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Firefly Distillery serves up low country charm

November 7, 2015
Banner outside Firefly Distillery
Banner outside Firefly Distillery

Banner outside Firefly Distillery

Both sides of the ten-mile stretch of two-lane country road leading to Firefly Distillery are dotted with towering oak trees and tall grasses interspersed with marshland views. Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina is only 22 miles and 30 minutes away from the sophistication of downtown Charleston but feels much farther.

Most visitors discover this tucked-in-the-woods micro-distillery by word-of-mouth, or by tasting a flavored vodka cocktail made with its spirits at a restaurant or bar. Housed in a rustic wooden structure, the tasting room isn’t fancy. Before entering, you pass the chicken coop and get a glimpse of grazing livestock, perhaps a cow or goat.

Unobtrusive, easy-to-miss, signage at entrance to Firefly Distillery

Unobtrusive, easy-to-miss, signage at entrance to Firefly Distillery

Exterior of Firefly Distillery

Exterior of Firefly Distillery

Everything here is made in small batches served with a hefty dose of low country hospitality. For $6, visitors belly up to an L-shaped bar and select from a paper menu up to six tastes (a total of 1.5 ounces) of 17 vodka, moonshine, whiskey, liqueur, and rum products that are poured into a souvenir shot glass you get to take home.

Blackboard sign at Firefly Distillery

Blackboard sign at Firefly Distillery

Wanda Fluery and Charlotte Smith were tending bar when we visited. Much like a game of Bingo, they enthusiastically called out the names of various spirits on the list, and people on our side of the bar shouted out when it was one of our six choices. After cleansing our palates with popcorn and water, and depending on what we liked sipping, they threw in a few “on the house” pours, like tart Southern Lemonade Vodka (available only at the distillery) and 100.7 proof White Lightning moonshine.

Charlotte behind the counter as guests select spirits at Firefly Distillery

Charlotte behind the counter as guests select spirits at Firefly Distillery

Sweet tea (made with sugar, tea and ice) is a staple of Southern life, served with most meals. So it’s not surprising that one of the distillery’s most popular products is Firefly Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka, distilled four times and infused with tea grown at the nearby Charleston Tea Plantation. Another favorite is the Peach Tea Flavored Vodka.

Firefly Sweet Tea Flavored Whiskey on tasting room shelves

Firefly Sweet Tea Flavored Whiskey on tasting room shelves

On Saturdays, the distillery is hopping with locals and tourists waiting for tastings so lines can extend out the door. These unique handcrafted spirits are sold by the bottle at the Distillery and many are distributed nationally. Firefly Distillery is co-located on the same 48-acre grounds as the Irvin House Vineyards, the only domestic winery in Charleston (also worth a visit).

Irvin House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina

Irvin House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina


IF YOU GO

Firefly Distillery & Tasting Room

6775 Bears Bluff Road, Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11AM-5PM

Window display at Firefly Distillery

Window display at Firefly Distillery


This article by Irene S. Levine appeared in the Sunday Travel Section of the Chicago Tribune on November 1, 2015. 

  • Reply
    Sheryl
    November 10, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    I’ll be in Charleston for a wedding this spring – this sounds like a really fun outing. Thanks for the info!

  • Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    November 10, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Lucky you! Great place for a destination wedding!

  • Reply
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    November 23, 2015 at 2:46 am

    South Carolina is on our itinerary for another US road trip early next fall and a visit to Charleston is high on our list. Looks like we’ll have to take a side trip to Wadmalaw Island for a taste of Southern Hospitality and spirit(s)! This looks like a fun way to spend an afternoon and also shop for some excellent Christmas gifts too.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 23, 2015 at 11:39 am

      While you ar eon the island, be sure to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation as well!

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    November 23, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Firefly Distillery sounds like a fun place to visit, even for someone from up north.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 23, 2015 at 11:45 am

      And the weather would be another distinct advantage for a Canadian! 🙂

  • Reply
    Janice Chung
    November 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

    So the word “Distillery” intrigued me as there is a Distillery District in Toronto; however, we don’t have anything like this! Definitely will be on my list when I visit Charleston…one day. I laughed when I saw your photo at the end with the line, “If your cat has kittens in the oven, that doesn’t make them biscuits” (maybe only cat people laugh at that—me).

  • Reply
    Suzanne Stavert
    November 23, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Sounds like a lot of fun to me! Ironically I wrote about OCEAN Vodka Distillery in Maui today! You and I think alike. Thank you – We have Charleston on our short list to visit soon.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 23, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Did you say we “drink” alike or “think” alike? 🙂

  • Reply
    noel
    November 23, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Okay, I would love to try that sweet tea inspired vodka, sounds delicious!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 23, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      If you are in my neck of the woods, I’ll have a glass waiting for you!

  • Reply
    Nancie
    November 23, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    I would love to cozy up to the bar at the Fireside Distillery, and try a few shots of what’s on offer. It sounds like designated drivers would be a good thing 🙂

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 24, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      I was actually the designated driver in my group:-)

  • Reply
    Anita
    November 24, 2015 at 4:16 am

    I’m not much of a hard-liquor fancier, and would definitely want to save room for a visit the tea plantation and winery. That said, Firefly Distillery looks like a great place to try some new flavors. What a way to sample the Low Country!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 24, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      It really was a fun place to visit and get a peek at local culture!

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    November 24, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    You know you’re in the south when they have two kinds of tea, sweet and extra sweet, so not too surprising that Firefly Distillery has incorporated the flavor. Sounds cool, like to give it a try sometime.

  • Irene S. Levine
    Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    November 24, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Wadmalaw Island is another wonderful slice of the Charleston area~

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    November 25, 2015 at 9:48 am

    This would definitely be my kind of place. Great photos and your narrative had me driving down that tree lined road with you! Happy Thanksgiving~

  • Reply
    Lisa Chavis
    November 27, 2015 at 7:52 am

    The Firefly Distillery looks like a wonderful place to visit and experience some true Southern charm! I have had the Firefly Sweet Tea vodka and have to say it was very nice! We will certainly add this quaint stop to our next visit to the Charleston area!

  • Reply
    Michele Peterson
    December 18, 2015 at 10:02 am

    You know a place is going to be great when you pass a chicken coop and a goat or two on the way in! I’d love to try that sweet tea flavoured vodka next time I’m in Charleston!

  • Reply
    Tim
    December 20, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Looks like a hard liquor I could enjoy … will have to try it out my next pass through South Carolina!

  • Reply
    joe
    March 11, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    can all the products be purchased at the distillery?

    we’ve haven’t had any success finding the lemonade vodka in FL

    traveling north in a few weeks & looking forward to visiting

    thanks

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 12, 2016 at 9:48 am

      Yes, they have a small store inside the tasting room. I know that they distribute their products but I’m not sure where. Be sure to ask!

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