I’ll make a prediction right now. North Carolina will become known as a state that welcomes and appreciates micro-distilleries. Very quietly, over the past several years, small teams of risk takers have launched distilleries, primarily in the more western parts of North Carolina. As a reporter, I’ve had the honor of visiting three of these distilleries. Each focuses on making a different kind of spirit as its primary product. Below is a collection of those stories as reported for UNC-TV – North Carolina’s Public Television network (which is really cool for promoting the unique story angles throughout North Carolina).
In no particular order, I present these North Carolina-based distillers. First, is Southern Artisan Spirits. This is a family owned business involving two brothers and their father – Alex, Charlie and Jim Mauney. These guys prefer gin – gin & tonic, actually – and the Mauney brothers, I’m told, are quite excellent cooks. They concentrated that talent into creating a Western-style gin called “Cardinal Gin.” It’s quite floral in taste with the juniper berry influence quite prevalent yet not dominant in flavor. It’s dialed in and could convert some vodka drinkers who want more flavor yet find the London Dry gins too harsh.
Troy & Son Distillery is owned by Troy and Charlie Ball, who left a real estate career to concentrate on creating what the Balls call a “superfine moonshine.” Its moonshine is clear like water and, generally, smoother than most of the bootleg moonshine you can scrounge up if you know where to look. Troy & Son also benefits from Troy’s relentless push and promotion to get moonshine into metropolitan areas and then have it accepted as a drink choice among well-monied and discriminating cocktail buyers. From what I can see online, check for yourself, it appears Troy & Son moonshine is getting healthy exposure, including a segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” news program. I profiled Troy and Charlie for UNC-TV’s North Carolina Now program and created a short video using Troy & Charlie’s own words that I’ve posted below.
Carolina Distillery is interesting in that it was born from very difficult economic circumstances. One founder lost his career when the Lowe’s Home Improvement corporation relocated. Another founder worked as a contractor and we all know what’s happened to housing in the past four or so years. The third founder seems to be doing okay as a tattoo artist but had a very old family brandy recipe that needed introduction on a mass and legal scale. So, Carriage House brandy came into being. Interestingly, I expected an almost sweet liqueur. Carriage House hits you like a bourbon with nice warmth and finish. I’m told Carolina Distillery will be opening a public-friendly distillery and themed restaurant in downtown Lenoir, NC very soon.
I’ve never visited Piedmont Distillers but UNC-TV reporter David Huppert has met that team, which focuses on making traditional, North Carolina moonshine. NASCAR legend Junior Johnson offered his old time recipe to the Piedmont team to launch a special product line and Piedmont’s products are found throughout America. They are a true pioneer of North Carolina distilling. Here’s David’s report.