Archives for March 2014

Troy & Sons Platinum Whiskey Review

Troy & Sons Platinum whiskey is billed as the “first true American Moonshine”, I can believe that this IS the stuff that the moonshiners kept at home, instead of selling down the road.  And likely one of the reasons they didn’t leave home, but I digress. I’m originally from back East – I’ve tried ‘shine.  Apparently I was getting the road ‘shine, because it tasted like roadkill, not matter what fruit floated in it.  But Platinum is lovely – it’s also distinctly different from some of the others I’ve tried that have popped up in recent years.  Here are my notes – sláinte!

Color: Clear as the mountain stream that I’m sure must be somewhere nearby. Troy and Sons

Nose: There is zero burn to the nose of Platinum.  None.  There’s a sweetness that’s very present, but not overpowering.  Some of you may pick up a hint of a tequila smell, which I’ve noticed before in other moonshines.  I also noticed a hint of grape to the sweetness.  All in all, a very intriguing smell.

Taste: The sweet from the nose does carry through, but it has just enough kick that it’s not cloying. Another pleasantly smooth whiskey, which is another unusual characteristic for moonshine.  Troy only uses the hearts of the distillate, which shows. (for more on that, visit Liquor 101).  Overall, a great taste and something that would mix well in a variety of cocktails.  Check out Troy’s suggested recipes.

ABV: 40 (or 80 proof)

Price point: (online) $29.99 Comparable to other moonshines.

Other notes: Troy & Sons Platinum is the only whiskey in the world made with Crooked Creek Corn.  Paired with pure Appalachian spring water, this moonshine….shines. Check it out now!

Three out of three – nicely done!

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Products were provided for my review – the opinions expressed are completely my own.

The Noble Experiment NYC

Who would guess that a rum-running Prohibition-age gangster would inspire someone to start making rum in Brooklyn nearly 100 years later?  Meet Bridget C. Firtle, founder and owner of The Noble Experiment NYC.  Her rum, Owney’s, is named after Owen Madden, a bit of an infamous character in 1920’s New York.  But Bridget is far from infamous – in fact, she’s working toward a rum empire of her own, sans gangsters of course!

The Noble Experiment founder

I was able to catch up with Bridget for the 2nd post in my series on female distillers for Women’s History Month.  (you can read the first here)  Bridget’s currently a one-woman show – early on, she’d put bottles of rum in her bag and pound the pavement, getting the word out on Owney’s.  Let’s find out how it all started:

LYL: When you left the hedge fund and started TNE, tell me about the day you decided to take the plunge.

BCF: I had been envisioning TNE and bringing rum distilling back to New York for years before I made the leap.  It really began as a fantasy while I was doing research and investing in the alcoholic beverage industry for the hedge fund.  Over the course of the first 6 months of 2011, that vision kept getting louder and louder inside my head and I couldn’t seem to ignore it.  One day in June of 2011, I was watching a TED talk about venture capital given by a professor at the Stanford Business School.  He was expressing to the students that they wouldn’t have the credentials or experience to enter a venture capital firm without having run their own business first.  It was so motivating to hear him speak about encouraging his students to take risk and not be afraid to fail.  I started writing a business plan how to execute my vision that day.  I spent to rest of 2011 figuring out funding and left the hedge fund the day before Christmas Eve 2011.  That day was extremely liberating and exciting like so many days since.  It’s indescribable to be in control of your own destiny and truly know what you were meant to do.

LY: I think it’s awesome that you made your rum – and went door to door, hustling

 your hooch.  Not every day was a “yes, I’ll buy it!” day – what keeps you going?

 BCF: There are lots of things internally and externally that keep me going.  I think I am inherently a very driven, motivated and disciplined individual.  I am also a risk-taker (that happens to be all-in!).  Most importantly, I feel very strongly about my love of rum and very proud of Owney’s which is really awesome to get to share with the world.  From an external standpoint, it’s the consumers.  It’s an unbelievable feeling to receive tweets/instagram pics/emails from strangers telling me how much they love Owney’s.  I have started printing these things out and pinning them up in my office.  They are truly priceless and I am so grateful for each and every acknowledgement. 

On the days when things are bad, I talk to myself.  Sometimes I stare at the ceiling and talk to myself.  Lots of times I listen to rap really loud and run fast at the gym and talk to myself.  Sometimes it feels like someone has you up against the ropes and is just working you with body shots.  So you tell yourself to get up.  You look for one little ounce of strength and energy and you capitalize on it and you yell at yourself to keep your head up and keep swinging.  So yelling at myself is the answer on those days.  The best part of those days is you forget how bad they can be because the next day is undoubtedly better.  And let’s face it, the pleasure would never be as good without the pain. 

LYL: What do you think the advantages are of being a woman in a male-dominated industry? Do you think being Bridget instead of Bob helps to sell your product?

BCF: I think in my case, it sets me apart and acts as a point of differentiation for my company and product just like the ingredients or distillation technique.  I really don’t believe the consumer of my product cares if I am a man or a woman.  They care about good juice.  They also care about authenticity and transparency.  I like to keep things real and normal and not ‘sell’ anyone on anything – including being a woman.  I happened to be born a woman so it is hard to answer questions that involve being a woman vs being a man since I have never been a man.  I would imagine it is just as hard for both sexes to construct a distillery, make good booze and build a brand.

LYL: Like any product made from scratch by a human, distilling is as much art as it science. Bridget taught herself the science – visiting distillers from New York to Kentucky, and reading everything she could lay her hands on.  But the  art – that intangible something that separates a good product from a great one. How did you learn the art?TNE_Distillery

BCF: The art was a combination of two main things.  First off, it was drinking lots of rum.  By doing so, I was able to smell and taste what I liked and disliked.  When I liked a certain style, I would then try to find out everything I could about the inner-workings/making of that particular product.  By understanding what flavor profiles resulted from certain techniques, I was able to shape my own unique style.  Once I understood that concept, I took it to the distillery and played.  Lots of the art is learning by doing.  Every day builds on itself and my art is ever-evolving.

LYL: Is an aged rum or maybe whiskey in your future plans once Owney’s is, well, holding its own?

BCF: Yes, most definitely.  Hopefully, I will have the chance to lay down a number of barrels in 2014 that will contribute to our aged rum program.  No whiskey or other spirits on the horizon.  Just rum.  I love rum.  We want to be New York’s rum distillery with a number of varietals (eventually!).

Make sure if you’re in New York that you stop by The Noble Experiment for a tour and tasting – tell them LikeYourLiquor sent you!

Willa Vodka review

I will admit that I’ve encountered a vodka or two over the years.  Some better, and some far worse, than others.  When I got into craft liquors and tried vodka, I was happy to find nuances and some actual flavors that come from using organic ingredients. The care that goes into a craft liquor is usually obvious, and Willa Vodka doesn’t disappoint in that respect.  Here are my notes – sláinte!

Color: I’m pretty sure this one goes without saying, right?

Nose: Very faint smell of alcohol, with a touch of sweet.  And when I say “faint”, I had to take a few whiffs to really get a feel for it – which is good!  Vodka is a neutral spirit – it shouldn’t jump out at you before you even taste it.

Taste: I start every review with the chosen spirit neat, so I noticed the legs on the glass first, which is pretty unusual for vodka.  (Legs are basically what stays on the side of the glass after you swirl it around, normally a wine term.) The key brand facts on their website mention an optimum viscosity, which isn’t something I associate with vodka, so I was intrigued.  The taste has pretty much the same amount of burn as the smell – which is to say, almost none.  Very smooth, light finish. Adding the single ice cube (also suggested from their site), it’s actually even smoother, with an almost chocolate finish. 

ABV: 35% (70 proof) It has a slightly lower ABV than its counterparts, along with a slightly lower calorie count. 

Price point: $28. Vodkas that I’d consider drinkable range from $25-$60, so this fits nicely in anyone’s budget. Get your bottle here.

Other notes: Willa Vodka is a versatile spirit.  Smooth and clean, it works on the rocks or would mix well in any of your favorite drinks.  It seems a shame to lose this vodka in a Bloody Mary, but to each his own. For me, a squeeze of a Meyer lemon did nicely (they are sweeter than regular lemons).

This craft spirit has all the great characteristics combined into one glass: it both tastes and smell like something you want to drink. Mix it or not, it works either way.  Price-point makes for an affordable everyday drink and is definitely a good choice for a gift.

2 out of 3 – yum!

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Products were provided for my review – the opinions expressed are completely my own.

The Keeper – Troy & Sons whiskeys

Not only does Troy Ball distill the “Keeper” kind of white whiskey, but she is a keeper.  Mother to three boys, two with special needs, she took care of her family until the boys were older and they qualified for assistance with their care.  Able to start something outside the home for herself, Troy wondered that would be.

In 2008, that day came.

After moving her family to North Carolina for health reasons, one of her new neighbors gave her a jar of his ‘shine – the good kind you keep, not what you sell down the road.  Troy thought the moonshine should have a place in the American beverage world, and that’s what she set out to do.

Welcome to LikeYourLiquor’s three part series about women in craft distilling, to celebrate Women’s History Month.  Meet Troy Ball of Asheville Distilling Co. I was able to catch up with Troy recently, to dig a little deeper into the story behind her moonshine.

LYL:  I admire your spirit (pun intended!), that you’re making what the locals like – you’re not trying to take the world by storm or drown the country in a bad product.  What struggles did you have starting off, that you alluded to on your site? Any other advantages to being a woman in a man’s world, other, than well, being a woman? 

TB: Starting out everyone thought I was crazy and I only had $20,000.  Those are two big hurdles.  My family and friends thought that I was crazy to go into the backwoods to learn how to make moonshine or white whisky, and when I told my husband that I needed to build a still he thought I had really lost it.  

With little money and no emotional support from my family, I had to dare to follow my intuition which was telling me that fine white whiskey was not yet on the market and this spirit would make beautiful cocktails.  I think women’s intuition played a big part in my decision making.  I was not afraid to listen to that voice in my heart and when it came to educating myself on the craft, it was very easy for me to switch hats constantly to build the business. And certainly the men in this world were more than happy to teach me what they knew once they realized I was serious. 

Troy Ball with her Platinum Whiskey

Troy Ball with her Platinum Whiskey

LYL: You mentioned that, “it takes large sums of money and constant work to spread the word about your products”.  What one thing would you say that you’ve done that has been the most effective (other than spend large sums of money)?

TB: I think we have been very good at getting publicity.  I knew from the beginning that we could not afford an expensive pr company, so I made sure that I story was well told and then I tried to put myself in all the right places for press to find me.  We also began collecting email addresses of visitors to our distillery when we opened.  We send monthly newsletters which are fun and well written.  This helps us to stay in touch with our fans.  (Watch Troy on CBS This Morning).

LYL: What’s the weirdest ingredient you’ve ever had in a cocktail? And be honest – if it wasn’t mixed with your Platinum Moonshine, did you want to go home and try it??

TB: By far the strangest ingredient that I have tasted in one of our cocktails is fish sauce.  It was an ingredient that was used in a competition that we held in South Beach.   And believe it or not Zivi’s cocktail won!

“Celebrate your independent spirit with one of ours” is one of the taglines on the Troy & Sons website: I think that’s a clear description of the woman behind the moonshine.

You can try out their Troy & Sons Platinum Moonshine, Oak Reserve or Blonde Whiskey that can be shipped to most states. If you’re in North Carolina, drop by the distillery for a tour and a tasting – tell them LikeYourLiquor sent you!

Troy & Sons products

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