After international awards, O.B. Distilling goes for Gold

By on June 17, 2017

By Matthew Haskett

In April, the 2017 San Francisco International Spirit Competition awarded medals to all four of Outer Banks Distilling’s entries. Their limited release Shipwreck series earned a bronze and their small batch Winter Solspice, a silver.

Both of their flagship submittals, Silver and Kill Devil Pecan Rum, were honored with silver medals.

“It’s the longest-running and most prestigious spirit competition,” co-owners Matt Newsome and Scott Smith told me.

For Outer Banks Distilling, the awards reassure them their small-batch experiments are successes and their year-round offerings can go toe-to-toe with any of the competition. “It’s a big deal,” Scott said.

While I met with Matt and Scott to discuss their awards, the shop was getting busy. Customers continued to flow in the door awaiting a tour, which they offer Tuesday through Saturday at 1 p.m.

It was early May, and I was surprised to see how much attention the distillery was attracting. But, in all honesty, I didn’t care much about their medals and the growing crowd. They were all obstacles between me and the Gold.

When Outer Banks Distilling produced their first batches of Rum, I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get a taste. I knew that there would be a mad dash for the first bottles, and I’ve grown tired of modern day hype trains. Moreover, I knew that the first batches would only be a glimpse into the future of the distillery because craftsmen get better with experience.

Which brings me to the real issue: I wanted to see where Outer Banks Distilling was headed. I wanted an aged rum. I wanted Gold.

And after patience and plenty of pestering, I got my chance. On that warm Saturday, I waited for the crowd to clear to get my hands on my first sample of Outer Banks Distilling’s newest flagship offering.

“This first batch of Gold sat for over a year in one used Jim Beam bourbon barrel,” Matt said as he poured my first taste.

Once the spirit was in my hand, I took several investigatory sniffs. I was surprised how much of the molasses still made it to my nose through the hints of smoke and sting of ethanol.

“This is a real rum drinker’s rum; great for sipping,” he said.

Initially, I was both intrigued and puzzled. The truth is that I had made a careless beginner’s mistake before coming to try the Gold and had eaten some sweets around lunchtime. As a result, my pallet was in pretty bad shape and I couldn’t read the beverage’s balance. I mention this detail because I want to emphasize that Gold is, as Matt suggested, a Rum drinker’s rum. To truly appreciate it, you are going to want to have it with lighter foods, on its own, or, if I may recommend, with a tobacco pipe or cigar. Gold is also quite viable within a cocktail, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

As a result, my failure created a great excuse for me to bring a bottle back home with me from the distillery for further investigation. I had Matt and Scott ring me up and began planning my rum-filled evening.

That night, I was entertaining a guest with a particularly good taste for spirits and beer, so I was eager to sit down with him and gauge his reaction. Between serving him and my first failed venture, I had a proper chance to evaluate the rum and publish my findings, but I wanted a second opinion.

My friend raised his glass, sniffed (note: a chemist by trade, there is no better nose for alcohol than he), and took a sip. “Sweet…. Surprisingly sweet.” He took a good breath and another sip. “And very volatile.” “Exactly!” I thought.

When Gold hits your tongue, there is a sudden feeling of evaporation that leaves behind a glorious sweetness. It is delightful. Gold achieves a balance between sweet and spirit that I feel Outer Banks Distilling was chasing and defines their product’s uniqueness.

I wasn’t done with my tests, however.

One of my absolute favorite cocktails is the Cuba Libre. Now, most people have probably mixed a Rum and Coke before, but I differentiate between the two. Occasionally I’ll take a spiced rum and mix it with a soda and lime (I prefer 0 calorie) for a refreshing, cheap, and simple cocktail, but when you have a proper rum like Gold, you can make a real rum and coke: the Cuba Libre. The other essential component is a cane sugar cola. In this case, I had purchased a 4 pack of Maine Root’s Mexicane Cola, which seemed fitting.

My wife, a certified mixologist, carefully mixed the two liquids and added a lime on top. I took my first taste and was astounded — it was perhaps the best Cuba Libre I’d ever tasted. The cane sugar is augmented with the Gold’s defining hints of molasses, resulting in a pure, raw sweetness. The biting alcohol was calmed by the smoothness of the cola flavor and made the cocktail nearly chuggable. As someone who was wholly satisfied with my current Rum and Coke recipe, I was shocked.

With the long wait over, I admit it was worth it. I couldn’t be happier with the work Outer Banks Distilling has done on this product, which is truly a fine rum. It nails down a taste that signifies the team’s ability to produce a product that possesses the characteristics they are aiming for.

I’m eager to see if the judges at next year’s spirit competition will award gold, rightly, to Gold.

And there is more to come. This year they will release another shipwreck series and a Summer Solspice.

As for me, more waiting, wondering and pestering. Will there be a navy-strength rum to through in my grog? Time will tell.


  • Margaret

    The other 2 co-owners, distillers Kelly Bray and Adam Ball, do a fabulous job making all of the award winning Kill Devil Rums at Outer Banks Distilling.

    Saturday, Jun 17 @ 2:09 pm
  • Bob Lrmley

    Where can I buy this rum? I would really like o try it.

    Monday, Jun 19 @ 5:38 pm