Charlie & Debbie

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A growing trend in Hollywood among leading men is to take their money and invest in alcohol.  Casamigos Tequila was originally owned and then sold for multi-millions by George Clooney.  Aviation Gin is the lucrative liquor plaything of Ryan Reynolds.  And now, the latest actor to climb into the booze game is Jeremy Renner.  Yes, “Hawkeye” from “The Avengers” movies made this announcement on his Instagram regarding the Sweet Grass Vodka in Charleston.

An exciting new week !!!  I’m so grateful for the progress I’ve made since the start of this year which allowed me to move forward with my interest in Sweet Grass Vodka. Their mission is rooted in community and shared experience, which is why the second I tried it, I knew I wanted to become a part of it. I’m excited for new ventures ahead.

This is a stunning development considering it was only eight months ago that Renner almost lost his life in that devastating snowplow accident.  If you’ve forgotten, the incident occurred while Renner was helping his neighbors clear out the snow. He broke over 30 bones and underwent multiple surgeries after his snowplow ran him over.

Sweet Grass’ website touts the Vodka’s credentials.   As seen in Forbes in 2021, Sweet Grass Vodka has been awarded by three Global Masters Awards for Micro Distillery, Smoothest and Organic, in addition to being awarded a gold medal as the Best Domestic Vodka of 2022 by The Fifty Best.  Founded in Charleston, SC, Sweet Grass Vodka consists of three simple ingredients: potatoes, water and yeast.  Each bottle of Sweet Grass Vodka contains a single strand of sweetgrass: purchased from the local Gullah Geechee artisans in the Charleston City Market in bushels, cut to size, washed and sanitized, dried and bottled by hand.   “There’s a piece of Charleston in every bottle.”

According to People, the Charleston-made potato vodka retails for $26 and is sold in stores in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, and Tennessee and is available for purchase online nationwide.

Renner plans on a cross-country tour.  He’ll sign bottles to promote his new brand.  Details are forthcoming.

North Carolina's Best Whiskey Distilleries

I came across a story this morning that had two words together that immediately piqued my interest:  bourbon tourism.  Uh, where do I sign up?!  Attendance at distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail surpassed 2 million in 2022 for the first time ever. Total visits exceeded 2.1 million last year, easily beating the pre-pandemic record of 1.7 million stops in 2019. In the past decade, the “amber adventure” has had a 370% surge in attendance. The distillers’ association created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in 1999 to give visitors an intimate, educational look behind the state’s most historic distilleries. Total attendance at its 18 participating distilleries nearly reached 1.4 million last year.  But, what about North Carolina’s best whiskey distilleries?

North Carolina's Best Whiskey Distilleries

Hey, wait a minute.  Nothing against Kentucky, but there is PLENTY of whiskey joy right here in the Tar Heel State to keep you sated.  My wife and I have a set of friends that we spend “Sunday Fundays” exploring North Carolina breweries and wineries.  This year, we’re branching out into craft cocktail spots and distilleries.  In no particular order, here are five spots that are on our list to visit, tour, sample their wares, and pick up a bottle or two for our stock.  So, enjoy our list of North Carolina’s best whiskey distilleries.

  • Asheville Distilling Company

    Let’s start our journey in Asheville with The Asheville Distilling Company.  According to their websiteOur founder, Troy, learned her craft from the old men in the mountains and from a few scattered through the south. Determined to understand why some whiskeys were smooth and others were rough, she searched high and low, listened to those that actually made great whiskey on their home places, and then did countless test distillations for over one year to perfect her recipes. Troy was dedicated to making authentic and high quality spirits that highlighted the secrets of the old American whiskey makers. She promised to keep their identities secret and their knowledge pure.

    Yes, please.  Their signature product is their “Blonde Whiskey.”  It is joined by “Trey & Sons Oak Reserve,” “Troy & Sons Cinnamon and Honey” (you’ll never want Fireball again), “Troy & Sons Nectarine and Honey Whiskey,” and “Troy & Sons Platinum” which looks to be about as pure a Carolina moonshine as you can get.

  • Blue Ridge Distilling Company

    Even if you’ve never heard of the Blue Ridge Distilling Company, chances are you have heard the name “Defiant Whisky.”  Well, this is where it comes from.  Unique in that it’s a single malt made not in the highlands of Scotland, but rather in Bostic, North Carolina. Their primary spirit spelled “Whisky” (without the e) is a dead giveaway.   And from a deep dive (pun intended, you’ll see why in a second) on the web, the “Defiant” team is a unique distiller team indeed.  Our crew behind the stills are salvage divers by trade, working at the edge of catastrophe at the bottom of the ocean. We run towards certain disaster and change fate with metal, fire, water and intellect. Our whisky is created by those same virtues. In diving and in whisky, greatness is not coincidence. It is cultivated, pushed, practiced and always evolving. We’re rethinking whisky by taking the best of Scottish tradition and combining it with American ingenuity. We’re starting a whisky revolution.

    Too cool. And a must visit!

  • Mayberry Spirits Distillery

    I must say, before I looked at anything about this joint, I was most amused at the notion that the descendants of “Otis” must have gotten the family recipes as he was self-incarcerated in the town jail. <g>  I kid, of course.  There are a couple of unique traits to Mayberry Spirits.  One, is their products are made from a sorghum-syrup mash in copper stills.  And two, their website provides some cool craft cocktail recipes as well.  My favorite to try (and I guarantee my wife would be all in on this is made with their “Toasted Vanilla” product:  “Mayberry Dreamsicle”


    Like Creamsicles? No you aren’t dreaming… If you like Creamsicles, then you will love our liquid version! But be careful, you may find that your sips turn into one big gulp! Shake whiskey and ice cream in shaker until it liquefies. Pour 1.5 oz of SUNSHINE drink into martini glass, then strain shaker mix into glass. Pour remaining .5 oz SUNSHINE drink on top. Garnish with orange.

    Where do I sign up?!

  • Copper Barrel Distillery

    Time to get real on our list.  It’s pure ‘shine time kids.  The Copper Barrel Distillery in N. Wilkesboro was founded in 2013 by President and CEO George Smith and Master Distiller Buck Nance, Copper Barrel opened for business in North Wilkesboro in April of 2015. True to the heritage of Wilkes County, moonshine folk hero Buck Nance designed & fabricated the world’s first legal steam-injected distillation system; which we use to produce our award-winning spirits from ingredients sourced from North Carolina farms & mills. Each batch is then blended with water we extract on-site from the Crystalline-Rock Aquifer to create exceptionally smooth & full-flavored spirits that rival even the most extraordinary whiskies.  Flavors included Black Cherry, Blueberry, Red Cherry, Strawberry and just plain white lightnin’ moonshine.

  • Southern Distilling Company

    Last, but certainly not least on this list is a distillery that I’ve passed a hundred times on I-77 N.  Southern Distilling Company has had me intrigued for a long time now, and I can’t wait to get up there.  If there’s one thing you should know about us, it’s that we give a damn about our products, our people, and our process. That’s why we work with local farmers to source local ingredients, take the time to perfectly blend classic traditions with new innovation, and that’s why we do it all right here in Statesville.  They specialize in both bourbon and rye whiskey with a good variety.  Also, I’ve got to try the “Double Shot Coffee Bourbon Cream Liqueur.”

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