Firefly Distillery serves up low country charm

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. 

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25 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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 πŸ™‚

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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

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