Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Moon Pie MoonShine [Local Dish]
My beloved Carol and I go on many adventures together. Of those adventures, some of our favorites have become wine or distillery tours. It started as something we tried randomly as a result of a rogue Groupon deal, but it's escalated to something we've sought out intently over time. Our most recent excursion took us to Marion County, KY for the White Moon Winery - a fantastic little stop and one of the most educational wine tours I've ever experienced. The owners were friendly, kind, and I'll soon have a review up of our time there (featuring a recipe based on their recommendation).
At the end of our time there, Alex Payne - the smart and endearing owner of the winery - told us that if we had some time, we should go down the road a few miles and check out Limestone Branch Distillery. She told us they made some genuinely strange Moonshine there, and it would be worth our trip. We had some time to kill (having had to plan out our day on getting out of Louisville), so we went down the road a few miles to find the place she suggested.
Carol's parents, my mother, and Matt are Moon Pie enthusiasts, so we were excited to see what the distillery tour might bring, but we honestly didn't expect for so much of the distillery to be dedicated to this one product. That is until we found out that the official Moon Pie company approached this specific distillery to develop a Moonshine flavor that spoke to their audience. How random, right? But Kentucky is good for many things and, especially within the Bourbon Trail, distilleries are one of them. It's my guess that Moon Pie knew their brand was safe in the hands of Steve Beam (of the Beam family legacy), and it was a good bet to take.
Their facilities were incredibly cool. Their ceiling was stylized to look like the burnt inside of a barrel, and there was Moon Pie memorabilia for miles. There were also some very cool things like broken bits of used barrell for smoking (something my father would mightily enjoy for his Big Green Egg whenever I return - because a return is definitely in order). We spoke with someone regarding a tour and tasting (free!) and walked around the shop and pet the distillery dogs - two big, fluffy Chow Chows who wander about the place making sure all is well with the local humans - while we waited for our turn. (When questioned regarding the dogs' names, Carol's response: "Sleepy and The Other One." I feel these are fine, upstanding monikers.)
Going through the tour was an interesting experience - different from ones I've seen before. While I've tried and experienced some of the very unique moonshine culture in a visit to my parents down in South Carolina, I hadn't truly seen the inner workings of the process. Most of it went over my head, but the thing that most strongly kept with me was wanting to try the mash (I was told it was delicious! You can't taunt me like that.). Our guide, also, told us that they've started bourbon production! An exciting and auspicious venture within our state lines. And, although the bourbon won't be ready for several years, I look forward to one day trying it.
For our tasting, we tried several strange and wonderful things. Given a choice of five, I grabbed all three of the Moon Pie flavors (why wouldn't you?): vanilla, chocolate, and banana. The vanilla was given in a shot glass with some Orange Crush to make what was essentially a Creamsicle juice. It did not taste like alcohol, which is all kinds of dangerous and awesome and lead me to buy a jar for both "my husband" (read: me) and my mother. I also tried their Blackberry and Pumpkin Pie flavors - both excellent. They pride themselves on exclusively using natural ingredients for their Sugar Shine, and there is a stark and noticeable contrast between them and their liquid Moon Pie cousins. The difference between a bite of an sweet, crisp apple and a piece of candy.
Moonshine gets sort of a weird rap for being straight poison, but it's a slow heat that's surprisingly unabrasive and comforting (when imbibed moderately). If you have an opportunity to try it in your area (meaning you're probably in the South unless you're especially lucky), I highly recommend it! Sometimes things can surprise you. And if you're near Lebanon, Kentucky, you should definitely swing on by Limestone Branch Distillery and White Moon Winery. I think they might surprise you even a little more!