Friday, June 28, 2013

Our Visit to Journeyman Distillery.

It was a very nice Sunday and we decided to drive out to Three Oaks Michigan, for breakfast. Any excuse to get out in the Roadster. So after an quick hour and a half ride, we stopped at a great spot we found a few years ago. Viola's breakfasts are simple hearty and very, very good. A lot of local ingredients and it shows, er, tastes like it too.

The town of Three Oaks has grown. It has begun to really make a mark for itself among the competing cities of Michigan City, New Buffalo and the casino (Four Winds). With the Acorn Theater making a splash with Chicagoans, and surrounding cities, the city is looking to accommodate people who are looking for something more.

Set up in a building that dates back into the 1880's (Featherbone factory and building) the distillery is the culmination of owner, Bill Welter's journey to bring fine whiskey to the US. It starts with a trip to Scotland where Bill found a true pairing with single malt Scotch. Welter found a friend in an Australian who was making whiskey in Tasmania (I'll pause while you get out your World Atlas). He learned at the hands of that master and settled in Three Oaks to begin his task, making fine craft whiskeys in the United States. He began with a hearty Rye (very good I may add). Since then he has expanded, but we were there for the RUM!
Katie was our guide and she related the story as I tell above. The distillery has tried to not only make top-notch craft spirits (check) it also sources as many local ingredients and components locally (check) and it has managed to keep every spirit it makes certified Organic (double check!). The Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) has put its certification on Journeyman's products. The care and developement of a Distiller bent on making The Best. This seems to be a story we hear at every Distillery. For them, making the rum is not just a job, or a business; it is a passion, a goal seeking journey. The name of the place kind of says it all. Journeyman.

The tour includes the history and this fascinating panoramic picture showing employees of the Featherbone Company in the early 1920's. The visitors book not only records the visitation of tourists - it has family members who have found a Great Uncle, or even a Grandfather or Great Grandfather in the photo. Journeyman is committed in preserving not only the building (which has much of its original parts visible and still n wonderful shape. The wood columns are awe-inspiring. A huge table is constructed from Floor joists that were removed for equipment installation. Everywhere the old building is visible and shines in its restoration.

The map to the right contains pins from every visitor that has come by (well not everyone as the Chicago area is so over populated - I skipped even trying to find Tinley Park). 

As we entered the area where preparations are made for distillation, we saw the fermentation vats, the grain mill and all the machinery necessary. A sea of stainless steel.
This is the grain mill which allows them to mill their grain in-house preserving much of the oils and flavors of the fresh milled grains. This is lost often by off-site milling and shipping.

Their smaller still, seen here is reserved for their stronger spirits in particular their Jalapeno spirit that is purported to make a KILLER Bloody Mary.

Their larger still makes the rest of their products and had just finished a run of Whiskey before we arrived.

If you look carefully at the barrels note that the four on the floor are un-bunged and awaiting the cooper to seal them off for aging.

We explored the Distillery and learned a lot -- but the taste table lay ahead. In its current set-up tastes of all the spirit products except Road's End Rum are sampled. Tiffany (Manager) made sure I got a sample of that as well. In keeping with sourcing local, I asked if the molasses was local, alas, no -- but their Black Strap Molasses is imported from Mexico an has been certified Organic by MOSA as well. Sugar cane, while available in the US, is a tough commodity to get on a regular basis.

We sat around the table, enjoying the fruits of distillation and getting background from Katie. I admit I was taken the most by the Rye, but every product was very well done and beyond a treat. Still, I was missing that magic flavor......

The rum..... I was escorted to the bar and poured a healthy sample. The nose was instantly taken by the sweet smell, tinged with butterscotch and caramel. Smooth to the tongue and at 90 proof, no lazy spirit here, Road's End is a robust hearty rum - with a deep flavor even in its un-aged form. The legs are heavy on the glass, showing it's sugar. There is a sweet aftertaste that lingers presently. This bottle joins the Clear rums on my bar as a real member. A rum that I proudly call -- American Made. It ranks well up there and is declared a "Do not miss"...

To all in Three Oaks and at Journeyman Distillery (Katie and Tiffany that means you -- and the bartender(ness) whose name I neglected to ask... Thank you! To Bill Welter, Your journey has brought you here -- stay with it -- and it is appreciated! If you travel Michigan include a stop in Three Oaks -- you may not want to leave.
As always, I remain:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Story, on the Journey

I grew up in Chicago. My parents were a WWII, married in '41. I was raised in the 50's and 60's, my Dad was a beer drinker, my Mom would sample a little bit here, just a sip there. My memories of parties at house include mu Uncles (some Aunts too) lined up at the basement bar, drinking beer with the occasional shot for emphasis. Boilermakers. So Whiskey and beer were the drinks I grew into. Well, I got halfway. Being in the building trades - beer was the nectar of life. I hung with a biker crowd so sure -- more beer with generous shots of Hennessy's thrown in for the fun of it all. Rum really was not in my repertoire until the 1990's. that was my introduction to Caribbean Rums. One of the finds was CSR while walking the rain forest on St Kitts. Something set it apart from the rums I'd had. Soon I was sampling it all.
Once back home, I settled back into the routine, the only rum I'd regularly drink was Bacardi, which made a fine Cuba Libre, I thought. A few people would buy me rums and i kept gravitating back to the sweeter ones. I liked some of the golden ones as well, they seemed to display a caramel flavor and a bit more body. A gift of Tommy Bahama both silver and golden caught my taste buds. Still, I had not even DREAM that much rum was being made in the US.
Upon retirement from work fired up my interest in writing (I wrote WolfPointe more than a few years ago) but I wanted to blog. But on what subject? Well, one day I was searching for a rum that I would like and stumbled upon a US Made Rum (Prichards). I bought it and loved their Crystal Rum. So I decided to write about and really for the Distillers of American Made Rums. Now, down the road from October of 2012, This is where we are now. I am a self appointed promoter of crafted, small batch rums, made here in the US. I have met great people, heard some inspiring, fascinating and hilarious stories. I have loved every minute. So now, I am aiming at reaching out to more, letting the Distillers continue to tell their stories and drink their rum. Not a bad passion

Monday, June 24, 2013

Speaking of Journeys

When I began this rum Journey as a blog some nine months ago, I envisioned a few dozen distillers across the country that would interact and we'd form a close knit alliance to spread the word of small batch craft rum. As soon as I applied myself, I discovered hundreds of Distillers at all levels of sophistication, size, even business missions. Some are successful Distillers that have rum as an addition to their other distilled spirits, others - rum is their life. Some have incorporated food, entertainment and who knows what else as I never cease to be amazed at the creativity of these people, and companies.

Beyond the Distiller Setting

Once you break it down, all distillers, no matter how creative they are at marketing, educating and entertaining their customers, there has to be rum. No matter the setting the Distiller must, well, distill. Let's be honest stripped of it's minutia, the distillation process remains the same. Well it is pretty damned old. "The first clear evidence of distillation comes from Greek alchemists working in Alexandria in the first century AD." - (Wikipedia) Since that is the first clear evidence -- you can bet it had been going on longer than that in scattered corners all over the world. Even rum, which many (particularly those in the USA) think of and a British, American drink, can be found in many forms all over the world.
So the distillation process; Straightforward. I find then it is that minutia, that strikes the difference, Quality of the few raw ingredients, then time of "run" once distillation begins even the yeast developed to give the rum its subtle "under tastes" we all seem to love to detect..... Often that yeast is the biggest secret held by the Distillation Master.

In my journey I have seen so many stills. Primarily copper, and somewhat similar in design, the stills used to make rum are really quite pleasing to the eye. There is an elegance to the machine. A grace to the dance of alcohol, a curvature and shape, that to many is decidedly pleasing. A gain, something that has been with use for over 2000 years is recognizable, almost immediately by all.

Whether it is a small still, perhaps just able to make a drink or two...


One decidedly larger...

The outcome is nearly the same. In this case, rum.

The flavors

The biggest phrase I hear from people I introduce to small batch, craft rum is, "It doesn't taste like rum." I have decided that this is only correct because most of us never taste much rum. We all know there is a huge market outside the Big Name Brands that we see in nearly every establishment licensed to sell rum. Here in the US much of it is Caribbean based, a lot of it is pretty good. There are a few US based companies that make some of their product here, import some, blend some... it gets confusing. But for the longest time it was accepted that really GOOD rum, the stuff that tastes like rum, was imported. But our sample range has been restricted. How many reading RTRR have sampled rum outside the Caribbean list of rums? How about Central America? South America. Oh and British rums -- how many have you tasted? Did you know there are rums in India? Thailand? Sweden? Name a country... chances are there is at least one version of rum. Oh and I have not tasted many either, but the ones I have, once you leave the confines of what we have been raised to call rum, guess what? It doesn't taste like rum. Oh wait -- let me modify that - It doesn't taste what we thought rum is supposed to taste like. Believe me I had my narrow tongue too. But once I widened it - it became much more fun. Rum tastes like rum, you just have not tasted them all.

American Made Rum

Besides being the name of our Facebook page (click it -- read it - click the LIKE button, please), AMR is the niche I decided to blog about. I have been challenged with "What about NNN Rum from CCC? It reeks with goodness." I bet it does or even I know it does, but it's not an American made rum. I just decided to open the doors to what is so readily available, and only needs to be exported (A joke I thought at first) between states. Some are beyond terrific, some good and improving. I can honestly say I have not had a bad one. I was asked if I ever gave a bad review. My answer was, "No -- it i nearly impossible to give a bad review. The very reason I might think that some rum was bad, could be the VERY reason someone else loves it." The most I can do is report (so inadequately) on its tastes, its flavor, tongue feel, after-taste. The smell, the legs left in the glass (Makes many left by many wines and liquors to be lacking) even the sight of it. It's all I have. I might (maybe) even say. "This is not a favorite because I....." See it is that "I" that sets it off. Because I -- don't like XYZ flavor/color/feel/sight. But that is me, not you, or the guy beside you, or the woman over there. What do I know, I'm just a rum runner.

You know, it's getting late, I'd love to talk more but it is bed time; and I need to put together the Fantastic visit we had to Three Oaks Michigan and Journeyman Distillery as well.... That will be the subject of Friday's blog. Wednesday we will talk some more about my Rum Journey. Why I do what I do and don't do what it do not do....
Oh and -- Lick the glass when you are done, make a Distiller smile:

                                          I am -- after all is said and done....

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Why is the Rum Gone?

Those of you who follow know the hilarious version fashioned from Pirates of the Caribbean. I had it in this blog. Well here is a remix of that mash-up using Starwars.... As I often say -- In our house -- I Am The Reason The Rum Is Gone!

Lick the glass dry!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

American Made Rum - The Page

The Facebook site for Rick the Rum Runner(RTRR) is American Made Rum(AMR). As I have explained in the past -- I love rums world-wide, but wanted to pare down the selection, so I looked at Craft rums, made here in the US. I am slowly getting the list active here on the blog (look to the left of this story and you'll see the column marked Places You Should Visit and scan down to RUM DISTILLERS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.) The list is by state and when populated will list under each state the distillers that I know of in that state. I will always search for more and hope that you, the faithful, will let me know of any you find. Remember, many distillers that make Vodka, Whiskey, Bourbon etc also make Rum, so the search goes on...

Having said all that -- I wanted to cross-post things sent to AMR. We have friends in the industry and fans of the spirit, that make the page come alive.... Here are some examples:

So excited, big Sangria Throwdown for WOW Charities at El Meson! The event is sold out, getting all my stuff together. I am nervous, there are some great Houston mixologist competing, I am just happy to be included!!!

You've been asking where you can find our Boston Rum - here's the (growing) hot list:


Michiana Humane Society and SPCA will be hosting the first of many “Yappy Hours” tonight at Journeyman Distillery with a giveback evening to raise money for homeless animals. This event, from 6-8pm (est), will allow owners to bring their dogs to the bar and the opportunity to socialize together, while enjoying a beverage and treats created by the staff supporting the cause.

Bill Welter & Johanna Fridrich, of Jouneyman Distillery, are big animal lovers and were excited to help the Humane Society with this giveback night. “We were looking for a unique location, that is pet friendly, to host our first “Yappy Hour,” said Director of Marketing, Cathi Rogers, “and with Journeyman Distillery housed in the historic Featherbone Factory and Journeyman’s support of our shelter, it is the perfect place.”

The Michiana Humane Society and SPCA is a non-profit animal shelter which cares for approximately 1,500 homeless, abandoned and abused animals annually in La Porte County, IN and Berrien County, MI. Founded in 1920, MHS does not receive support from any governmental agency; its operations are funded exclusively through private donations. Michiana Humane Society is located at 722 Hwy 212, Michigan City, IN 46360.

Brimstone got a nice mention in Foodies of New England's latest issue. Thanks to Ryan of Julio's Liquors for the kind words!


Top shelf you say? We'll take it!

"...they say its your birthday..."
something delicious is one today!

Join us this Friday for the 4th Annual Colorado Connoisseurs Tasting! This will be held at the Sunset Event Center from 7pm-10pm. Tickets are on sale at Choice City Butcher & Deli and Black Bottle Brewery. Tons of food will be served and a commemorative glass for you to take home. This year everyone is a VIP and no tasting tickets will be given out! A great opportunity to taste as many of the 40 specialty beers as you like from over 20 breweries. We will be there pouring some Feisty Spirits whiskey!

Tuthilltown Spirits updated their cover photo.



In case you're wondering what everyone else is drinking:


BF&B in Belmont will now be serving Carolina Rum! Jimmy said our rum is very smooth. Thanks for supporting local! — at Belmont Food & Beverage.


Thanks Huffington Post for the mention of Siesta Key rum as "good for everything from Mojitos to cocktails"!


Hope you liked this little slice.... Stop by and read them all every day -- And PLEASE click the Like button -- We need the Likes!!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Time Rum

Sitting on the deck.... A powerful thirst overcomes me. Rum, I need rum, I want raspberry iced tea. Guess what? Yeah they were made for each other. My thoughts on the mix were these:

This iced tea was already sweet, real sweet. Something about tea in my mind is that it has a real smokey flavor, subtle, but well worth exploring. To play on that meant -- Aged rum, toasted cask -- aged rum. I opted for Cedar Ridge and sweet raspberry iced tea. I nor my lovely wife were disappointed. Now I know mixing these two (or is it three since the tea had raspberry added?) has to have happened before, and judging from the taste -- often. I had three.

I am a fan of Thai Iced Tea. The sweetness of the sugar syrup, condensed milk, mixed with the exotic very smoky flavor begs a marriage with rum. In this case, I plan a white rum..... A plan hatches
Come on folks -- I know you read by blog -- how about a little interaction? Simple, cooling rum drinks for the hot weather that is arriving every where. I'll be thinking and writing - write me with you suggestions --- for ease of it all, use this link.

Talk to you later

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rum Stuff....

Working on the rum Distillers list... Look at the side column to the left -- Places You Should Visit...

Remember rum makers -- If you want a rum taste here and registered at Rum Ratings (where all Rick the Rum Runner tastings and rating now go) --- you have two choices.

#1 --- Wait for another Rick The Rum Runner Road Trip!! (Epic!)


#2 --- Be impatient and ship me enough of your rum (or rums) to taste. Does not have to be a bottle -- could be just a few ounces - enough to sip, put a rock or two in and or a drip of water. It would love it and my readers would know more about you -- the rum maker and your nectar... Stuffing the shipping container with recipes and advertisements is encouraged....

Now -- the first choice is the coolest, at least for me, probably less for you (some PITA stops in and asks a bunch of questions and you share a glass or two of the fine rum you make....). On second thought - beyond the answering a bunch of question - it sounds like fun! I find the Distillers LOVE to talk about their product -- very much like I'll brag about mt grand kids kicking goals, or hitting home runs... The second choice is for those who are out of easy range to me by car and road trips... Not saying I wont get there but, well -- time waits for no one...

Next of all to ALL RUM LOVERS WHO READ THIS ---- Please do three things

A (so you don't confuse this with the numbered stuff above) --- Read the lists (today and every day if you would -- certainly every day you check the blog for new content (hint; Monday -- Wednesday and Friday) of distillers - especially the one that are in your ate, or one nearby. If you know of more -- please forward info to me!!!!

B --- If you have not already - please go to American Made Rum, Read the great info Distillers and Rum Fans post -- and then click the "LIKE" button. I want to see LOTS of likes. -- If you have done this - tell others -- please - invite your fiend who are rum lovers, might be rum lover, could be rum lover - that you'd love to have as a rum lover.. you get the idea...

Finally - to all - stand by -- we are growing daily -- but I sure would love more registered readers -- so if you make an effort to read this blog -- please subscribe (see the side columns) and get the blog delivered!

Till next time......
Lick the Glass

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Catching Up June 2013

So many things.... and me with a total disorganized mind. Well, grab hold of something -- here goes.

Congrats to Tailwinds Distilling.... The first rum Distiller I visited. To Toby, Jamey, et al --- Happy first anniversary! Love your White Rum -- Love your Amber.... Looking to taste your Coffee flavored.... Sorry I missed the birthday bash -- hope it went well!

Just in from Bully Boy Distillers
We are excited to let you know that our long awaited aged 'Boston Rum' is now available in MA, RI and NH.  Visit your local store to grab a bottle of our first batch which boasts a full body and bold flavor profile with hints of vanilla, caramel and nougat.
In celebration of our Boston Rum launch, join us at Trade for a tasting on Thursday, June 20th from 6-8:00pm.  Trade's amazing team of mixologists will be making specialty cocktails and small bites from the restaurant's spring menu will be available. 

Tickets for the Boston Rum launch, at Trade, on Thursday, June 20th from 6-8:00pm can be found here

Boston Rum is currently available in Mass and RI. 


Will and Dave
Founders & Distillers
Bully Boy Distillers

Here at Rick The Rum Runner we have a list for those sites we want you to visit. For now it has Rum Ratings. If you have not caught up with all the "goings on" here -- I am abandoning my Taste Cards -- Too complex. Instead, we are going to use Rum Ratings to list our ratings for all the yummy rum we get to try. So -- I invite all you rum lovers (#rumlovers) to join RR and rate the rums you've tasted.... 

Also, I am moving the listing of all the Distilleries that make a US Made Rum right to a side list -- linked and available to all that come here. Which leads to another request -- Could all you fine distillers please post a link to this blog somewhere on your webpage and/or Facebook page. If you could include a link to our Facebook page that would be great too.
Finally, I have reached a conclusion. There is no way I will ever get to every distiller of fine rum in the United States. At least not as quickly as I can write. So -- please consider shipping a small sample to us for a taste so I can at least enjoy a swallow that I can rate and talk about it and you business. All this in the name of a growing audience of readers and an honest wish to see the craft rum business in the US succeed and get even better. For you its another voice talking about your passion, your life, your rum. Just email for shipping information.... Also if you are not on my list -- a sample is the BEST way to get listed. The entire list will be up in the next week or so...

Till next time -- I, as always will be:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Looking at Craft Rum in the US - Part For - Richland Rum

It's true we are looking at and talking about Craft Rums here in the United States. Success does strange things to businesses. You make a distilled spirit, you perfect it and people like it. At one time in history that was the success you needed and wanted. But; here in the US, there is more (there always seems to be more). It seems (especially in the last half of the 20th century), that unless you grow, unless you increase sales and profits, you are perceived as losing. Take rum. You manufacture the best, most popular rum in the US, so big you need to manufacture it in huge quantities. Blending huge batches to attain a regularity in taste - leads to over filtering and "blanding down" so often that the once great rum - is now an OK rum. This is the point where craft rum, rums made in relatively small batches ( and some that are REALLY small) have a charm. They are there to make the drinker happy, yes but most of all they exist to make the maker happy. That is the story of Richland Rum.

While I covered the journey of Erik Vonk in his quest to find the rums he remembered his family drank. Not just drank, but made part of that daily ritual of life. It was the sociable thing, it was the fum thing it was nearly sacred potion that drew generations together. It was stout, it was flavorful it was so extraordinary, it burned its flavor into the very taste buds of Erik Vonk. I covered that, sure... You can read it all here. But there is more and more pictures too.... Let's look at some pictures and I'll narrate...

 We managed to make excellent time to Richland. A nice ride in the Georgia countryside. While Richland may appear to be very rural and way out in the country -- it is less than 2 hours to Atlanta. This was key for Richland Rum as their reputation grew, many restaurants and hotels began to feature this Grade A rum at their establishments. We pulled up in my car which I named Suni1 -- but could not get that plate number so I went with the obvious.

Of the four Distilleries we visited in this trip RR was the most retail looking of the group. Their distillery, tasting room and gift shop are on the main street of a revitalizing Richland. The city want to bring back the picturesque downtown and make it a destination. That rebuilding is ongoing. There is an antique store (great little spot operated by two of the nicest women you could meet, both retired teachers and just a joy to talk with.
 We noticed a couple of restaurants, a breakfast place and another down the street that we did not get a chance to explore.

Richland Rum - was ready for business... Well almost. There was no one there when we arrived! However one of the Antique Store owners told us they saw us and had called Eric and Karin and that they would be there presently. The sign on the door proclaimed an OPEN HOUSE from 3-5PM and this was before 3. 

While Rick The Rum Runner Southern Road Trip was in the planning stage, I had contacted all the Distillers and tried to give them a day and time when we would be there. Driving from Charleston South Carolina to Richland Georgia was going to take 5-6 hours. To top it off we choose Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend. Karin and I exchanged e-mails and they graciously gave up what they had hoped would be a long Holiday weekend to open shop and give us a tour. The Open House would prove to be a good idea to have another reason to be there. By the time we left nearly 2 hours later they had a streanm of people waiting to learn, to taste and admire the rum.

The all brick interior is lined with barrels -- functional -- each group in a stage of aging. Oh by the way -- the aroma was just mouth-watering-ly delicious.  I have found all rum distilleries to smell SO good, this was one of the very best!
The picture to the right shows a sugar cane mill where the cane is crushed to extract the syrup. In Richland's recipe -- only the best - the cane syrup, not the molasses, is used. The syrup is dark, thick, not unlike molasses. The taste, however, is sugar sweet and the product is offered for sale (It is called -Almost Rum). Try it on Pancakes or waffles!
You can see the thick, rich consistency --- I put it on some Salmon fillets and oven baked it -- Oh yes!!
So this is the basic sweet (ferment-able) ingredient. The basis of Richland Rums Rich taste.

The Stills.... The one on the right has, I believe is 1000 litre capacity and the smaller - to the left is soon to be replaced by its twin. They are made in Portugal.Very nice - hand hammered and really, a work of functional art!
Karin is pouring -- Erik reaches for a sample for us. The aroma, the first taste, was just wonderful. This is a rum born of research, experimentation and a real passion to reignite not just a memory - but a reality in spirits.

Erik worked about 20 years -- 15 or more actually distilling. He would run. taste, reject adjust re-start, make more, re-taste. Sometimes nearly beginning anew. I would not call Mr Vonk possessed but I would call him driven.

Finally, he got the liquir he wanted. It was what he recalled. but even when he had distilled it -- the final taste would not appear for nearly two more years, as he aged and tasted and tasted and aged. So dedicated to "getting it right," barrels of a specific batch are only topped by a barrel from the same batch -- so the entire batch is all the same age and variety.
Aging casks lose some precious rum each month (the Angels Share). Many distillers top teh casks with the same spirit but of different batches or ages -- so a 2 year aged rum (or whiskey) could have 24 different batches mixed in to top each cask over the months. Nor so at Richland. Each series of barrels has one barrel where the "topping" is taken from and used ONLY in the barrels from the same batch. The aged group of barrels is then, truly, the same batch, the same age. Erik has much to smile about... He got it very right.
This is the first still. the experimental License number welded into the corner of the top, making it Vonk's first venture into experimental, commercial distillation.

As he improved the recipe, he needed both more capacity and versatility.

This is #2. Yeah looks like what we'd expect. For scale (and this is a guess) I'd say about 10 gallons TOPS.

These are the stills in use today.... Making yummyness (I made up a word!)

Once the rums tasted on this road trip are added. Rum Ratings will carry my rating of each of these rums. I invite every rum fan to visit Rum Ratings and register, and rate every rum you taste. It's fun it's imformative and it lets the Distillers know what we like!!!
Other than that -- I am...............

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!