My drinking days ended in 1986. I’ve always said that I really worked hard at drinking, and got all of it done before the age of fifty. I may not drink, but I can still appreciate wine, beer and whiskey in a non-participatory sense. I guess this form of voyeurism could be termed “euphoric recall” by some of my more ridged AA buddies, but there it is—I do harbor a warm place in my heart for good scotch and sour mash whiskey.
During my active drinking years, I managed to tour several of the major distillers and vintners—including Jack Daniels and Robert Mondavi—and usually the post tour tasting was the highlight of the afternoon. In the nearly thirty years since my last drink, I have learned that one can enjoy the aroma and complexity of a spirit without actually partaking. I put this to good use during a recent visit to The Striped Pig Distillery in Charleston, South Carolina.
There are small craft distillers popping up all across the South, but I believe the Striped Pig to be among the leaders in quality, craftsmanship, and finished product. The dedicated folks at the “Pig” are not satisfied with hand picking the grain used to make their spirits, but go all the way to hand picking the seed from which the grain is grown. The seed is planted on a locally owned farm just outside of Charleston, and the grain is harvested under intense supervision and milled on-site at the distillery.
The Striped Pig’s attention to detail assures consistent quality mash, and mash is the heart and soul of distilling. During the distilling process, once again done on site and in modern pot and column stills, the staff monitors each and every step, and the resulting spirits clearly reflect this obsession with detail. The Striped Pig manufactures and bottles high end rum, vodka, and whiskey. It also turns out a very drinkable moonshine—for those of you who like to have your cocktails served in mason jars.
I bring up the process of manufacture simply to differentiate The Striped Pig from those establishments that buy their sprits in bulk, then filter, flavor, blend and bottle. These are not craft distillers, and they rely mainly on marketing techniques to sell their products. When a product is nursed from the seed to the aging barrel, sense of ownership follows that far transcends merely mixing it up and putting it in a bottle. The Striped Pig does the whole process, and then sells their product at a price competitive with other bottles of far lesser quality. Also visit www.porchscene.com to see a more detailed version of my experience at the Striped Pig.
Categories: Tom's Blog