The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2016

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Page 65 of 116

march 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  65 T he lady wanted corn. Not just any corn, but 100 pounds of Crooked Creek Corn, an open-pollinated heirloom variety dating back to the 1800s. And it grew nowhere else except on John McEntire's Peaceful Valley Farm 25 miles east of Asheville, North Carolina. "I was grinding grits when she showed up," reminisced McEntire. "I thought, 'My heavens! What does a blonde woman in a white Mercedes want with so much corn?'" Before he knew it, the lady talked McEntire into helping her make moonshine. "So I unloaded the corn. I must say, Troy is a vibrant, energetic person. Nothing stops Troy." Troy Ball, mother of three boys, is the force—together with her husband, Charles—behind Asheville Distilling Company, producer of award-winning Troy & Sons whiskeys. In 2008 Troy pulled up roots and moved her family from Texas to the Appalachian Mountains to save her two ailing sons, Marshall and Coulton, both of whom suffer from a metabolic disorder. The Texas pollen season was just too harsh, and the boys would frequently contract pneumonia. In one episode, Marshall nearly died. Since moving, the boys are healthier than ever. North Carolina's fresh mountain air wasn't the only elixir to infuse new life into the family's future. Soon after arriving in Asheville, neighbors—per local custom—delivered Mason jars of homemade moonshine—or "white whiskey"—as welcome gifts. After tasting many jars of moonshine ("some of it was gut-rotting stuff," she laughed), Troy learned that every respectable moonshiner harbors a "keeper" batch— one reserved for himself that is deliciously smooth. "The oldtimers knew the middle of each distillation— between the first, contaminant-containing heads, and the dirty end tails—yields the pure 'hearts,' which are clean and full of beautiful flavor and exceptional smoothness," Troy explained, noting that keeper moonshine is nothing like the "throat- burning spirits" typically palmed off on outsiders. "I decided I wanted everyone to taste and appreciate this white whiskey, a spirit that is so much a part of our nation's history." Fired up with the entrepreneurial spirit, Troy researched distillation practices and met with local moonshiners, most of whom were incredibly welcoming and encouraging. She admits, however, as a woman in a male-dominated industry, she had concerns. "Once they knew I was serious, I was sur- prised to find great support from the old-time moonshiners. They are some of the most generous people I've ever met, patiently sharing a process handed down for generations." Troy convinced her husband to build a still out of a five gallon pressure cooker in their garage. After more than a year of experimenting with different mashes and stills, a chance meeting led Troy to the McEntire farm and Crooked Creek Corn. The first commercial batch of Troy & Sons (named in honor of her sons) white whiskey was produced in 2010 from a 2,000 liter Kothe still, which the Balls imported from Germany. Today Asheville Distilling Company utilizes a 5,000 liter Kothe still and pure Appalachian Mountain spring water to produce three products: Troy & Sons Platinum Whiskey "Heirloom Moonshine" (SRP $26.99, 90 points, THE TASTING PANEL), an 80-proof clear spirit with delicate notes of vanilla, toasted corn and white pepper; Troy & Sons Oak Reserve 818 Whiskey "Heirloom Corn" (SRP $ 34.99, 91 points, THE TASTING PANEL), mellowed three years in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, the nose suggesting cedar, orange zest, and fresh biscuits, and caramel, cherry smoke and black pepper flavors coast upon a smooth finish; and Troy & Sons Blonde Whiskey "A Kinder Spirit" (SRP $29.99, 95 points, THE TASTING PANEL), distilled from heirloom corn and another McEntire heritage grain, Turkey Red wheat, dazzles with notes of vanilla, candied orange peel, caramel, honeyed melon and a dash of white pepper. Describing his reaction to the 90+ points awarded to Troy & Sons for whiskeys made from his heirloom corn and wheat, McEntire chuckled: "We were tickled to death." Rene Armas, VP National Sales Manager for Blue Ridge Spirits, who represents Asheville Distilling, says Troy & Sons is currently distributed in 15 states and will exit 2016 in 25 states. And if you're wondering whether a viable place for "white whiskey" on the already flooded spirits market exists, Armas is confident: "Millennial consumers crave experi- mentation and appreciate new brands and stories. Asheville Distilling is a perfect example of the quality craftsmanship Millennials seek—a brand cultivated with love and a story rooted in family." Troy concurs: "The hearts and spirits of our boys infuse everything we do. I am proud of our beautiful whiskeys. They are not copycats but stand alone. Platinum is one of our great- est achievements, truly appreciated at farm-to-table restaurants and by creative chefs and cocktail aficionados. Looking ahead, I am excited about our next release, a barrel-aged bourbon. Long in the works, you can be certain it's a 'keeper.'" Asheville Distilling Company's portfolio: Troy & Sons Blonde Whiskey "A Kinder Spirit," Oak Reserve 818 Whiskey "Heirloom Corn" and Platinum Whiskey "Heirloom Moonshine." PHOTO: VANESSA ROGERS PHOTO COURTESY OF ASHEVILLE DISTILLING COMPANY

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