WILMINGTON — An old metal-arch building on the east end of Castle Street is getting ready to open as the city’s second distillery, half the space dedicated to the production of rum, vodka, gin — and soon whiskey — with the other half a cargo district-themed tasting room and lounge.
End of Days Distillery will roll out an initial “Port of Entry” lineup of its vodka and rum — already available at select ABC stores in the Cape Fear region — during its grand opening on Saturday, February 1. Bottles of its Port of Entry Gin are expected by the Azalea Festival weekend, followed by a line of barrel-aged rye, bourbon, and American malt whiskeys.
Owner Shane Faulkner said Wilmington has a particular fondness for beer and spirits, and while the craft beer scene had flourished over the past decade there was not a single craft distillery in town.
“I was an avid homebrewer for a long time, and then just developed to the next step of moonshining in my backyard shipping container,” Faulkner said. “Then I figured out how to get legal, and went down that rabbit hole, and I realized that Wilmington is very thirsty and we didn’t have a distillery.”
There could be a trend in the craft liquor direction — Blue Shark Vodka became the first distillery in the county when it began hitting ABC shelves last summer, while Mason Inlet Distillery plans to open soon.
Faulkner calls it a “pre-Prohibition style” of distilling. In the back of the old building — once a truck repair shop before becoming a wood shop for 30 to 40 years, according to head distiller Steve Tomori — is the production room.
An old-school 50-horsepower steam boiler sits in a half-container in the corner, connected by a pipe to a thousand-gallon mash tun that will boil charcoal-filtered water and grains supplied by Asheville’s River Bend Malt Company. The mash tun will then connect to six large fermenter tanks. At this stage, Tomori said, it is similar to a brewery’s production: converting starches from grains into sugars that can be fermented.
“It’s just like a brewery. All we’re doing is taking the brewery to the next level,” Tomori said.
Next to large planes of glass that look into the tasting room is a 500-gallon copper still, where the fermented alcohol becomes strengthened through a vaping and condensing process. Tomori said the copper is designed to maximize contact with the flow of alcohol, cleaning the vapor and removing harsh sulphites and other chemicals from the vapor to produce a clean, smooth spirit.
Tomori said he is currently using a smaller 70-gallon still to make the vodka and rum and he uses a 7-gallon pot still to perfect his recipes. The smaller stills were designed by Tomori himself.
But aside from the vodka, rum, and whiskey, there is one product that he is most excited to develop.
“Our highlight, our gem, of the distillery is going to be a solera aged single malt whiskey,” Tomori said. “That will be the top-of-the-line, our best-of-the-best product. And it’s going to be limited, only available at the distillery.”
Solera is a multi-tiered system of aging that Tomori will use to age whiskey in one column of charred oak barrels, one of rum barrels, and a third of sherry barrels. Eventually this will produce 6-year, 9-year, and 12-year triple-barreled single malt whiskeys, he said.
The barrel racks will have the capacity to house 129 barrels, according to Tomori, while total production capacity of the distillery is at 3,300 gallons of fermenting space. Soon he hopes to make a specialty product like a bourbon cream.
Cargo district meets pre-Prohibition
The development of both the building’s cargo-district theme and the EOD brand happened organically, playing off each other, according to Faulkner.
“I think the brand and the building was this elemental creation of — What do we have? And let’s make something out of it,” Faulkner said.
The wall separating the tasting room from the distillery, although appearing to be painted black, is hand-charred using “No. 4 Alligator Char,” the same used for the inside of a barrel. The bar is made of a pecan top — in honor of the pecan trees found in downtown Wilmington — on top of a piece of shipping container.
The bottles are thick and hearty, Faulkner said, with labels designed by local graphic designer Matt Ebbing to portray the “ultra-premium, limited release” quality of products he will offer. The labels are printed with copper and blue metallic foils to give the appearance of metal, embossed to give the label texture. When you line up three of their flagship bottles just right, an image comes together of the Wilmington riverfront.
Oliver Earney, who will oversee the tasting room and handle events, said he stressed to Faulkner the importance of a quality craft cocktail list to bring out the best in their liquors.
“A vodka on its own is great, a rum on its own is great, but it’s really the cocktail that everybody puts together,” Earney said.
Signature cocktails will include the Hurricane Warning (rum, homemade passion fruit syrup, and lemon) and Carolina Cosmopolitan (EOD citrus infused vodka, cointreau, lime juice, and cranberry juice.)
The distillery plans to push its bottles to ABC stores across North Carolina in the months to come and in neighboring states later this year.
End of Days Distillery is located a 1815 Castle Street. Tastings and tours of the distillery and barrel house will be available during the grand opening on February 1, beginning at 11 a.m. Bottles of vodka and rum will also be available for purchase.
Lanes Ferry Food Truck will be at the grand opening from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Spinning Cotton gourmet cotton candy from 2 p.m.-5 p.m., Wilmywoodie from 5 p.m.-8 p.m., N.Sea Oyster Co. from 5 p.m.-8 p.m., and Mother of Wild flower truck from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
View more pictures of End of Days Distillery below:
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815