Moonshine, white lightning, hooch – whatever you call it, there is a burgeoning industry these days making the stuff. Sure, it’s not true moonshine in that you can legally obtain it, but it still hearkens back to the good ‘ol days of guys illegally distilling something in the mountains of Tennessee while evading the authorities. Now you can proudly walk directly into Sugarlands Distilling Company in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee and taste samples of their Sugarlands Shine, 2o versions in fact. And there’s behind the-scenes tours of the production facility, live music, Appalachian storytelling, and outdoor adventure tours in the Sugarlands, an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I recently sampled two of their ‘Shines, the Root Beer Moonshine and their Appalachian Sipping Cream, what they call Electric Orange Sipping Liqueur. Using mainly corn and rye as their base for a neutral spirit, they then add in various flavors (they have a Peanut Butter and Jelly, Blueberry Muffin, and Coffee versions as well) to create a proprietary moonshine. And I can tell you this, these are damn good.
With the Root Beer you are immediately hit with the noticeable smell of root beer. You still get the notes of sassafras, molasses, and cinnamon and there is a slight sweetness to this, which underlies the idea that you don't really notice much of the alcohol note. This also means it’s easy to drink and it’s ideal for a grown-up root beer float.
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of orange drinks and as a kid if there was orange sherbet or an orangesicle bar or cream soda, I would avoid it. And then I tried the Appalachian Sipping Cream, and wow, what a great surprise. The Orange is wonderfully creamy with notes of orange, nutmeg, citrus zest and so compelling and terribly fun to drink. I’m a huge fan of limoncello crema (where they add cream) and this is exactly like that, smooth and velvety and the orange is light, bright but not heavy or acidic. And if you’re like me, this will be gone quickly. Bottom line? You’ll grow sweet on Sugarlands.