Spirit of the Triad part two

by Kristi Maier

| @triadfoodies

To say that there’s a boom of distilleries in the Piedmont Triad might be putting it lightly. At last count, there are six in the region and those are the ones we know about. Until all the paperwork gets finalized, it’s a whole bunch of tidbits here and there, a lot of it veiled in secrecy.

Sutler’s Spirit Company, which we covered last week, is now mostly residing on the shelves of Forysth and Guilford counties, except when folks are buying it faster than the Sutler himself, Scot Sanborn, can make it.

A few other distilleries are in the “getting it all together” phase. And it appears that they are happily taking their time to make sure what they bring to market is a quality product. So let’s take a “tour” of distilleries that are going to be calling the Piedmont Triad “home.”


South Elm/Eugene Street

Bourbon and Rye Whiskey, Vodka and Gin are in the works at the first legit distillery in Guilford County since 1908. They’ll be distilling at the old Carolina Steele building downtown. A family-owned business, with Bob Bill Norman and Shelley Norman Johnson and their son Andrew, the elder Norman is a former chef who turned in the apron to learn business and open the couple’s Kneaded Energy in Greensboro. He says they are about five months away from completion. Norman says his background in cooking will help them in developing the right flavor profiles for their spirits but it’s his son that’s the real connoisseur. Vodka and Gin don’t take a long time, but bourbon is an eight-year process and Norman says they’ll be going about it the traditional way.

“My background is about creating a great product and we plan to through all the distilling, barreling and aging to make a great bourbon that is unique to us. And true to North Carolina too,” he said. “All the grain is organic and we know what farmer and what field all our grain comes from.”

All the grain that is used at the distillery will be organic grain from Sugar Hill in Kinston. Greensboro Distilling Company

plans to distribute their spirits across North Carolina then look at South Carolina and Tennessee before taking advantage of the love affair that other countries have with bourbon. They’ll be open for tours in the future as well.


756 Trade Street NW, Winston-Salem

These guys aren’t quite ready to spill all the info regarding their distillery. Owner John Fragakis says they have plans for whiskey and are working on grain sourcing. Expect a few more details in the coming months.


508 North Main Street, North Wilkesboro

It doesn’t’t get more deep-rooted than North Wilkesboro, what many call the Moonshine Capital of the World.

Owners George Smith and Sean Scott launched the business over their love of great whiskey. And Smith has been learning from some of the best. For one, Bill Samuels, who ran his family’s Makers Mark before retiring, took Smith under his wing, teaching him some tricks of the trade during trips to Kentucky where Smith has met barrel makers, marketing experts and distillery equipment builders. As they searched for a location for the distillery, Smith says they were invited to and visited various towns, but it was North Wilkesboro that beat out the likes of places like Asheville.

“We’vet had such overwhelming support from the community and local government. Plus just the place in history that North Wilkesboro has when it comes to spirits, I can’t believe we’d ever considered any other city.”

Add that to the fact that the location of the distillery actually sits on crystalline rock aquifer, a fresh well that provides the cleanest of clean water. And Smith has an actual living legend as his master distiller. Buck Nance has decades of knowledge about the industry and now works side by side with Smith in his hometown with hopes of passing his knowledge down to his son. Smith says, “I feel honored that he’s offered to work with me on a quality Moonshine and eventually our whiskey as well.”

Copper Barrel plans on starting out with moonshine, followed by an aged whiskey as well as bourbon. We know by now, that takes time, so after months of planning and mashing, Copper Barrel’s “Shine” is about to hit the shelves across North Carolina. Look for it in July. The distillery itself plans to be open for tours and host monthly live events.

Down the road in Wilkes County”¦


1611 Industrial Drive, Wilkesboro

Built on the legacy of seven generations and the famous moonshiner, Willie Clay Call, the distillery will craft moonshine, whiskey, bourbon and brandy. The master distiller is Call’s son, Brian. Operations officer, Brad Call, says “There will be a grand opening, most likely in August after the product is on the ABC shelves.” The family’s cane and grain recipe dates back to 1868. The distillery will be open for tours.


390 US-220, Madison

Well if one company is known as the trailblazer in the local area, it would be Piedmont Distillers, the first to distill in the region (legally, that is). In 2007, NASCAR legend Junior Johnson, who blazed a trail in stock car racing, legitimized his family’s moonshining business by partnering with Piedmont Distiller’s founder Joe Michalek to create Midnight Moon. Junior Johnson’s “Shine” of today features flavors from Original to 100 Proof, Strawberry, Blackberry, Apple Pie, Cherry, Blueberry, Cranberry, and the latest Raspberry, all in the iconic mason jar. You’ll pretty much find it in any liquor store in America. Piedmont Distillery is also responsible for the vanilla and spice moonshine known as Catdaddy.

We’ve noted where you’ll be able to enjoy tours and Greensboro Distilling’s Norman says, “to be able to produce and have tastings and tours, it will ultimately provide an economic impact on our area via tourism. It will be worth the wait.” !