Clear Whiskey Taste Off: South Carolina Regional

Part III: South Carolina Regional

Rickhouse Ramblings is in the process of conducting a four region blind taste off of new make, clear, moonshine, or white dog whiskey. The field is broken up into four regions based on their location of production: North Carolina; Virginia; Tennessee; South Carolina. We will not be using our traditional Rickhouse Rating for these pours. Instead, we will be judging the nose, mouth, and finish using a 5 star system. The winner of each region will face off in a Battle of the States as we look to find the final champion. This is Part III in the series, concentrating on products from the state of South Carolina (Part I: North Carolina Regional; Part II: Virginia Regional). Returning for Part III with Christian and Mike, is Mike’s brother, Phil.

Special thanks to one of the First Ladies of Rickhouse Ramblings, Stephanie, for handling and organizing the chaos of pouring and delivering all of the samples without tipping off which whiskey was in which glass. We couldn’t have done it without you!

The South Carolina Contenders

This blind taste off will include a field of four new make, clear, or moonshine whiskey offerings, each originating from South Carolina. Each whiskey was tasted neat in a Glencairn glass. Here is a list of the four contenders selected, based on availability of products:

  • Sugar Tit Moonshine Distillery – Sugar Tit Moonshine “Simply Naked” Corn Whiskey: Located in Reidville, SC: 100 proof corn whiskey; Distilled 6 times; Self proclaimed “Sweetest Shine in the South.”
  • Red Bordner Distillery – Kick Back Cove Pure Clear Moonshine: Located in Boiling Spring, SC: Distilled from cane, corn, and barley and bottled at 103 Proof; Self proclaimed “Smoothest moonshine in the world.”
  • Gorget Distilling Company – Battle Shine: Located in Lugoff, SC: 100 proof; distilled from cane and corn. Self proclaimed “Carolina’s Best Shine.”
  • Firefly Distillery – Firefly Moonshine White Lightning: Located in North Charleston, SC: 100.7 proof; raw corn whiskey.
From Left to Right: Firefly Moonshine White Lightning, Sugar Tit Moonshine “Simply Naked”, Gorget Battle Shine, and Kick Back Cove Moonshine

Round 1 Blind Taste Results

Pour #1: Incredibly sweet nose. Lots of corn, vanilla, and a surprising presence of grapes, similar to muscadine wine. A really unexpected nose for moonshine. (Nose – Christian: 2.75/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars) The mouth feel on this pour is nice and smooth. Corn husk is prevalent on mid-palate, with a hint of smokiness coming in the back. (Mouth – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars) This pour had a short to medium finish that became noticeable a bit late followed by a warming sensation deep down in your chest. A very light but discernible smokiness remains in the finish. (Finish – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score for Pour #1: 2.7466/5 Stars

Pour #2: The second pour tasted noticeably sweeter than the first pour. A similar flavor profile of grapes, with a hint of hay, was present. A very sweet, corn forward nose. (Nose – Christian: 3.75/5 Stars; Mike: 3.5/5 Stars; Phil: 4/5 Stars) The mouth feel of pour two was very thin. This glass was lacking a depth of flavor, leaving corn and ethanol to take center stage. (Mouth – Christian: 2/5 Stars; Mike 2.5/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars) This pour presented with a medium finish and a hug that developed deep in chest. Overall, the finish was smooth with a hint of ethanol hanging around. (Finish – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2.5/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score for Pour #2: 2.7466/5 Stars

Pour #3: The third pour has a really unique and unexpected nose. Freshly ground grains and yeast are strong on the nose. The nose of this pour is reminiscent of a beer or the aromas of a distillery that is actively distilling. (Nose – Christian: 3.75/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars) This is the thinnest of the three we’ve tried so far. The taste is sweet, with a hint of beer and freshly baked yeast rolls. This is a really unexpected taste profile for a moonshine product. (Mouth – Christian: 3.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars) Soft short finish that has a nice hug that comes on really late. Hints of fresh corn on the cob and hay develop late. (Finish – Christian: 3.5/5 Stars; Mike 2.5/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score of Pour #3: 3.023/5 Stars

Pour #4: The nose on the final pour is pungent but sweet. This glass is by far the most aromatic of the four pours with earthy notes of damp hay or straw. (Nose – Christian: 2/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars: Phil: 2/5 Stars) The mouth feel of pour four is rather thin and reminiscent of water. The flavor profile is buttery with a hint of sweet cream corn. Both Mike and Phil note a slight taste of butterscotch candies on their palates. (Mouth – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 4/5 Stars) This final pour has a short to medium finish that has a smokiness to it. The pour seems a little less refined in the finish than the other three tried. (Finish – Christian: 2/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 4/5 Stars)

Final overall score of Pour #4: 2.49/5 Stars

Runoff To Make the Finals: Pour #1 versus Pour #2

After the first round, there is a tie between Pour#1 and Pour#2 with both scoring 2.7466 out of 5 stars. In order to break the tie, it was decided that Mike, Phil, and Christian would each be given a small sample of Pour #1 and #2 in a shot glass. Each shot glass would remain unidentified to ensure a fair tie breaker. A simple check mark by each taster would be given to the nose, mouth, and finish that they preferred. Here is how the runoff finished:

Pour #1 got a total of 5 check marks between the three tasters compared to 4 total check marks for Pour #2. Therefore Pour #1 would win the runoff tasting and head to the finals to meet Pour #3.

South Carolina Final Round Blind Taste Results: Pour #1 vs Pour #3

For this round, Pour #1 and Pour #3 were tasted head to head to determine which was most preferred. The anonymity of each of the two finalists remained throughout this round to ensure a fair winner. The tasting notes below notate the differences we noticed between the two blind pours as we decide on a winner. We used the same scoring system for this round as we did in the first tasting, however, previous scores were thrown out the window.

Pour #1: This pour seemed to display a much more corn forward nose than Pour 3. Head to head, this glass seemed to have a sweet and sour hint to it; something we did not notice in round 1. (Nose – Christian: 1/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars). In the mouth, this flavor profile is reminiscent of sweet creamed corn, with a hint of hay or corn husks. (Mouth – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars).The finish on this glass was smooth with a late arriving hug. (Finish – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars). Overall we enjoyed this pour. We felt that the traditional corn forward nose and mouth just needed a little more punch in the finish.

Final Score for Pour #1: 2.33/5 Stars

Pour #3: The unique nose on this pour is aromatic, unexpected, and quite desirable. The sweet aroma can best be described as all of the following, rolled into one: fresh mash cooking at a distillery; beer; yeast rolls. Whatever they did to achieve this nose is something we all find irresistible. (Nose – Christian: 3.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars). Pour three is very sweet. Fresh baked bread, creamed corn, and a slight hint of pepper, really make this a complex drinking experience. (Mouth – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars). Finally, pour three provides a nice deep warming sensation that is not overbearing but present. (Finish – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars).

Final Score for Pour #3: 2.77/5 Stars

South Carolina Regional New Make/Moonshine/Clear Whiskey Champion

Pour #3: Firefly White Lightning Moonshine

FIrefly Moonshine White Lightning

Congratulations to Firefly White Lightning Moonshine, distilled by Firefly Distillery in North Charleston, South Carolina. As the South Carolina Regional Champion, Firefly White Lightning Moonshine will move on to compete against the winners from Virginia (Climax Moonshine), North Carolina (Old Nick Williams), and Tennessee (TBD).

Who was Who?

  • Pour #1: Gorget Battle Shine
  • Pour #2: Kick Back Cove Moonshine
  • Pour #3: Firefly White Lightning Moonshine
  • Pour #4: Sugar Tit “Simply Naked” Moonshine

Final Thoughts

All three of us agreed that these four offerings from South Carolina were the most complete and enjoyable group of moonshines we have tasted so far! All of them had pleasant noses and taste profiles. South Carolina offered a solid group of moonshines to battle it out.

In the end someone must win. The difference between Kick Back Cove and Gorget was negligible. They were so close that it came down to a runoff blind taste off and Gorget just barely edged out Kick Back Cove. The winner of the day, Firefly White Lightning Moonshine, offered us a flavor profile and nose that separated it from the rest of the field. Today it stood out from a truly solid field of South Carolina Moonshine offerings. We are excited to be winding down the regional brackets and putting Old Nick Williams (NC), Climax Moonshine (VA), Firefly Moonshine (SC), against our winner from Tennessee.

We hope you will join us for the Tennessee Regional and States Championship blind taste-offs in the very near future!

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