Scott Sanborn opened Sutler's Spirits, the first legal distillery in Winston-Salem in 200 years, in 2014.


by Anthony Harrison

North Carolina is making a name for itself by producing fine beer — and lots of it. From Asheville to Farmville, dozens of breweries can be found across the Old North State.

Yet North Carolina possesses a long history with liquor — albeit a shady one. Moonshine, the great white whiskey, affected this state deeply, with the unintended consequence of spawning what would become one of America’s most beloved sports: stock-car racing.

However, there are only a handful of distilleries in the entire state. Asheville has not one, but two. To our north, Madison’s Piedmont Distillers produces both Catdaddy and Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon whiskeys.

In my opinion, Johnson was a better driver than distiller.

That’s sadly the case with other distilleries, too. For example, Muddy River’s website boasts that its Carolina Rum turned out so smooth, they didn’t bother to barrel age it. After tasting it once, I’d suggest two things: barrel-age the rum, and don’t lie.

This is the 21st Century. Things pick up lightning quick, and you’d better be prepared to either sink or swim — or at least float.

My suggestion is to increase the competition.

Winston-Salem has already jumped at the opportunity. Sutler’s Spirit Company, opening this spring in the West End Mill Works, will offer gin, rum and eventually an aged whiskey.

With another distillery open in Winston-Salem and one planned for Greensboro, it seems the other Triad towns getting in on this while the getting’s good.

Sutler’s represents a possible change of the guard regarding trends. While Greensboro now sports a number of breweries and High Point has one, with others waiting in the wings, the cities need to get on Winston-Salem’s level and recognize this fact: Craft liquor is the future of booze. Gin especially has come back in a big way — wouldn’t it be great to enjoy a High Point highball or a Nathaniel Greene negroni straight from the source?

As a state and a community, we’ve done a great job with beer, and we’ll continue to do so. I’m just saying we could diversify our options.

After all, man cannot live on beer alone.

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