I’ve visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina a dozen times over the past twenty years, so it’s safe to say that I’ve seen and experienced pretty much every tourist attraction in this unique and whimsical beach town. I’ve climbed the lighthouses, toured museums, basked in the sun, and dined at waterfront restaurants. But it was on a visit to a new rum distillery in 2015 that recaptured my love of the place and inspired me to get back to what I do best — writing.
My husband and I decided to spend our second wedding anniversary in the Outer Banks, but we didn’t count on being rained out every single day by Tropical Storm Joaquin. We were forced to explore every indoor activity and attraction there was to offer, and in browsing the online vacation guides, I discovered that a rum distillery had recently opened in the small town of Manteo. Not being ones to pass up an opportunity to see how rum is brewed, we made the short trip and forked over ten dollars each to the guy behind the counter. I was only mildly interested in the distilling process (I wanted to get right to the tasting), but that all changed as soon as the tour started.
Our tour guide and part owner of the distillery was a guy not much older than us who had begun the business with three of his longtime friends. For the next hour, he talked about how they’d all met thanks to their shared love of beer and rum, and eventually worked to open the distillery in which we now stood. I marveled at what they’d done with the old building, admiring the exposed brick, hardwood floors, expansive bar area, and a giant ship’s wheel in the center of the lobby. The tall distilling tanks were bubbling away as he spoke, and I could tell immediately that these guys were incredibly passionate about the work they were doing. More than that, they went out of their way to keep their vendors as local as possible and did everything in their power to keep the operation running “green.” Even though the business had only been open for a few months, they’d already sold out several batches of their product and were working to develop more varieties. Their gift shop was stocked full of shot glasses, t-shirts, and rum balls, and the best part was that we got to sample some of the rum before leaving. For someone who doesn’t often enjoy straight hard liquor, I can honestly say that the rum I tried that day was some of the best I’d ever tasted.
But perhaps the best part of touring the distillery was what happened after we left. When I went to bed that night, my imagination was hard at work on what would become a novel. While writing books had always been an aspiration of mine, it had been years since I’d put a pen to paper or spent hours tapping away on my laptop. But there was something about the magic of the Outer Banks combined with the evident passion the owners of the distillery had for their craft. It had seeped into my bones and I couldn’t stop thinking about what an awesome story the guys had told. Once we arrived home from our rainy vacation, I got to work on my first writing project in years, and nine months later I self-published my first adult novel about a girl who meets a guy who owns his own rum distillery.
Publishing this book has re-awakened the writer inside me that I thought was lost. Thanks to that hour long tour one rainy day in the Outer Banks, I am now back to doing what I love. Ten dollars well spent.
This post is an entry for Mozo’s Best $20 Competition