Wednesday, July 17, 2013

TOPO Distillery Tour

I'll have another post about hiding vegetables so your kids won't know they're eating them on Friday, but today, it's all about spirits.

(The drinking kind, not the haunting kind.)

Becca of The Gourmez organized a Triangle-area bloggers tour of TOPO Distillery in Chapel Hill, NC.  (If you're not local, the Triangle is roughly the area made up of Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill, NC.)

Scott Maitland (who I thought looked like Nathan Fillion's older brother), better known as the owner of Chapel Hill's Top of the Hill Restaurant, decided to get into the spirits game a few years back and TOPO Distillery was born.  The distillery is currently producing white whiskey, vodka, and gin (and we got to sample them!).

If you'll remember from when I went to the book signing with Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, I'm more awkward than the most awkward thing you can think of on its most awkward day when I'm put into a situation where I'm having to have a conversation with people I don't know.  I walked in to the distillery all awkward, but was immediately greeted by Esteban McMahan, our guide for the evening, and Becca herself, and  from then on, I was about 78% less awkward.

I have this thing I do, where when I'm feeling awkward, even 78% less so, I tend to agree to things I wouldn't necessarily agree to.  So when Esteban said, "Do you drink gin?" I was like, "Yeah!  Of course!"  (I don't.  I thought it tastes like Christmas trees.  This opinion would be different by the end of the evening.)

He made me this cocktail that included the distillery's gin, blueberries, lemon juice, and I believe simple syrup.  Holy crap, you guys.  It was really, really good! 

There were also snacks from Top of the Hill, and I assume you guys have been reading me long enough to know how I feel about snacks.  (Snacks are the best thing ever.  Give me snacks, and we will be friends.)  Why I have no pictures of said snacks, I'll never know.  But they were wonderful.

People wandered in, and we all spent time chatting.  Since I'm relatively new to the blogging game, I had not met any of the bloggers in attendance, although I read most of them regularly.  I got the chance to meet Becca, Kim of Triangle Localista, Leigh of Hines Sight Blog, John of The Triangle Explorer, and Tom and Kathleen of Life with the Lushers.  I tried not to be too fangirly, but a little of that may have happened.

When our tour got underway, Esteban brought us through the plant and showed us all the impressive-looking equipment the distillery uses to produce their spirits.  There were giant tubes everywhere, and several complicated machines that take the spirits through the meticulous process of being drinkable.  There were also several oak barrels of whiskey, aging away.

Esteban explained the entire process of how the spirits are made, which I won't even attempt to relay here.  For one, because I don't want to miss anything.  For another, if you don't know, it's all the more reason to go take the tour yourself!

After our tour, we assembled for a tasting.  I can tell you definitively that if you think you don't like gin, it's only because you've never tasted this one. 

This is what's in TOPO's gin.

It's made with (and forgive me if I forget something) lemon peel, lime peel, cardamom, star anise, rosemary, and coriander and, as it turns out, it and the other spirits are all certified organic and are made from local ingredients.  (The exception to the local rule is the juniper berries, but that's because there's not enough locally to provide what they need.  Still organic, though!)  TOPO is the only certified organic distillery in the South, so that's cool, too!

We did a tasting of TOPO's spirits side-by-side with other popular brands, and the consensus was that TOPO's tasted much better and were much smoother than the other stuff we tried.

(Me, I liked watching the liquor go into the plastic shot glasses!  Incidentally, the shot glasses are compostable.)

After our tasting, we mingled for a while longer before everyone said goodnight. 

All in all, a great tour of a great facility.  Thanks to Scott and Esteban for being our gracious hosts, and to Becca for gathering us all together.

If you're local, you can get TOPO spirits at many ABC stores, or you can get your own tour of the facilities.  I'd highly recommend it, especially if you think you don't like gin.  (I think you're wrong.)

TOPO Distillery

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