The Thicket

Tabby Concrete Paul R. Burley, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gin & Ingenious Invention in 18th Century London

In 1816, Scottish immigrant William Carnochan constructed the Thicket Rum Distillery near Darien, Georgia, inspired by the myrtle-laden vegetation of the 400-acre Colonial Plantation. Darien, established by 177 Scottish families in October 1736, holds the distinction of being Georgia’s oldest city.

The Thicket Rum Distillery

Thomas Spalding, a prosperous planter of Sapelo Island, served as Carnochan’s investor and sugarcane cultivation mentor. In response to taxes on sugarcane imports, Carnochan adopted Spalding’s suggestion to use tabby, a robust concrete made from burned oyster shells mixed with lime, water, sand, ash, and broken oyster shells, as a building material for the distillery and buildings.

The Thicket Rum Distillery, Georgia’s inaugural local sugarcane plantation distillery, operated successfully on a commercial scale from 1817 until 1824. Tragedy struck in September 1824 when a powerful hurricane hit the coast, leading to the drowning of one of Carnochan’s slaves and the destruction of several plantation buildings, including the distillery. A six-foot wall of water swept across Sapelo Island, with the tide rising over ten feet above the Georgia coastlands.

William Carnochan succumbed to the aftermath a year later at the age of 51, and the distillery was never reconstructed on the plantation. In 1836, the property transferred to Charles Spalding, son of Thomas Spalding.

Today, the Thicket Sugar Mill and Rum Distillery exist only in tabby ruins, located within a private gated community on Tolomato Island, serving as silent witnesses to a bygone era.


What is tabby?

Tabby concrete is a mixture of lime, sand, shells, and water, and it is often used in the construction of buildings, particularly in coastal regions. The shells used in tabby concrete can be oyster shells, clam shells, or other types of seashells.

Tabby concrete has been historically used in the southern coastal areas of the United States, especially in the Lowcountry regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It is known for its durability and was a popular choice for constructing walls, foundations, and other structures in areas where shells were readily available.

The use of tabby concrete has historical significance, and some buildings constructed with this material can still be found in coastal regions, offering a glimpse into the architectural and construction practices of the past.


The Distilling Culture


Embark on a global journey, and you’ll find that cultures possess tales that harken back to their ancient beginnings of distillation, brewing, and winemaking.

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