On the Rocks

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unnamed-4Seemingly overnight, Graham Street became a destination. It’s possible to spend an entire evening out on the town without straying from the very neighborly few blocks anchored by the Top of the Hill Distillery. As guest blogger – and Graham Street homeowner – Kate Sayre said, “Who can say they have a distillery … on their side of the street and on the other side … a barcade, a burger shack, a clothes salon, a hair salon, a yoga studio?” As a regular at Al’s Burger ShackThe Baxter and Beer Study, I knew I was overdue for my first visit to the distillery.

Nothing breaks the ice like a pint of Old Well White. My friend Missy and I had planned a double date so our boyfriends could meet and after their quick handshake, we hustled into the distillery. Our party of four was the last to arrive to the distillery off South Graham Street and we were immediately offered Top of the Hill beer (Score!). Before we got too comfy in our seats, our tour guide Keith, one of the distillers, whisked us into the back room with all the machinery. With mammoth vats and pipes running from floor to ceiling, it looked a little like Willy Wonka’s factory (except here gin, not Gobstoppers, is the final result). As we sipped our beer, Keith covered exactly what it takes to go from grain to glass. It’s pretty amazing how far and wide you can find their Piedmont Gin, Carolina Whiskey and Vodka at ABC stores yet they still put the labels on the bottles one at a time. Craft spirits indeed.

Back in the first room, we watched as Keith poured samples of well alcohol and TOPO Organic Spirits. Sipping the lower grade stuff and then the locally made liquor highlighted the stark contrast. In the simplest terms, one tastes/smells like rubbing alcohol; one goes down smooth. After the group tried the last Dixie Cup-size samples, we lingered as our inquisitive boyfriends still had more questions for Keith (and wanted just one more sip of the moonshine). Our job done, we of course stuck nearby for dinner, choosing burgers from Al’s.

For more info or to book a tour, check out their website. But before you go, read my tips!

  • Wear comfy shoes! The tour isn’t excessively long, but you’ll want to stand and be comfortable walking around all the machinery.
  • Ask questions. It’s OK to be curious! Our tour guide fielded all kinds of inquiries and we ended up learning even more about the distilling process.
  • Eat something beforehand. Between the Old Well White and the samples of vodka, gin and moonshine, we were more than ready for dinner at Al’s Burger Shack after the tour.

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Jessica Stringer

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