Moonshine Taste Off: Championship Finals

Part V: Moonshine Championship Finals

The time has finally come! Your wait is over! This week’s post will reveal the Championship Winner of our 2020-2021 Rickhouse Ramblings four region Moonshine, new make, clear whiskey, and white dog blind taste off. The field was broken up into four regions based on their location of production: North Carolina; Virginia; Tennessee; South Carolina. Each regional battle, along with the Championship Final, was determined by judging the nose, mouth, and finish using a 5 star system. The regional results leading up the finals can be found here: Part I: North Carolina Regional; Part II: Virginia Regional; Part III: South Carolina Regional; and Part IV: Tennessee Regional. Our blind tasters for the Championship Finals are Christian, Mike, Mike’s brother Phil, and “Mr. Belding”. Mr. Belding is a special guest taster, whose identity will remain anonymous. He has been in the spirits industry for some time and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this tasting.

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 Championship Finals Contenders

This blind taste off includes our four regional champions of new make, clear, or moonshine whiskey offerings, originating from North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Each whiskey was tasted neat in a Glencairn glass. Here is a list of the four regionals champions in order of regional tasting:

  • Old Nick Williams Farm & Distillery – Carolina whiskey: Located in Lewisville, NC: 92 proof; distilled using a mash bill of 60% corn, 35% wheat, and 5% malted barley. The distillery uses an over 200 year old family recipe to craft this whiskey.
  • Tim Smith’s Climax VA Distillery – Climax Moonshine: Located in Culpeper, VA: 90 proof; pot-distilled using corn, malted barley, rye, and sugar cane.
  • Firefly Distillery – Firefly Moonshine White Lightning: Located in North Charleston, SC: 100.7 proof; raw corn whiskey.
  • Sugarlands Distilling Company, LLC – Silver Cloud Tennessee Sour Mash Moonshine: Located in Gatlinburg, TN; Battled at 100 proof; Distilled from cane and grain.
From Left Top to Right Bottom: Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine, Firefly Moonshine White Lightning, Sugarlands Shine Silver Cloud Tennessee Sour Mash Moonshine, Old Nick Carolina Whiskey

Round 1 Blind Taste Results

Pour #1: Nice pleasant aroma. A sweet corn forward nose that is accompanied by a hint of earthiness similar to grass or hay. Not a lot of ethanol in the nose of this one. (Nose – Christian: 3.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2.75/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 3/5 Stars) Pour #1 on the palate presents as a bit earthy, similar to hay, along with a zip of peppery spice. A very light hint of bitterness is there as well. (Mouth – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2.5/5 Stars; Phil: 2.5/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 4/5) This pour had a nice long finish that is spicy but smooth. (Finish – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2.5/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 3/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score for Pour #1: 2.89/5 Stars

Pour #2: The nose on the second pour is very floral and sweet. Freshly ground cereal grains and baked bread are present. There’s a little more ethanol present with this one than we noticed with the first pour. (Nose – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 4/5 Stars; Phil: 2.5/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 2/5) On the palate, pour #2 is sweet, yet, a bit more ethanol forward. There is a yeastiness to this pour that stands out when sipping. A slight essence of grass detected. (Mouth – Christian: 3.5/5 Stars; Mike 3.5/5 Stars; Phil: 2/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 3/5) The finish here is smooth with a touch of ethanol. Baked bread hangs around on the tongue which tingles well after the sip has been consumed. A touch of burn is present but not overbearing. (Finish – Christian: 3.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2.5/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 4/5)

Final Overall Score for Pour #2: 2.99/5 Stars

Pour #3: The third pour has a nose that is unique and aromatic. Hints of peanuts, sweet banana, and corn are all noted. Again, a slight scent of ethanol was present, but it did not detract from the nose. (Nose – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3.5/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 4/5) The third pour presents with earthy notes on the palate, similar to boiled peanuts, hay, and wheat grain. There is an undertone of sweetness here from the corn. (Mouth – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3.5/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 4/5) The finish on this pour is medium to long with a nice spicy finish that leaves the tongue tingling. A slight hint of sweetness lingers in the backend. (Finish – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 5/5 Stars)

Final Overall Score of Pour #3: 3.33/5 Stars

Pour #4: The nose on pour #4 is distinct in its own right. It is the sweetest of the four pours and has a hint of banana, butter, and other fruity notes. In addition, the nose has a very light sour note to it. Not in a bad way, but present. (Nose – Christian: 3.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars: Phil: 3.5/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 5/5) On the palate, pour #4 carries over the sweetness from the nose to the mouth, but it also adds a touch of spiciness. Notes of butterscotch and buttered popcorn, are also noted. One taster also noted a slight manufactured/plastic taste on the palate. (Mouth – Christian: 2.8/5 Stars; Mike: 2/5 Stars; Phil: 2.75/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 3/5) Pour #4 has a medium to long finish and provides a slight tickle in the mouth. Butterscotch hangs around long after the pour has been swallowed. A nice little hug wells up from the chest. (Finish – Christian: 2/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 5/5 Stars)

Final overall score of Pour #4: 3.13/5 Stars

The Championship Final 2: Pour #3 vs Pour #4

For this round, Pour #3 and Pour #4 were tasted head to head to determine which one was most preferred by all tasters. The anonymity of each of the 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 decided on a winner. We used the same scoring system for this round as we did in the first tasting, however, previous scores were reset and new scores were determined.

Pour #3: Pour #3 is so aromatic. Earthy flavors, similar to that of peanuts, are accompanied by notes of banana and corn. A very inviting and promising nose. (Nose – Christian: 3.25/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 4/5). On the palate, pour #3 opens with a nice sweetness and is corn forward. This transitions slowly to the more earthy tones, similar to the peanuts we pick up from the nose. (Mouth – Christian: 3.25/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 2.5/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 3/5).This pour has a nice smooth finish. A slight spice wells up around the jaws and lingers deep into the chest. Overall, a high quality ending to this experience. (Finish – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 3/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 4/5 Stars). All four of us really enjoyed this pour. The nose, flavor profile, and finish were unique and enjoyable.

Final Score for Pour #3: 3.1225/5 Stars

Pour #4: This nose is a little bit sweeter, with notes of corn and honey dominating. Again, a slight sourness is there which is not present in pour three. Comparing the two finalists side by side, this nose gets a little lost and seems to be lacking a bit in its aroma. (Nose – Christian: 2.5/5 Stars; Mike: 2.5/5 Stars; Phil: 3.25/5 Stars; Mr. Belding 3/5). Pour #4 hits the tongue with a pop of sweetness, reminiscent of corn and butterscotch. Similar to round 1, one taster noted a slight hint of plastic that they struggled to overcome. (Mouth – Christian: 2.25/5 Stars; Mike: 2.5/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 2/5). Pour #4 provided a medium to long smooth finish that was sweet, then transitioned to a nice, peppery hug. (Finish – Christian: 3/5 Stars; Mike: 2.5/5 Stars; Phil: 3/5 Stars; Mr. Belding: 3/5 Stars). Once again, this moonshine provided a unique tasting experience that we all found enjoyable. You honestly can’t go wrong with either of these finalists.

Final Score for Pour #3: 2.66/5 Stars

2020-2021 Rickhouse Ramblings Moonshine Champion

Pour #3: Climax VA Distillery – Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine

Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine

Congratulations to our 2020-2021 Moonshine Blind Taste Battle Champion, Climax VA Distillery – Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine. In all honesty, we were unsure what to expect from this moonshine heading into the Virginia Regional Taste Off. The success of the show Moonshiners, as well as previous reviews by others, Climax Moonshine seemed like a true dark horse for our moonshine battle. Moving into the finals, this moonshine stood tall against a true test and held its own – standing out from the pack and gaining our votes. A bit of a Cinderella story, which we all love during this time of year.

Who was Who?

  • Pour #1: Old Nick Williams Farm & Distillery – Old Nick Carolina Whiskey
  • Pour #2: Firefly Distillery – Firefly White Lightning Moonshine
  • Pour #3: Climax VA Distillery – Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine
  • Pour #4: Sugarland’s Distilling Co. – Silver Cloud Tennessee Sour Mash Moonshine

Final Thoughts

We had a lot of fun blind tasting the 15 moonshines that were chosen to compete in this Championship. The four regional champions stood out amongst the field and earned their spot in today’s final. All four products make a quality product that we thoroughly enjoyed. Today, it was Tim Smith’s Climax moonshine that stood above them all. Congratulations to our four finalists! This was a close hard fought battle that came down to just a few points.

We would also like to think Mr. Belding for joining us in tonight’s tasting! We hope that you will join us again for another tasting in the near future.

5 thoughts on “Moonshine Taste Off: Championship Finals

  1. Tim Smith’s Fire no. 32 is the best!!!!
    But… I can’t find it near me anymore. Sure wish I had a shot or 2 to knock this covid outta me!

    You rock, Tim!

    1. I know that was portrayed at one point on the tv show, however, the bottle and websites all indicate this product is made at Belmont Distillery in Culpeper VA.

      Some of his other products are handle at Two Trees in North Carolina.

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