LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) - In the North Strand off Highway 90, an old beach store has been restored.
It’s the first of its kind in the entirety of the Grand Strand. It’s a family-owned craft distillery making four different types of spirits just for you.
December 5, 1933 was a big day in America and for Little River. It’s the day people known as ‘rum runners’ didn’t have to meet Caribbean ships three miles off the Carolina shore to bring illegal rum stateside, or to Little River, anymore. The prohibition was ended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
"One of the interesting stories we found out about Little River is those rum runners brought it in to Mullet Creek…and that’s where they would off load it,” distillery owner Kevin Osborn said. “There were rumors that Joe Kennedy would come and pick up his rum and bring it back to New York.”
The story inspired his distillery’s own ‘Mullet Creek’ rum line, one of many product names locally inspired. But the big inspiration came from December 5, 1933, which is what the Twelve33 Distillery is named after.
"Distilling is a pretty industrial thing.There's a lot of copper and stainless steel involved in the process, so we wanted that vibe and to reflect the prohibition era,” Osborn said.
The former beach store has been transformed into an oaky, culturally fashionable spot for everyone to talk spirits and distilling. Osborn said almost all local companies and designers were used for the decoration and design process.
Osborn said he’s had a passion to produce beer and wine. It began out of college. He brewed beer and then it grew to wine.
He also held a corporate position for 26 years, but then ended when the company was sold. This is his first liquor venture.
“The funny thing is we were about to open a winery. We were out in California and had purchased seven acres of property on a wine trail in California. I had been doing it for a while (making wine). It was natural, and just the timing of things, and I was working for a large company that was bought out. We decided we needed a change after that,” Osborn said.
So, he and his wife, Rebecca, brought their 'grain to glass' dreams from California to Little River a year and a half ago.
“So, who’s idea was this to start this?” WMBF’s Meredith Helline asked.
The couple laughed, and Rebecca said it was definitely her husband’s.
“We were on vacation up in Michigan with friends who are distillers, and from the first time we walked in, he was like a kid in a candy store. His eyes just lit up. Yeah it just grew from there,” Rebecca said.
"We wanted to have a really great experience for our customers, so we built a very long tasting bar. It's 43 feet long, so customers can come in, we'll give them full tours and tastings so they can experience the spirits directly and get walked through the process," Osborn said.
Behind the tasting bar is a window wall, giving you a glimpse of the ‘CARL still,’ imported from Germany. Osborn compared it proudly as the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of stills.
Twelve33 has already bottled and is ready to serve its own distilled vodka, gin, rum and whiskey. Bourbon is in the process but will take a few years to age
Osborn said food will not be served due to South Carolina law, however there will be a retail area and the area’s first ‘speak easy,’ based on prohibition times.
The family said this dream came to fruition in a year and a half, and they couldn’t be more proud.
Osborn said the still and location was built to expand, producing three times what they are now, if needed. He said if all goes well, another location wouldn’t be out of the question.
Twelve33 Distillery is located at 593 Highway 90 E, Little River, SC. It’s grand opening to the public is Friday, May 3.
For more information on tours, distilling and more, click here to go to Twelve33’s website.