Friday, June 07, 2013

Looking at Craft Rum in the US - Part Three - Firefly

It was a beautiful day for a drive and drive we did from our digs ion Patriots Point to
Wadmalaw Island. On the way we stopped at
The Charleston Tea Plantation, also on Wadmalaw Island.

Very picturesque, the Bigelow family has a great plantation and you can tour the factory and fields as well as taste many of the teas right there. I believe the Tea used by Firefly for their tea flavored products is from this plantation.


The drive is made greater as there are not many commercial ventures on the Island. In fact, only agriculture based businesses can operate there. This makes for a drive that is just wonderful; with the scenery around, the houses and small farms making the trip interesting and charming. Oh, word of warning, because of the business restrictions; you will NOT find a gas station on the Island, so make sure you are gassed for the day!

Once we had toured the Tea Plantation (and tasted and visited the gift shop) we drove just a short while to The Irvin House Vineyard, home to Firefly Distillery where Sea Island Rum is born. We parked and made our way to the Wine room and were directed to the tasting room for the Distillery. As I explained in my first blog on our visit - Jim Evin loves the distillation process and like diversity. Just look at the list of products available:
  • Firefly Vodka 
  • Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka
  • Firefly Sweet Tea Raspberry Vodka 
  • Firefly Sweet Tea Lemon Vodka 
  • Firefly Sweet Tea Mint Vodka 
  • Firefly Sweet Tea Peach Vodka 
  • Firefly Skinny Tea
  • Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon 
  • Firefly Southern Lemonade (only available at distillery, not in stores) 
  • Sea Island Gold Rum 
  • Sea Island Spice Rum 
  • Sea Island Java Rum 
  • Southern Accents Liqueurs
  • Firefly Moonshine
Entrance to Irvin House Vineyards
As you can imagine, tasting ALL the products would be impossible at one stop. For us it was a bit easier as we were there for the rum! And taste we did, soon we were joined by Jim Irvin himself and got a guided tour of every part of the process to make distilled spirits. Let's look at pictures:
 The signage makes me thirsty!!!

Animals!!? - Yep they have quite the gathering of farm animals, including a very vocal Rooster....

Mr Jim Irvin, pouring a sample.... Telling the story. I have to admit a great story just seems to go so well with a great drink.

Cathy (Mrs. Rum Runner...) getting the bouquet of Java Rum. A delight for anyone who likes coffee, and rum, -- now both together again for the first time....

Jim is describing the flavor of Java rum mixed into a  Pina Colada.... Imagine, that on a warm day, with a straw...

Jim leads us on -- guiding the way throughout the complex (it is big too), and he would walk and talk -- explaining the process as he moved. A great guide!
We approach the packing house. They were packing Raspberry Vodka that day -- the room smelled SO good!!

Everyone busy, bottling, labeling and packing.....

Jim does not show off his stills, he has no pet name for them. The brick and sandbags are for temperature stabilization...

While it looks like a no-frills operation, Jim Irvin approaches the distillation process with science.Ingredients, technology, temperature control, fermentation it is all performed and monitored with up to date instrumentation and tried and true practices.

This is the copper mesh that the rum is filtered through in the towers, fresh and shiny it traps impurities in the condensed alcohol
 This is what that same mesh looks at the end of its filter life.

Barrels aging in the cooler interior of the building

Jim Irvin and I try our hand at the cane mill. This is how the sugar cane is ground to render the juices to get the cane syrup and molasses 

The liquid is cooked down in this open kettle to drive out some of the water. Once it begins to ferment (Jim calls it beer) It is on its way to become Rum!

Sugar cane still has a long way to grow. While they grow some on the farm here, the crop is at its norther extreme for good cultivation. The cane they use is brought up from further south, Georgia, Alabama and other Southern farms. This crop is more for the tour than the distillation house although  batches made from the cane here are Distillers Reserve

It is popular?? Try to find a spot at the Taste Bar!

Charming help dispenses samples and helps get your order set up. They really are nice, very knowledgeable and fun.

Pouring away, Note the bowl of popcorn> tray that as you sip the Moonshine -- Oh MY! How do you think Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton got his nickname? You can really taste the corn in the 'Shine!

One more, one more sample.... 

Loved the stop -- loved the rum --- Jeezzzz I love my job!

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