By Jose Hoffmann
Robbie Delaney is the Founder/Owner/Distiller of Muddy River Distillery in Belmont, North Carolina, USA. He grew up on a horse farm in North Carolina where he learned hard work and entrepreneurship from his parents. He went to college for Construction Management & Business and was a General Contractor for a while. He started distilling for fun and decided to go all in and start a distillery in 2011.
“My wife, Caroline, and I worked full-time jobs and did this on the side for the first 2 years. We now have 2 little boys, Marty (3) & Max (9 months), which has added a whole new aspect to running a business”, Delaney highlighted.
Muddy River Distillery celebrated 10 years (November 2021). “We have no investors, which is quite unusual in this industry. Great co-workers, friends, family, and lots of hard work have helped us grow”, Delaney said. Learn more about Robbie Delaney, founder/owner/distiller of Muddy River Distillery in the next interview:
TRL: What does the rum mean to you? What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
My goal when starting the distillery was to make excellent aged rum. Tasting Queen Charlotte’s Reserve for the first time brought tears of joy to my eyes. WE DID IT. Whiskeys and bourbons are popular in America, but there was a hole to fill in the rum category. I knew when we made QCR that we could fill that hole, knowing that I have future aged releases coming up, keeps that same excitement alive for me day after day. It satisfies me knowing that my wife and I created this business from the ground up without debt or investors. We are fueled by the sale of our product and the passion we maintain for it, and people just don’t do that anymore.
TRL: Three essential characteristics that define the rum according to your perspective.
-The rum must emulate the base ingredient. From day one distillate to the oldest barrel-aged rum, anyone must still be able to recognize it as a sugarcane-based spirit.
-Maintain the craft. Rum is a hands-on distillation. Over-automation and running by the numbers just won’t work.
-Our use of new American white oak barrels is key to what I believe makes us unique.
TRL: What is the most important contribution you have made in the rum industry?
Muddy River Distillery helps raise the tide. Rum has been put into the category of mixer vs sipper due to the last few decades of big brand lower shelf rums. Craft distillers that produce rum have a responsibility to produce top-of-the-line rum, showing the whiskey drinker that they have been wrong about rum. We are showing that rum can stand up to a whiskey or brandy and command the same respect.
TRL: Benefits that the rum industry has given you.
The industry has given me freedom as a business owner and an unlimited potential for success. We also get to meet a lot of great people, and we love seeing how they found out about us and how much they love the rums.
TRL: What’s another thing you are passionate about, in addition to rum? Why?
I love to build things. My favorite part of the distillery is production- getting to fabricate things and increase efficiency, all moving parts.
TRL: What is your favorite place for drinking rum?
With friends on the porch.
TRL: Favorite drink + Recipe
2 oz Muddy River Distillery’s Spiced Carolina Rum
1 oz pineapple juice
½ oz fresh lime juice
4 dashes aromatic bitters
Top with ginger beer or ginger ale
TRL: Why is it important to educate the rum consumer?
Some people say “I don’t like rum” or “I had a bad experience in college” etc. I want them to know that there are wonderful sipping rums and not all of them taste like paint thinner. We have plenty of customers that drink any of our rums straight. We made the recipes to be able to drink straight or in a cocktail, however, the consumer prefers.
TRL: Any tips to train the palate and taste good premium rum?
Drink it neat. Always try new rums at room temperature. Also, try a brand’s white/silver rum first to see how the base rum tastes.
TRL: Is the commitment to sustainable development the key to success for the permanence of the rum industry in the world? Why?
-Building a rum brand on the sales of the spirit rather than your ability to acquire debt is the key to sustainability. Too many companies produce a rum brand with the priority being profit. Focus the priority on the quality and the profit will come. If the focus is on the profit, you will inevitably reinforce the general malaise of the category.
TRL: Who would like to meet in the rum industry? What would you say to him/her?
I want to meet Richard Seale.
TRL: What are your next goals in the rum industry?
I simply want to continue to grow at our amazing pace.
TRL: Plans you have when you leave the rum industry.
I will never leave the rum industry. Our distillery will become generational as I am able and pass it down to my kids. My 2 sons are 3 and 9 months old right now, so hopefully, I’ll make it that long ha-ha. I truly enjoy what I do.
TRL: Why is the role of the bartender important in the rum industry?
Bartenders are artists with spirits. I have had so many awesome concoctions created by bartenders with different ingredients that I would have not thought to mix. They can introduce rum to a consumer that they’ve never tried, or show them a new way to drink it.
TRL: What is your advice for new generations in the rum industry?
Making rum is hard. It’s really hard. This is not something you start because you want to be rich. It takes decades to establish a rum distillery. History has shown that across all spirits. Focus on the quality. It can be painful and expensive to make only the right cuts, but it will pay off in the long run.
Enjoy Muddy River Distillery at:
Try to get a well lit shot from the front of the rum label
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