Charleston (SC) peninsula’s rum history

Back in 2009, South Carolina updated their distillery laws to encourage growth of microdistilleries. Since then, nearly a dozen distlleries have opened around the state. Two new rum-producting distilleries, Striped Pig Distillery and High Wire Distilling, recently opened in the Charleston area. Both distilleries produced rum as well as other spirits. High Wire is producing a Rhum Agricole (sugarcane) while Striped Pig just released its first batch of American Oak barrel-aged rum.

I have purchase, but not sampled, the first run of Striped Pig Aged Rum (look for a review soon) and I am making plans to review High Wires Rhum Agricole soon also.

A new article from discusses both new distilleries, the existing FireFly-owned Sea Island rum and the history of rum production on the Charleston penisula.

Rum distilling returns to the peninsula

Sugar Cane Spirit

by Robert Moss @mossr

Scott Blackwell stands by one of the stills that’s bringing rum back to the lowcountry. Photo by: Johnathan Boncek

A sharp, sweet aroma strikes your nose inside the High Wire distillery. It’s a tempting and almost homey scent, like bread baking, but even sweeter.

“That’s the champagne yeast,” Scott Blackwell says.

A wisp of steam rises from the open port on the big German-made Kothe still, its cylindrical stainless steel body capped by a shiny copper head the shape of a gigantic board game piece. Clustered along one side of a wide warehouse floor, the still and the bright silver fermenting tanks gleam in the afternoon sun.

Blackwell is part of a new wave of local distillers who are bringing commercial spirits-making to the Charleston peninsula. Or, to be more accurate, they’re bringing it back to the Peninsula: over two centuries ago, in the wake of the Revolutionary War, the Holy City was home to a vigorous but short-lived distilling industry.

The equipment and methods may be more advanced today, but one thing unites this new crop of distillers with those that came before them: they’re making rum.

The Legacy of Charleston Rum

From its very founding, Charleston was a rum-drinking town. Sailors guzzled rum-laced bowls in waterfront punch houses, and merchants and visiting country planters gathered in taverns to knock back rum slings, flips, and toddies.

After the Revolution, though, Charlestonians suddenly found it hard to get their hands on their favorite spirit. The British government forbade rum makers in the British West Indies from selling to the crown’s former colonies, and embargoes and military actions cut off American access to the French and Spanish islands, too.

With rum selling at nearly three times the price it had before the Revolution, a few enterprising Charlestonians decided to take matters into their own hands. Read more…

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