Founder Ollie Mulligan’s Rua single-malt whiskey was the winner in the Drink category for Garden & Gun’s annual list of the best products made in the South.
Rua is inspired by Mulligan’s Irish roots, and is made with N.C. mountain spring water and aged in new American white oak barrels. While single malt is usually a Scotch, it actually means a whiskey made with a single malted grain, usually barley. (Whiskey 101: Malting is a process of letting a grain germinate and then stopping it, usually by drying or smoking, so that it it has lots of sugar that can be eaten by yeast to produce alcohol. Most whiskeys have malted barley in the mash, usually along with corn, wheat or rye, to help with fermentation, but single malts are made from a single grain. So endeth the lesson.)
I was tickled to see one of the runners-up in the drinks category is Osterwit, the oyster-shell infused aquavit made by James River Distillery in Richmond. James River is co-owned by Kristi Croxton, the wife of Travis Croxton, whose Rappahannock Oyster Co. also owns the restaurant RockSalt in Charlotte. I visited James River while doing research on my upcoming book on Southern craft distilleries and grabbed a bottle of Ostervit. It makes a solid Bloody Mary and a mighty interesting caraway-tinged martini.
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There were other N.C. wins in the Garden & Gun awards, which cover six categories (Food, Drink, Style, Outdoors, Home and Crafts.) In the Home category, the winner was Terrane Glass Designs of Spruce Pine. Owner Colin O’Reilly also was the overall winner, getting $10,000. in the Outdoor category, Jerry Talton of Stella, N.C., won for Core Sound decoys, while in the Crafts category, the winner was John Montgomery Inc. of Raleigh, which makes handmade musical instruments.
The full list of winners and runners-up will be in the magazine’s December/January edition, or you can find all the details online at www.gardenandgun.com/madeinthesouth.