When I was first told about Stillhouse Moonshine, I immediately stopped what I was doing, found this gif, then wrote the headline of my review. Once I got that out of my system (it took a couple of days), I turned my attention to the two bottles, er, containers of moonshine in front of me.
First, Stillhouse is extremely proud of their packaging, and rightfully so–the moonshine is house in a metal can … it’s a turpentine can with booze in it? Now I’ve seen everything. It’s a cool bit to stand out from the constantly expanding clear/white whiskey shelf at the liquor store and definitely begs to be taken on a camping trip, tailgate, beach outing or other activity that frowns upon glass. It’s also fun to get a non-whiskey drinker to watch you swig from the can, because their cringes are always worth it.
The Stillhouse line offers a full spectrum of flavors–original, apple crisp, peach tea, mint chip, coconut lime, and red hot. Their website offers recipes for shots (they strongly recommend you chill the shots), rocks cocktails and punches.
The team was sent the original and peach tea flavors to try out, so I started sipping the original moonshine neat and immediately noticed how smooth it was– almost like a vodka as opposed to a moonshine. It’s highly filtered with just a hint of sweet corn, which made it easy to drink, but it definitely seemed meant as a mixer, especially since it’s only 80 proof. The chilled shot also felt like drinking a good vodka, but the possibilities for infusions, punches and even replacing vodka in a lot of standard drink recipes (it paired well with ginger beer) allow for some unique experimentation. I also tasted the peach tea moonshine neat and it was even easier to drink, but not as sweet as a lot of the flavored whiskeys on the market. (Thank f**k.) It’s a nice 69 proof and could easily see myself drinking a glass or two of it straight. It made a great chilled shot and didn’t need to be dressed up, but adding lemonade made for a great shot or quick cocktail.
If the other Stillhouse flavors can balance capturing the intended flavor without a sugar rush (looking at you, mint chip), this is a really versatile base spirit for some interesting drink ideas and experimentation.
Cold Hammer Stills moonshine is Texas to the core … with a bit of a sweet side.
All of the CHS moonshine flavors are all takes on popular candy bars. Of the three flavors I tasted, none had the harsh burn of a typical moonshine and they were all surprisingly sweet and tasted exactly like their name. I can honestly say that I am not a moonshine drinker at all, but CHS might have converted me. Here is the good/bad part: it can get you in trouble … and can do so quickly. I wouldn’t believe that something that smooth and sweet could be 70 proof!
Since it doesn’t have that typical, harsh moonshine kick, no mixer is needed, just pour over some ice. I could also see it as a great addition to a specialty cocktail. CHS Moonshine just might be the perfect addition to our tailgate drinks for 11am kickoffs. (I mean … it would definitely pair well with breakfast pastries.)
I got to sample the three flavors that will be in their first release–Almond Enjoy, Chocolate Cappuccino, and Peanut Butter. It was difficult to pick my favorite flavor–but I think I would have to pick Almond Enjoy. (I tend to lean towards anything vanilla and that is the main flavor I get from it.) Any of you coffee lovers out there (not me) need to taste the Chocolate Cappuccino. You first get a chocolate taste, the coffee flavors follow.
It hasn’t made it down the production line and to liquor stores just yet and the official release date hasn’t been set, but they’re hoping it will be available in June or July. (Stupid TABC and licensing laws.) The company is also hoping to release food and cigars once they begin selling the moonshine. Right now, they are playing with different recipes that work for each flavor of moonshine. (I got to taste cake balls made with Almond Enjoy. Talk about a guilty pleasure–I could have gone back for seconds… and thirds … and fourths!)
As Cold Hammer Stills say, “This ain’t your typical shine, grab you a bottle and let it take you for the ride.”
I love supporting up-and-coming businesses and brands; especially when they are local, and especially when they have a truly awesome product. Ironroot Republic is a new craft spirits distillery, located right in our back yard, in Denison, TX. I had the opportunity to attend Ironroot Republic’s launch party last month, where I met the Likarish brothers, co-founds and distillers at Ironroot Republic, who were as friendly as they were interesting to chat with. Oh, and they brought us some really tasty booze to try. And plenty of it. (Gotta love that.)
Jonathan and Robert Likarish practice their art by employing a “grain to glass” philosophy. Ninety percent of the ingredients used in Ironroot Republic products are grown within 60 miles of the distillery. Take, for example, the lemongrass grown by Head Distiller Jonathan Likarish himself, or the coriander grown by the distillers’ MOM (I’m sorry, but how adorable is that?). Additionally, Ironroot mashes, ferments, distills, barrel ages, and bottles all of their product on-site.
Currently, the brothers are offering three diverse and exciting labels:
Blue Norther Vodka: created using a non-chill filtration process, and made from the finest hand-selected Texas grains; crisp citrus and caramel essence, followed by honey sweetness, and a rich, silky mouth-feel. Full-bodied with a long, vanilla finish. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine: Texas corn whiskey at its finest, made from rare heirloom red corn; hints of fresh honeydew, white peach, and dragon fruit, followed by lychee nut, dark berries, and a lingering sweetness. 90 proof; ABV 45%; suggested retail price $25
Texas Drought Gin: grain to glass, made from local juniper, European juniper, lemongrass, and coriander. The finish is long and sweet due to the caramel wheat malt base. 80 proof; ABV 40%; suggested retail price $25
I was treated to a number of delicious cocktails featuring the full lineup of Ironroot Republic spirits, and each and every one was delicious. The brothers were kind enough to share recipes with us, and I can assure you, they ALL bear recreating. Standouts in my opinion included the Martinez, which was delightfully complex, and the Mexican Martini, which was the crowd favorite of the evening.
Martinez 1.5 oz. Texas Drought Gin
1.5 oz. Sweet Vermouth
0.5 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (Seriously, just hunt down the Luxardo. Don’t even bother with cheap imitations.) 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
Mexican Martini (pictured as featured image) 2 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
1 1/2 oz. Orange Liqueur (i.e. Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
2 oz. Margarita Mix
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 Splash of Sprite
Jalapeno Stuffed Olives, for Garnish
Pour the Moonshine, orange liqueur, margarita mix, lime juice, and sprite in shaker. Fill will ice and shake. Pour into martini glass, and garnish with jalapeño stuffed olive.
The Iron Word 0.75 oz. Carpenter’s Bluff Moonshine
0.75 oz. Green Chartreuse
0.75 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
0.75 oz. Lime Juice
Shake with ice and strain into chilled coupe glass.
Denison Donkey 1.5 oz. Blue Norther Vodka
4 oz. Ginger Beer
1/6 oz. Lime Juice
Combine vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Add lime juice, stir gently, and garnish with a lime slice.
One final thing you should know: the Likarish brothers have some really awesome stuff going on at the distillery, above and beyond what you would expect from your requisite Saturday afternoon tour. Yeah, they’ve got that, too, but here is a full lineup of all of the awesome goings on at the Denison distillery:
Friday evenings: the distillery bar is open from 5-9 PM; a tour is available at 6 PM.
Saturdays: the distillery bar is open from 2-9 PM; tours are available at 2, 4, and 6.
First weekend of every month: Bloody Mary bar with 20+ ways to dress it up. (personally, I am very excited to check this one out!)
Distillery tours cost $5; tours have a 20 person max. Your $5 ticket goes toward your purchase of Iroonroot Distillery swag!
A huge shout-out to the bartenders at Alamo Drafthouse Richardsonfor expertly preparing these tasty libations; I always forget how awesome the patio is here. I would go here just to drink, no movie attached. Seriously.
A bit ago I attended a happy hour with Ballast Point Brewing and Distilling at Bird Cafe. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Ballast Point before going to the happy hour, and I learned that Ballast Point began as a small group of home brewers in San Diego, California. Most of the beers are named after fishing terms. The labels have illustrations of fish to pay homage to the brewery’s origin’s. After they made a name for themselves through their beer, Ballast Point began distilling. The company now has seven spirits they call their own.
I began the night tasting some of Ballast Point’s beer on tap. For those of you who like hoppy beers, go for the Grunion Pale Ale (5.5%). It has a nutty flavor as well as a summer fruit aroma. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer silver award. Next, I went for the Scotch ale. Piper Down (5.8%) is now in the running as one of my favorite craft beers … it’s not super heavy and it has a smooth taste. I tasted a chocolate, sweet after taste with this brew. This beer won the 2015 Best of Craft Beer gold award. The name came from Scottish bag pipers that drank too much … the piper became top heavy and people would yell, “piper down” when they began to fall. (I have to admit, I went back two days later for more.) My last tasting was the Victory at Sea Coffee/Vanilla Porter (10%). As expected, it was a dark, smooth brew. I am not a coffee drinker, but that didn’t not stop me drinking this beer. It had more of a vanilla taste than coffee.
Moving on to the spirits, I was curious about the first cocktail on the list–the San Diego Street Car (Devil’s Share Moonshine, Ancho Chili liqueur, corn water, lime, Burlesque bitters, egg white). I was puzzled by this concoction, so I had to ask the bartender how he came up with this interesting drink. He said it was his version of elotes in cocktail form. He wanted to bring out the corn flavor of the moonshine rather than mask it. After understanding the background of the drink, it made me enjoy it all the more.
I would urge you to go to your local liquor store and try out some of Ballast Point’s spirits. Here’s your shopping list:
–3 Sheet’s Rum: made from pure cane sugar rather than molasses (80 proof)
–Fugu Vodka: Filtered 15 times (80 proof)
–Devil’s Share Moonshine (whiskey): hints of tropical fruit (98.6 proof)
–Devil’s Share Burbon: American oak barrels, hints of caramel and vanilla cream (92 proof)
–Old Grove Gin: made from juniper berries, rose, and coriander (88 proof)
A couple weeks back, I had the opportunity to meet a true dynamo, Troy Ball. She’s a horse riding, blonde haired, mother of three who makes moonshine in Asheville, NC and a spark plug to boot. (Like, the kind of person I’d really like to be friends with. Like … actual friends that go to brunch and watch “Scandal” together.)
Her distillery is at the foot of the Blue Mountains in Asheville and they have family members that actually work there. They even use white corn sourced from a local farm to make their spirits. Troy & Sons’ moonshines were created when Troy learned that most back woods moonshiners (can I say that?) keep the best of each batch of moonshine for themselves and sell of the harsh leftovers. So, she decided to make good moonshine and give the people the best of it. (Nice.) The smoothness of all the T&S moonshines is incredibly surprising. We sipped each before trying them in cocktails, and both ways were enjoyable.
Troy & Sons Platinum Moonshine | The mildly sweet flavor of Platinum isn’t too powerful but still stands up nicely in cocktails. Unlike the name “moonshine” suggests, it doesn’t burn at all. The Platinum is also in a beautiful bottle (that I’m stoked to add to my new bar (cart) when I get it!) 80 proof, $29.99 for 750ml
Troy & Sons Oak Reserve Moonshine | While it’s bottled similarly to the Platinum, the flavors couldn’t be more different thanks to its six months of aging in bourbon barrels*. The short aging gives it a light amber color and slight flavor notes of caramel with a touch of pepper. It is smooooooth (oh baby) and was delicious in the cocktails that we were given during the tasting dinner. 80 proof, $39.99 for 750ml
Blonde Whiskey | The first of their “Blonde” line options, it is made from “the best grains of the old world to the latest in distilling technology.” The flavor is sweet with notes of vanilla, caramel, and honey earned during its 1.5 year aging in custom honeycomb barrels. This deliciousness SHOULD be sipped on its own, tainted only by the two cubes of ice (tops) if you MUST. 80 proof, $42.99 for 750ml
TROY & SONS – NOW AVAILABLE IN DALLAS
website | Facebook | Twitter Buy Online, available (at least) at Lark on the Park
*Troy told us the story about how she visited a well-know whiskey distillery and convinced them to give her their used bourbon barrels to age their Oak Reserve. She ended up saving their butts by connecting them with a barrel supplier when they needed new barrels during the barrel shortage (yes, there’s apparently a barrel shortage in the US). (Disclaimer: I think that’s the story. I heard it from the opposite side of the table after three tastings and four cocktails.)