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‘Our freedom to drink’: Little River distillery pays respect to the history of spirits

Twelve 33 distillery set to open first location in May 2019

When is the Twelve 33 distillery opening in Little River? The Grand Stand’s long awaited first craft distillery is slated to open in May. Here is what you can expect once inside the Highway 17 location.
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When is the Twelve 33 distillery opening in Little River? The Grand Stand’s long awaited first craft distillery is slated to open in May. Here is what you can expect once inside the Highway 17 location.

The history of alcohol in America is taught through the products created at the Grand Strand’s first distillery in Little River.

The name itself, Twelve 33, means December 1933, when alcohol prohibition ended in the United States. The interior is decorated with photos of anti-prohibitionists and quotes from famous American authors and drinkers. One of the spirits, Mullet Creek rum, is named after a local creek rum runners used to get the drink into Little River.

And for VIP customers, there is a hidden speakeasy designed to look like you stepped back into 1933.

For owners Kevin and Rebecca Osborn, alcoholic spirits are a traditional American craft — a tradition they hope to honor in their new distillery.

“That whole period of history in America gave us our freedom to drink. It’s why we can enjoy cocktails today with our friends and family,” Kevin Osborn said. “It was just a cool period when the government said ‘you can’t do something’ and the Americans fought back and said ‘you can’t tell me what to do.’”

Before moving to the Grand Strand a couple years ago, the Osborns worked on a winery in California and brewed beer. While it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, the Osborns are now weeks away from being the first production distillery in the area.

Originally, Twelve 33 was set to open in the beginning of 2019. Due to the complexities of making spirits and opening a business combined, however, they had some setbacks on their opening day.

Now the Osborns are training their staff and gearing up to welcome their first customers and the 2019 tourists season. Kevin Osborn said all the delays will be worth the wait.

The various spirits will be produced in-house, by hand, using mostly local ingredients produced in the Carolinas. The mash tub and still are named after Bonnie and Clyde, respectively. The still itself was handmade for Twelve 33 in Germany by a company that has made stills for two centuries.

“They’re kind of the Rolls Royce of spirit stills,” Kevin Osborn said.

Once the ingredients enter the production floor, the rest of the spirit crafting process is done in-house. This includes the stilling, proofing and infusing.

All the products will be from natural ingredients. In fact, some of the non-alcoholic byproducts of the spirit production process are being given to a local farm because cows can safely eat it.

Twelve 33 is a production facility, which places certain limitations on the quantity of alcohol it can serve. Craft distillers can serve folks only 3 ounces of liquor per customer per day and have to close before 7 p.m.

Despite the government regulations, Kevin Osborn said they hope to make the visit to the location a unique experience on the Grand Strand. This will include tours of how the spirits are made, with tastings and specialty cocktails available for visitors.

The spirits include a sliver rum, spiced rum, vodka, a spicy vodka, gin, bourbon and rum. The bottles are all going to cost $29.99. Osborn said that while there are plenty of good spirit choices from national brands, craft distilling is an art that his folks look to perfect.

“One thing that is great about craft, and it goes for the breweries or wineries, it is the brewers art that makes his product different,” Kevin Osborn said. “And that goes for us.”

The location, next to the Dunkin Donuts in Little River on Highway 17, will open next month on May 3. On opening day all of the spirits will be available for sell.

Eventually, Kevin Osborn hopes to see his liquor in ABC stores and bars.

“We will sell bottled spirits, you can come in for tasting and hopefully take a few bottles back home,” he said. “We’d like to be in as many bars and restaurants as possible. So we will be working with a distributor shortly.”

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