Asheville's Craft Spirit Boom

Original Article: The Chemist, other new distilleries, part of Asheville craft spirit boom
By Mackensy Lunsford, Asheville Citizen Times

The Chemist's gin brings to the forefront notes of orange, lemon, tangerine and grapefruit.   (Photo: Matt Burkhartt/Citizen Times

The Chemist's gin brings to the forefront notes of orange, lemon, tangerine and grapefruit. (Photo: Matt Burkhartt/Citizen Times

For a while, Western North Carolina was known for one spirit, and one spirit only: moonshine. From the underground bootleg wares of Popcorn Sutton to the entirely legal and slickly branded Troy & Sons moonshine — so above-ground that it's sold at Disney Resorts — moonshine and Appalachia were practically synonymous. Now, there's a new wave of distillers in the region, paying homage to mountain culture and ingredients while joining the contemporary craft-cocktail movement.

Such is the case with the relatively newly formed Apothecary Beverage Company, which last month opened a tasting room for its beverage label, The Chemist.

Adjoining a forthcoming private cocktail bar called Antidote, the tasting room is outfitted as a Prohibition-era apothecary, nodding to a time when alcohol was available only via prescription.

 
I wanted to not only blend in with the architecture of downtown Asheville, but I also wanted to reflect our concept: The Chemist, or pharmacist, from the Prohibition era. I wanted people to step in here, and feel like they were walking back in time.
— Debbie Word
The still at the Chemist Craft Distillery on Coxe Avenue in Asheville's South Slope. Photo- Matt Burkhartt.jpg

THE GIN

The gin available out of that tasting room is something wholly modern, however. It's made in an American traditional style — also known as "New Western" style, said creative director and co-founder James Donaldson. "That refers to any gin that downplays juniper and pumps up other botanicals. In our case, it's the citrus."

The Chemist's gin brings to the forefront notes of orange, lemon, tangerine and grapefruit. "And then the juniper berry comes in in the middle and it finishes with floral notes," said co-founder Brandon Horne. "You'll notice also a creamy sweetness in the body of it."

That sweetness melds well in cocktails with bitter agent, though the gin is perfectly suited for sipping neat.

Chemist_Asheville_NC.jpg

Then there's the Eau de Vie, an unaged brandy apple brandy made with cider from Urban Orchard.


There is a resurgence in using eau de vie in classic cocktail recipes, there’s a growing market for these types of products just to make more diverse cocktails.
— James Donaldson

A good portion of that apple brandy is resting in barrels, with the oaked brandy slated to be ready for market in about two years. Meanwhile, The Chemist will release new products nearly quarterly. Some are secret, but Donaldson was open about the first batch of barrel-rested gin, to be ready in the coming months. There's also a lavender absinthe in the works, as well as aged whiskey.

"But our strength comes from formulations of botanicals in clear spirits," Donaldson said.


Find The Chemist at bars including The Waterbird, White Labs Kitchen & Tap and The Montford Rooftop Bar, with more to come.

Visit the distillery now at 151 Coxe Ave.