WILMINGTON — Every Monday the End of Days team, including a group of volunteers, gather in the renovated Quonset hut distillery on Castle Street to bottle the weekly supply of its award-winning vodka, gin and rum. This past Monday was a bit more special: The bottling session of End of Day’s (EOD) first batch of bourbon was underway.
“I’ve liked bourbon since I was 14,” EOD co-owner Shane Faulkner said with a laugh.
Sharpie in hand, he was scribbling each batch and bottle number and signing off on the distillery’s locally made labels, designed by its Cargo District neighbor Ebbing + Branding. The bronze sticker showcases a plow on farmland.
“It reminded me of how I grew up in Greene County,” Faulkner said, “and of my father who worked in the agricultural industry.”
A volunteer prepared the bronze labels, as a team funneled the whiskey into the bottle. A duo placed the stickers onto the bottles by hand. After Faulkner’s John Hancock, his wife, Beth, also a co-owner, boxed the signature bottles. The assembly line was in full swing.
“We are running wide open this week getting prepped for the event,” Faulkner said.
The team will host its first tasting of its Survivor’s Cut series bourbon at a private party hosted at EOD Wednesday night.
Survivor’s Cut has been in the making for two-and-a-half years now. Faulkner began his research by consulting with other distillers with similar equipment and looking at the mashbill from some of his favorite brands — Buffalo Trace, Clyde Mayes, Rabbit Hole.
“Ours is actually made in the Woodford Reserve style, with the same similar ratios of corn,” he explained.
The mash consists of 67% corn, 20% rye, and the rest is malt barley.
“But, you know, we get our corn from a different area, so it’s never gonna taste close to Woodford,” he added.
Faulkner purchased the corn from a farmer out of Pittsboro, North Carolina, who delivered 1,400 pounds per mash. The corn was always used fresh, dropped a few days before or even on the day of production. It was enough to “produce two fermentations — two stripping runs, one finish run, two barrels,” Faulkner explained.
Before the distillery even opened in February 2020, the bourbon was aging in number-four charred barrels — what’s considered the “alligator char.” The barrel is burned for 55 seconds, as its outer layer takes on the look of ‘gator skin. Burning the barrel opens up the wood and imparts smoky, even sweet flavors into the whiskey.
“It’s got really nice caramel notes,” Faulkner described, “a little bit of vanilla, cinnamon, some really good characteristics of the barrel.”
The distillery was able to procure 20-something new American oak barrels from Black Water Cooperage in South Carolina for this first run. Faulkner said he got the last of its Black Water Barrels (which take their name from the tea-colored water that flows nearby in the Edisto River).
One barrel produced 150 bottles at 55% alcohol by volume and 110 proof. He imagines future production will run up to 250 bottles a barrel.
“I’m going to get less bottles now, but I feel like this was perfect because it’s only two-and-a-half years old. It’s not a four-year bourbon,” he said.
A slight burn will be on the backend of the Survivor’s Cut series, Faulkner added. Though, a bit of ice or water will smooth it out and amplify its flavor.
Multiple factors impact the distilling process and the flavor of the spirit. Even the temperature through the seasons play a role in the end result, according to co-founding partner Oliver Earney.
“Temperature variation leads to expansion and contraction of the wood of the barrels and helps to develop the character of the whiskey within,” Earney wrote in an email.
For instance, heat can cause water from the barrel to evaporate over time. Earney said this part of the bourbon-making process is known as “The Angel’s Share.”
“The portion lost to the wood of the barrel is called: ‘The Devil’s Cut,’” he continued. “After getting through what we have all been through over the last couple years, we say: ‘What’s left is for the Survivors!’”
“It’s the first legal bourbon released in Wilmington since prohibition was enacted in 1908,” Faulkner said, “at least to our knowledge. We know we’re the only local distillery producing bourbon right now.”
Sixty bottles of Survivor’s Cut have been held aside for Wednesday’s private gathering, which will welcome members of the distillery’s Cask Collection club — “friends of End of Days,” as Faulkner called them. Around 80 people invested in a barrel — which can run up to $8,000 each — for this first batch of bourbon, so they will be among the first to taste and purchase it.
“It allows us to continue to go into production and put more barrels away,” Faulkner said. “It gives them the opportunity of an exclusive membership that gets them first reserves.”
Limited tickets also were available to the public for Wednesday’s event but went relatively quickly, according to Faulkner’s wife. “We opened it up to the public via social media and it sold out in five hours,” Beth said.
The team expects the other ninety bottles will move fast. What’s left after the party and members’ purchases will be offered to the public. The bar in the distillery also will have a reserve of Survivor’s Cut to create a new craft cocktail menu, which has yet to be released. Earney was still playing around with ideas as of Monday.
“We’re still working on it,” he said.
“We will be serving Old Fashioneds, for sure,” Faulkner added.
More bourbon is currently in production at the distillery, with the next release slated by November. By that time, it will have aged for three years. Faulkner expects to fulfill distribution to ABC stores in another year, plus the team is looking toward releasing a rye and single malt series down the road.
Survivor’s Cut will retail for $64 for 750 milliliters and will be for sale Saturday, Oct. 2, at 11 a.m. at End of Days Distillery, 1815 Castle St., on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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