Robbie Delaney: Making Craft Carolina Rum at Muddy River Distillery

Robbie Delaney: Making Craft Carolina Rum at Muddy River Distillery

Carolina rum from Muddy River Distillery gives the Caribbean’s very best a run for their money

In a previous life, Robbie Delaney was in the construction business.

“I worked for a company that focused on historical renovations and got to work on rehabbing some really cool old buildings.” 

But since 2011, he’s been working full time as founder and head distiller at Muddy River Distillery

Situated on the sandy shores of the Catawba River in beautiful Belmont, North Carolina, Muddy River Distillery specializes in just one thing - rum. 

“A lot of people instantly think of the beach when they think of rum,” says Robbie. “But we enjoy it all the time, not just on vacation.”

For Robbie the journey towards Muddy River Distillery started when he read an article on the craft spirit movement and the booming craft spirit industry. 

It inspired him to try his hand at distilling. Straight away, he fell in love.

Obsessed with perfecting the ideal Carolina rum recipe, Robbie worked round the clock experimenting with different methods and ingredients.

“I can never sit still,” he admits.

But in record time, his efforts paid off. 

“The craft distilling boom hadn’t quite hit yet when we started,” Robbie reminds us. 

“And I saw an opportunity, especially with rum, to produce a high quality product.”

Just six months after first reading that article, Robbie and his wife Caroline founded Muddy River Distillery. The craft spirit scene in North Carolina hasn’t been the same since.  

The evolution of Muddy River Distillery and Carolina rum

When Muddy River Distillery began in 2011, they were operating out of 500 square feet of rented space inside an old textile mill. 

First working only on the weekends, Robbie and Caroline were able to produce 35 bottles of rum a day. 

“We were pretty proud of that,” Robbie beams. 

Robbie Delany Bottling Carolina Rum

But demand for Muddy River Distillery’s Carolina rum just kept growing. By 2013, their little project required that Robbie and Caroline both take a leap of faith, leave their day jobs, and commit full time to the distillery. 


“We started off with three stills that I designed and built for the most part,” Robbie tells us. 


“By building the machines, I really know what goes on in there and what needs to work properly to make the best, smoothest product.”


He’s proud to say, “We do things the slow and hard way.” 


“We take the time to make the product right.”


And when you taste any of the Carolina rum from Muddy River Distillery, you can taste the difference all that TLC imparts. 


Meet some Muddy River rum

This is the one that started it all. 

Muddy River Distillery’s inaugural craft spirit, they’re Silver Carolina Rum

It took nearly a year for Robbie Delaney to perfect its recipe, and what he ended up with was a super-premium silver rum with wonderful, fruity notes of sugarcane and banana. 

Smooth and warming, it’s delicious on its own as a summery sipper. Or perfect for elevating your favorite rum-based cocktail recipes

Muddy River Distillery’s Coconut Carolina Rum brings the taste of the islands inland. From nose to finish, the sweet presence of fresh coconut persists throughout. 

Creamy, rich and full of flavor, it’s the rum that tastes just like sunshine. 

Robbie’s favorite drink is a basil rum cocktail called the basil mojito. 

He loves them so much in fact, that they inspired this perfectly unique craft spirit creation, Muddy River Distillery’s Basil Carolina Rum

Sweet Genovese Basil is sourced from local farms and then used to infuse their original Silver Carolina Rum, leaving it with much more than a slight, green tint. 

You get light floral and herbal flavors with hints of melon of course, basil, all through this unique and extraordinary craft rum. 

This is the spice of life!

Muddy River Distillery’s Carolina Rums

Spiced Carolina Rum from Muddy River Distillery is the result of two full years of tinkering with spices like cinnamon and vanilla to deliver a bold, award-winning spiced rum that’s made in small batches and tastes like an ice cold glass of root beer. 

It’s the Carolina rum that’s been specially designed for the whiskey drinker. 

“We call it the gateway rum for the American whisky drinker,” Robbie declares.

Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Carolina Rum is left to rest for one whole year in new American white oak barrels, leaving it rich and complex with notes of dry caramel, molasses, vanilla and lingering oak. 

“Our Queen Charlotte’s Reserve rums are aged in virgin oak barrels,” Robbie adds. “No sugar, coloring, flavor added. A nice sipping rum.

And then there’s Muddy River Distillery’s Queen Charlotte’s Reserve 4 Year Carolina Rum

This is the result of taking their award-winning Queen Charlotte’s Reserve Carolina Rum and letting it age in unused American white oak barrels for a full four years, really allowing it to absorb maximum flavor from the wood surrounding it. 

Toasted caramel, vanilla, smooth brown sugar and oak swirl together dreamily in this delicate and robust craft rum that proves once and for all that the best things in life come to those who wait. 

And it also happens to be Robbie’s personal favorite spirit in their collection. 

“I pour it in a lowball, add two ice cubes, and sip,” he advises. 


Keeping Muddy River rum local

“Without the help of our friends and family, this wouldn’t have been possible,” Robbie admits. 

“We have no investors. We don’t have to answer to anyone or hit other people’s numbers based on a guideline.”

Their mission is simple and straightforward. Muddy River Distillery is committed to delivering exceptional product. 

“We make the best rum,” states Robbie. “And if that costs us more to make, we do it. We love drinking our rums and we will put them up against any others.”

It’s no secret that their location has been a key factor playing into the success of their distillery as well. 

North Carolina’s Catawba River

“We are located at a beautiful spot on the Catawba River,” Robbie is pleased to say. 

“I had looked at another county in North Carolina and they originally said no. Funny thing is there is now another distillery in that county.”

Perhaps it was fate, though. Because things have worked out just fine being right where they are. 

“Belmont/ Gaston County and was on board from the beginning and we love being here,” Robbie tells us. 

But Muddy River Distillery’s reach and influence has extended well beyond their backyard. 

“The whole Charlotte, North Carolina metro area and upper South Carolina area are so supportive. We are near the border of North Carolina and South Carolina and have good friends and supporters in both. And across the country.”

Muddy River Distillery is looking towards the future 

Robbie Delaney doesn’t hesitate to say, “I do love what I do and as stressful as it is, most of the time, I realize I like working to constantly improve our process and our facility.”

“We take the time to make the product right,” Robbie claims. 

But what Muddy River Distillery has been able to do for the area goes beyond distilling great quality Carolina rum. 

“We create jobs for our local community, bring tourism, and produce American products.” 

“We keep people shopping local.”

For Robbie and Caroline, few things are more important than that. It’s something they hope to hand down to their children one day. 

The Future of Muddy River Distillery

“I want to be able to pass this down to my son or daughter and have them make it even bigger and better than I have,” he confesses. 


“I want this distillery to keep going and be known as the best rum distillery in the world.”

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