WILMINGTON — Matt “Chewy” Karn has always had a passion for good liquor, from his bartending days in college to the founding of Coastal Carolina’s newest rum — IZZYz, a white rum distilled in Jacksonville.
Karn grew up in Downtown Raleigh and went to N.C. State where he fell in love with craft liquor. Although his degree was in business, science, especially chemistry, was always a passion as well. After trying various North Carolina rums, he decided it was time he gave distilling a shot and founded IZZYz Spirits Inc., and created IZZYz rum.
“I love rum, but I haven’t found a North Carolina rum that I cared for … Personally, I just didn’t care for anything I tried, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is,” he said.
While Karn has called Wilmington home for several years, IZZYz is currently crafted and distilled in Jacksonville where it shares space at Diablo Distillery.
But there’s a good reason for that he said –– GenX.
“There was no local distillery so to get things started and check it out I partnered with Diablo Distillery out of Jacksonville. There’s a reason behind that, one, I respect him as a distiller and number two, it totally takes away the whole GenX issue because it comes from the New River Aquifer instead of the Cape Fear River. There is no GenX in this liquor,” Karn said.
IZZYz has been on the market for about two months and can be found in several Wilmington bars, as well as ABC stores in New Hanover County. Karn and his business partner Willie Doss have been working to get the rum sold in other counties around the state as well.
Currently, IZZYz is selling around 115 bottles a week in Wilmington alone, Karn said. It’s not just rum drinkers that are buying IZZYz –– vodka drinkers have been enjoying it as well Karn has found.
“There’s a lot of rum lovers out there and they don’t drink North Carolina Rum, but they drink this (IZZYz) … Vodka drinkers are actually finding this rum to work (as a replacement) to vodka and soda,” he said.
All about rum
Rum can be made from several different products, sugar, molasses, brown sugar, or sugar cane.
“I use sugar, brown sugar, and high-grade molasses. I think that is where our rum becomes a superior product. I purchase a higher-grade molasses from Pennsylvania. If anybody knows anything about the Amish they take their molasses very seriously,” Karn said.
The process takes several weeks to go from raw materials to a drinkable batch of rum and IZZYz is producing about 2,000-gallon mash runs at a time, he said. Karn said they are in the process of creating their second batch run.
Although the rum is made from sugar and molasses, it is not “full of sugar” like most people think, Karn said. Instead, the yeast in the rum actually feeds off of the sugars leaving the white rum relatively low in sugar content.
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