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Our man on the barstool tells you how to get your ’Shine on
While everyone is glued to the TV during the next couple of weeks, with unblinking eyes aimed toward Brazil, watching the flash of bright fluorescent cleats streak across the glossy green turf of grossly expensive new stadiums, the Internet is all a-flutter with searches for exotic South American treats. Concoctions such as Coxinhas and Forofa, Feijoada and Vatapa, Bauru and Quidim with Pavé and Requeijau are being whipped up in kitchens across America like characters from a Dr. Seuss recipe book. To go alongside those are beverages like Caipirinha and Batida, Alua and Porradinha that are sure to impress even those eager to catch a glimpse of Ipanema crawling with thong-wearing tourists during the commercials. That’s great and all, because it’s really a lot of fun to take in the strange and wonderful culture of Rio de Janeiro from the comfort of a living room 4,859 miles away.
But anyone that’s actually been to Rio usually comes away with one thought: “It could use a fresh coat of paint.” This is very much like the barn that houses the soon-to-be-famous Sugarland Distillery in Gatlinburg, TN.
(Ha! Ha! And you thought that a Segue was just a two-wheeled scooter! Gotcha!)
Nestled deep in the Smoky Mountains (and in the heart of the airbrushed muscle-T industrial complex) is the latest of the new generation of legalized moonshine stills. This burgeoning art form is exploding all over the liquor scene like Bo and Luke Duke’s hot-rod arrowheads.
Sugarland is housed in a building made from four recycled East Tennessee barns, dating from the pre-Civil War era, that still carry their original red, white and blue paints to prove you can’t get any more ‘Merican than this.
The Sugarland Distillery’s ’shine gets its origin from Tennessee white corn ground on premises in a stone burr mill and then combined with pure cane sugar cooked up in a copper pot still. The leftovers from the previous batch are passed on to the next generation of mash. So, each jar is an heirloom recipe which ensures consistency and originality for every sip.
Their main original recipe comes in the required Mason jar-type container, with a label that names it “Silver Cloud”. Although the name derives from the stills that were hidden in the hills of Appalachia, one can deduce it’s the Rolls-Royce of the distillery’s line. Its taste has been described as a combination of fresh corn and cotton. I’m not sure what fresh cotton actually tastes like, so, I’ll just agree and tell you that it’s very smooth and a little sweet—until the 100-proof afterburner kicks in and thrusts your throat straight into involuntarily spouting the word, “Wow!” I’m guessing this is one of the reasons our ancestors were said to be “hearty men back in those days”.
The folks up at Sugarland have also teamed with Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” personality Jim Tom Hedrick to create what they call “Unaged Rye”. This is one of Jim Tom’s recipes. Now, rye has a more peppery flavor that is closer in taste to a Canadian blend or what you might get in an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. However, Jim Tom’s has a bit more of a punch…the kind from a fist and not the kind from a bowl. And like Jim Tom likes to say, “Golly, that’s good.”
The fellas up in the ’burg are busy indeed, expanding the envelope of the old copper still as we all know it by adding some twists on the original idea of moonshine. Not to be tied by tradition entirely, they’ve come up with flavors like “Appalachian Apple Pie”, “Blockader’s Blackberry”, “Butterscotch Gold” and “Old Fashioned Lemonade”. All of these are guaranteed to liven up conversations in polite company and satisfy the “Eeuw, moonshine” person inevitably lurking around every rumpus room.
Sugerland Distillery’s bottled lightning is becoming more available in the area. There’s even a helpful list on their website with the locations. All of this is good to know because it makes getting ready for the next FIFA match a heck of a lot easier, and chances are your once-every-four-years friends won’t know the difference between a Caju Amigo and Shinola anyway. And this stuff has enough zoot that it will make all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s haircuts look even more hilarious than they already are.