Blue Sky Distillery moving to former ‘Kuntry Kabin’ antiques store

Published 6:43 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

Blue Sky Distillery is in the process of relocating to the former “Kuntry Kabin” antique store off Benns Church Boulevard.

Since 2017, the micro-distillery has produced original liquors out of a warehouse it shares with Spring Lake Bottled Water Co. in the Isle of Wight Industrial Park, roughly a quarter-mile away from the Kuntry Kabin site, which Blue Sky partner Mike Miller describes as “a much larger and better location.”

“We’re having to go through county zoning now,” Miller said. “We hope to be open and ready for business by the beginning of March.”

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A public notice published in The Smithfield Times’ Jan. 10 and Jan. 17 editions states a public hearing will be held by the county Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 on Miller’s application for a zoning amendment to permit microbrewery and distillery activities at the currently vacant former antique store. Once the Planning Commission votes on the matter, it will head to county supervisors for a final vote.

Blue Sky Distillery began as the brainchild of Mark and Kim Rangos after the Smithfield couple visited Ireland in 2015 and toured the famed Jameson whiskey distillery. As Kim told the story to the Times in a 2022 interview, they’d been pondering how to spend their retirement when Mark, inspired by what he saw at Jameson, said he wanted to open his own distillery.

“Let’s do it,” Kim agreed, and in 2016, Blue Sky was born. Later, they added Miller and two other partners, Yat Reilly and Michael Tan.

Many of the distillery’s creations are named for the local area. Its “Painted Pig” brand smoked bacon maple whiskey is a nod to the town of Smithfield’s ties to Smithfield Foods and the meatpacking industry, while “Blackbeard’s Point” rum is named for a historical landmark in the present-day city of Hampton, where the 18th-century pirate known as Blackbeard would prey on American ships.

“Dog Star” vodka, made from local wheat, is named for a star in the Canis Major constellation, which can be seen in the southern evening sky from winter to mid-spring. Blue Sky donates a portion of the proceeds from each Dog Star vodka sale to benefit animal welfare.