Of the more than 300 entries in the first-ever craft spirits judging administered by the newly-formed American Craft Distillers Association, only 35 percent took home prizes. The winners group included Charleston’s High Wire Distilling Co., which claimed bronzes for its Hat Trick Botanical Gin and Quarter Acre Sorghum Whiskey.
The judging panel rated spirits on their stylistic integrity and balance, rather than their relative merit, which resulted in a rum category with no gold medal recipients. According to interim executive director Penn Jensen, in laymen’s terms, golds were reserved for spirits that judges would proudly display on their back bars. Silvers went to spirits the judges would want to buy, and bronzes meant “this is good stuff.”
“It’s not the Special Olympics,” Jensen says of the national competition, which concluded last week with an awards ceremony in Denver. “Not every spirit gets a gold. Making the medal round is a big deal.” Continue reading
That barrel is a bathroom!
Although two Charleston distilleries beat Charleston Distilling Company to the starting gate, the King Street distillery’s owner and master distiller maintain their spirits will be worth the wait.
“We are making a much higher-end product,” owner Stephen Heilman says.
According to master distiller Brent Stephens, “other places are just trucking in alcohol,” referring to the common-but-contentious craft spirits practice of purchasing neutral grain spirits to cut with water or redistill (The American Distilling Institute neatly summarized both sides of the ongoing debate in a newsletter headline: “Bulk Neutral Spirits, Cheating, Or A Blank Canvas to Work With?”) By contrast, Stephens says, Charleston Distilling Company will handle every aspect of production, from milling the rice and corn for its vodka to barrel-aging its gin.
Earlier this week, the Post & Courier’s Abigail Darlington reported the distillery was on the brink of completing construction at 501 King Street. The distillery is aiming to finish its build-out by year’s end, but Heilman and Stephens don’t anticipate scheduling a grand opening before February. Continue reading
Drinking and driving may not mix, but High Wire Distilling Co. has come up with a lovely way to make cocktails compatible with biking and walking: The Charleston distillery next week is hosting a spirits launch party to benefit Friends of the Lowcountry Lowline, a greenway advocacy group.
The event at Warehouse runs from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 20. Attendees will be treated to cocktails featuring High Wire’s gin, vodka and silver rum in return for a suggested $5 donation.