To Do This Weekend: Charleston Distillery Tour

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This past weekend, Paul and I had the awesome opportunity to experience the newest tour offered by Charleston Culinary Tours, the Charleston Distillery Tour.

The 3.5 hour long tour is $50 per person and includes tours of three local micro distilleries, tastings at each, and a cocktail made with one of the liquors by local mixologists. It also includes transportation, snacks, water, and a lot of insight from Charleston Culinary Tour tour guides.

We met our tour group at the Charleston Visitors Center Bus Shed, and the van was easy to find. Even though this is a newer tour, the van already has “Charleston Distillery Tours” on the side — we definitely appreciated this because there are a lot of things going on in that bus shed!

Once on the bus, our tour guides, Oscar and Glenn, gave us background information about the distillery scene in Charleston. Microdistilleries are a new addition to the Charleston foodie scene, despite the fact that there are well over 1000 bars in Charleston, and that we are, as we learned, a town of liquor drinkers.

IMG_6774Our first stop was Striped Pig Distillery, where we got to meet Johnny. Johnny is the founder/owner/lead distiller at Striped Pig and his passion was infectious. We loved learning about his journey to begin selling his own booze, as well as some fun tidbits about how beer changed the world.

What we loved:

  • The liquor! My favorite was the spiced rum, which is brewed with vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, and molasses. The flavor reminded me of a sugar cookie, and I think it would taste bomb.com in a decadent French toast recipe. We also tried their gin, vodka, and white rum. Johnny prides himself in producing really clean, drinkable liquors, and it totally comes through in the taste.IMG_6766
  • Johnny. Seriously, Johnny is just cool. Both Paul and I agreed that we wish we could work for him, for free, and then have a drink with him afterwards. Like I mentioned, he was SO passionate about teaching about distilling. One cool thing we learned: the term “proof (as in 100 proof)” comes from back in the old days when people literally asked for proof that the alcohol was good. They proved it by lighting their booze on fire!
  • The name. The name Striped Pig is derived from history. During Temperance, it was illegal to sell liquor under 15 gallons. So, a clever rum seller instead sold tours to view a pig painted with stripes. And, following their tour, were given a glass of rum. The historical significance of the name mirrors Johnny’s passion for the history of beer and liquor in America.

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Next, we found our way to High Wire Distilling. High Wire has more unique, culinary inspired, liquors, which makes sense, since the owners previously owned Immaculate Baking, which makes natural and organic baked goods dough. Fun fact: I have been a lover of Immaculate Baking’s cranberry-orange scones for a very long time, so it was neat to meet Scott.

What we loved:

  • The gin. If I’m being honest, I really don’t like most gins. To me, it tastes like household cleaner. High Wire’s gin is really fantastic, though, and their new release of gin, coming out soon, is even better. We got to try the first batch of their newest gin, and it’s got heavy citrus notes. Scott told us that many non-gin drinkers love it, and I totally agree.
  • Our tour guide. Our tour guide (and tasting guide) was so knowledgeable about the product, and was able to share High Wire’s story with us in a way that got us excited to taste their liquors. High Wire makes a lot of specialty small batch liquors, like watermelon brandy, that we weren’t able to try, but still got to learn about.IMG_6793
  • The tasting room. High Wire’s tasting room is gorgeous. I could totally see it as a great place to kick off a bachelor or bachelorette party, especially since Butcher and Bee is right next door. Another thing we loved? High Wire’s branding is strong: the tied paper toppers on each bottle of liquor are pretty neat.

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Our last distillery was Charleston Distilling Co, which is right on King Street. Charleston Distilling Co is the newest of the three distilleries, which is obvious because they’re the only Distillery not yet selling Whiskey (which has to be aged). As a distillery, they also seem the most poised to launch as a national brand: they delayed opening the distillery last summer to wait for customized (and very cool) bottles.

What we loved:

  • Tolerance. Tolerance is a whiskey liqueur (they’ve added simple syrup) that’s distilled with ginger and cinnamon. It was a sweet treat following tasting standard spirits, and would taste great in a spiced cider. I also loved getting to help make Tolerance by stirring in a big barrel:IMG_6817
  • Our tour guide. Sense a commonality here? It seems like the people who work in distilling really love what they do. Our tour guide at Charleston Distilling Co was full of passion, which makes sense since she also helps with the distilling process. She’s a former College of Charleston student, and her ties to the town were obvious.
  • The space. Charleston Distilling Co is the most accessible of the three because you can just wander in off of King Street. The space is beautiful: super open, exposed brick, AND the smell of Jeni’s waffle cones wafts into their barrel room. You can actually rent this space out for events, which is very cool.

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We ended our tour at Burwells, which is home to some of Charleston’s top mixologists. We capped off our day by trying one of their signature cocktails: Can’t Touch This. Burwell’s makes their cocktails batch style, which ensures drink consistency. The Can’t Touch This featured Striped Pig white rum,  prickly pear cactus juice, pomegranate juice, and ginger beer. We opted to order off their happy hour menu, and I got to try what I believe is the best burger in Charleston for $5, which is an unreal deal.

Bottom Line: The Charleston Distillery Tour was a fun way to experience Charleston’s three craft distilleries, and led us to a new favorite restaurant/bar in Burwell’s. We would absolutely recommend going on a Charleston Culinary Tour, because Oscar and Glenn are clearly passionate about the Charleston food scene. Next, we are really looking forward to trying their mixology tour, since we prefer our liquor mixed instead of straight.

To learn about all of Charleston Culinary Tours’ offerings and schedule your distillery tour, click here.

Paul and I were given the opportunity to go on the Charleston Distillery Tour complimentary in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

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