The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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july 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  91 hough the production and sale of moonshine in Tennessee was legalized in 2010, for many the term still conjures an image of backwoods hillbillies gathered around a homemade still. But a stylish young group of city folk who recently gathered at the sumptuously appointed Roosevelt Lodge in the foothills of Tennessee's rolling Great Smoky Mountains represent an image completely at odds with this outdated connotation. The bartenders' love of Ole Smoky Moonshine has drawn them to the brand's birthplace as advocates of the spirit: They are, without a doubt, modern moonshiners. This spring, after a rigorous selec- tion process, Ole Smoky announced that this group of four had become its newest crop of Masters of Moonshine. In addition to bragging rights and a new title, Ginny Edwards, Kenny Strong, Madeline Bishop, and Carlos Ruiz earned contracts to represent Ole Smoky as the company's new Brand Ambassadors. Each was strategically chosen to represent their respective markets: Seattle-based Edwards representing the West, Cleveland's Bishop in the Midwest, New Jersey's Ruiz chiming in for the Northeast, and Strong, from Orlando, representing the South. The group met for the first time this May in eastern Tennessee's Gatlinburg, where they spent the better part of a week diving deep into the history and culture of Ole Smoky. Moonshine Camp, as it's affectionately known, consisted of Moonshine University—an in-depth review of the brand's facts and figures, including its marketing and PR strategies—as well as an intensive look into the production process. Camp excursions included a trip to the Pittman Center, where New Product Development Manager Matt Lane gave the new recruits a tour of his labora- tory. This exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Lane's workspace and projects spanned from his experiments with mash bills to his well-stocked flavor pantry, culminating in a top-secret sam- pling of some of his newest creations. Also on the itinerary was a visit to the bottling line, where Thomas Hamilton, Ole Smoky's Director of Operations and Supply Chain, gave the team an immersive review of the brand's multiple production lines, which fill more than 38,000 units daily. Of course, no moonshine-related excursion would be complete without a visit to The Holler, Ole Smoky's main distillery in nearby downtown Gatlinburg. There, the Masters experienced the facility as if they were one of its 2.1 million annual visitors through a comprehensive tasting of 13 of the brand's most popular flavors. Afterward, Master Distiller Eric Vance took them behind the curtain to explore the inner workings of the distillery, including the mash tuns, stills, and the new-make moonshine pouring off of the condenser. Despite the rigorous education on seemingly every facet of the brand, the campers still made time for play: enjoying local food and the city's Ole Smoky-centric cocktail menus; whitewater rafting through a section of the Great Smoky Mountains; and spending a night sharing ghost stories in the backyard of the lodge. Ultimately, though, the camp's integral mission was to introduce the new ambassadors to the company—and to each other. Read on for an introduction of each of the 2018 Ole Smoky Masters of Moonshine, who intend to bring the spirit out of the backwoods and onto the backbar. Ginny Edwards and Madeline Bishop share a laugh in the grass at Moonshine Camp. The team takes a break from the whirlwind that is Moonshine University—the educational portion of Moonshine Camp—to enjoy some time getting to know each other.

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