Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

Photo: Cochrane21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
What type of rum are you in the mood for? Spiced made from a secret recipe with a holiday scent? Vanilla with beans from Maui and a full bean at the bottom of the bottle? Fuskie Fire with the taste of cinnamon and a kick of cayenne? Or the classic Gold Reserve, which was aged in bourbon barrels for an entire year? It’s a tough decision. You probably need to taste all of them to decide.

These four rums—plus three more—are brewed on a little island. Not surprising. The Caribbean and Latin America produce much of the world’s sugarcane-based alcohol. But this little distillery isn’t in the West Indies. Very surprising. It’s much farther north off the coast of South Carolina.

Daufuskie Island Rum Company, named after the little island it calls home, was established in 2013. The owner, a military brat, has a strong sense of national pride. So everything at the distillery is made in America. The copper stills were created in Alabama. The wood for the fermenters was grown in Louisiana. Glass bottles are sourced from Upstate New York. Old bourbon barrels roll in from Kentucky, of course. While Hawaiian beans, both vanilla and coffee, are infused into some of the rums. It’s different here. That’s a good thing.

Photo: Daufuskie Rum Company

A distillery tour may have been what piqued your interest about Daufuskie Island, but you quickly discovered a dozen more reasons to venture to the Lowcountry. Daufuskie, in Calibogue Sound, sits in between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Georgia. That makes it the southernmost island of South Carolina’s Sea Islands. The island has a long, fascinating history. The Cusabo and Yamacraw peoples lived off oysters, before the Spanish and the French arrived and started building plantations.

During the American Revolution, it was nicknamed Little Bermuda for its Loyalist sentiments. Hardwood oak trees were used to make tall ships before the Civil War. Union troops eventually forced plantation owners to flee, leaving behind their property, including their slaves. The Gullah (descendants of the slaves) culture thrived once the fighting ended. Daufuskie’s remoteness played a large part in that.

Today, Daufuskie is known for its nature preserves and private communities. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places due to its Civil War and Gullah history. Lighthouses, from the late-19th century, sit near the northern and southern points of the island. Carolina Marsh Tackies, a rare breed of horses that descend from the Spanish settlers’ Iberian horses, roam the marshes. Spanish moss dangles from the old buildings. There are ruins, an old Baptist church, and art galleries. Bikes and golf carts far outnumber cars. The ferry brings middle- and high-school kids to Hilton Head Island and returns with day-trippers. While, near the landing, the Old Daufuskie Crab Company is the spot for reggae music, oysters off the roasting pit, deviled crab, and a gorgeous sunset view.

Your outdoor feast will go nicely with a glass of rum. Have you decided upon your favorite yet?

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