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Poole Alumna Caroline Delaney Builds Successful Distillery

’08 accounting alumna Caroline Delaney has used her entrepreneurial training here at Poole to create and grow a successful distillery business. This article was originally published in NC State Alumni News 

Caroline Delaney ’08 thought her fiancé was nuts when he rigged up a still in their kitchen in 2011. “Absolutely not,” she said. He did it anyway. Craft beers and wines were booming, and Robbie Delaney saw possibility in a tantalizing new industry: craft liquor distilling.

In 2012, the couple opened North Carolina’s first legal rum distillery since Prohibition — Muddy River Distillery — in a refurbished textile mill in Belmont, N.C. They used reclaimed floors, custom-built stills and hand-crafted recipes. It’s now one of 68 licensed liquor distilleries statewide and one of 14 that make rum. “We want to be North Carolina’s rum,” says Caroline Delaney, 31. “Once people taste ours versus some of the big guys, you can definitely tell the difference.”

She would know — she’s Muddy River’s chief taste tester. It’s a career twist the accounting major didn’t expect, but Delaney says she has the right stuff. “Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the different tastes,’’ she says, “and I know what I’m looking for now.”

What she’s looking for is a kiss of molasses. “I dip my finger into it and just get a little taste on my tongue,” she says. “Rum should have a nice smooth, sweet taste.”

Besides handling accounting, payroll, tours of the distillery and more, Delaney approves the distillate — the clear, alcoholic liquid that goes into Muddy River’s four rums. (Classic silver; a spiced rum; a coconut blend; and Queen Charlotte’s Reserve, a rich, dark rum.) They’re sold at liquor stores across the Carolinas, in restaurants and bars and through an online vendor.

Carole Tanzer Miller

Photograph courtesy of Caroline Delaney ’08