. It was the worst tasting rum, but I fell in love with the process,” says Delaney. “I thought it would be a business worth getting into. If not, it’d be a hell of a hobby!”
More than a hobby, it turned out. Their Queen Charlotte’s Reserve and Carolina Rum can be found in almost 400 liquor stores in the state. It’s also a finalist for the Martha Stewart American Made Award, which celebrates local artisans and small-business owners.
Good timing seemed to dictate both the choice of beverage and where its home would be.
Their location was a great Craigslist find, and they soon occupied a 500 square-foot portion of a riverfront warehouse in Belmont. Today, Muddy River Distillery encompasses some 6,100 square feet. The original 35-gallon still that produced 40 bottles a day has been replaced with two stills (200-gallon and 150-gallon) that produce some 300 bottles each day.
Robbie and his wife Caroline manage everything from research and development to accounting and marketing. It’s all old school at Muddy River, too. From building the stills to bottling the final product, the molasses-to-rum process here is truly hands-on.
Queen Charlotte’s Maple Cooler
from Muddy River Distillery, Belmont, NC