Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sustainable Saturday - North Carolina Moonshine

Legal moonshine, distilled in Asheville, North Carolina from a heirloom corn variety believed to be lost, in a distillery owned by a woman.  What a natural post for Sustainable Saturday, in a city that is one of the most green in this nation.  (If you aren't a "drinking person", please join me again next Saturday for another exciting episode of Sustainable Saturday).

"Moonshine", a.k.a. corn whiskey, has a very long and distinguished history in our country.  Made right, with high quality corn, and high quality water (and nothing else) it distills into a very smooth clear whiskey.  It can also be aged in barrels once used for bourbon - a type of recycling as bourbon barrels can only be used once.

Let's take a little tour of the Troy and Sons moonshine operation in Asheville.

Our tour guide, the sister of the woman who owns the distillery, walked us through the process of making "moonshine". (Incidentally, although I believe the term "moonshine" is a common description for the product of unlicensed liquor making, this product is marketed under the name "moonshine".)

First, a mash of a heirloom corn called "Crooked Creek Corn" and water, is allowed to ferment.  Up to this point, the beginning process is something like beer making.

Crooked Creek Corn is an open pollinated white corn with a high fat content.  It only produces one ear per plant, and the finicky plants are susceptible to wind damage. The tour guide assured us that they have no plans to genetically engineer this corn, which their operation will hopefully save from extinction.

This initial fermentation is done in the blue barrels you can see in back of the still below.

Unlike beer, however, no hops are added, and a distilling process is begun in this still.  The resulting 190 proof liquid is cut with water down to 80 proof.

The result is a very smooth clear whiskey that warms your stomach quite nicely - what locals would call a good "sipping whiskey".

I'm not that much into whiskey but I could definitely see this being added to certain mixed drinks.
The other variety Troy and Sons makes is amber colored, aged in these former bourbon barrels.

The ceiling of the tasting room is lined with wood from these barrels and the walls are nicely decorated, too.

Yes, we had to buy one - in a North Carolina state owned liquor store.  I was pleased to see that these stores promote North Carolina products.

A toast, to liquid sustainable agriculture.

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