The Legend of Kill Devil
a brief history of kill-devil
Rum was born in the Caribbean, however the exact island of origin is unknown. The first reference to rum is found in the 1650’s from the island of Barbados. The liquor was referred to as “kill-devil.” Rumbullion, along with kill devil, were popular names for rum at this time. The trade in rum soon expanded to the colonies in New England, which is when the Legend of Kill Devil may have arrived on the Outer Banks through shipwrecks.
a brief history of kill devil hills
The more than 1,000 shipwrecks along the Outer Banks have led it to be named “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” and some of the wreckage contained barrels of rum. The town of Kill Devil Hills is believed to have been named for either barrels of rum of the brand name Kill Devil or for a rum that was “strong enough to kill the devil.” Some believe the ships were lured close to shore on dark nights by a lantern hung from a horse’s (or nag’s) neck and walked along the dunes, causing the ships to wreck on the shallow shoals. This practice gives the adjacent town of Nags Head its name. The story continues with these plundered barrels of rum being hid behind the hill which is now the site of the Wright Brothers Monument. In 1873 the area Lifesaving Station adopted the name Kill Devil Kills followed by the town in 1953.
How we got started…
Two brewers and two bartenders had a dream to bring back the tradition of rum on the Outer Banks…
We all met, years ago, working at a local brewery in Kill Devil Hills and became fast friends over our shared love for good beer and rum. Over the course of many sessions spent sipping rum and talking shop, we came to the conclusion that starting a craft distillery on the Outer Banks made a lot of sense. Two members of the company, Adam Ball and Kelly Bray, worked at the area’s local breweries for many years. Our other two members, Matt Newsome and Scott Smith, have over 20 years of bar tending experience on the Outer Banks between them.
Over the past few years we have attended multiple courses on the art of distilling, including classes at Michigan State University as well as a class put on by the manufactures of our still. From these classes we have discovered the similarities and differences between distilling and brewing beer. Out of all the spirits that can be distilled, we have come to the conclusion rum is a former brewer’s dream, because of the incredible variety of rum that can be produced, white, gold, spiced and aged rums just to name a few. We have also attempted to sample as many rums as we can get our hands on, from the Caribbean, to new US craft distilleries to rum as far away as Fiji.
In our search for a location to make our plan a reality, we discovered the perfect place, a historic building in downtown Manteo. As two of us are Manteo High School alumni, the town was a perfect fit. As three of the four partners are residents of Kill Devil Hills, we figured Kill Devil was a good name for the rum. With support from the town we took the necessary steps to starting a craft distillery. The site we chose is an historic brick building on Budleigh St. built in 1946. Over the years the site has been home to Twiford Furniture, Davis Department Store and finally the Dare County Board of Education which left in 2004. The only large change to the building was the addition of a concrete floor for the distilling area. The building turned out to be better than expected with a beautiful pine floor and stout cypress beams that have been turned into our tasting bar, retail counter and front door. The Outer Banks is steeped in rum history and pirate legend, and we want to keep this spirit alive!