DSR – NC – 019: Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor
Company/Distillery: Soulshine LLC
Location: Newland, North Carolina
Mash Bill: 50% Sugar, 25% Corn, 20% Wheat, and 5% Oats
Age Statement: No Age Statement
Proof/ABV: 100 Proof/50% ABV
Color & Viscosity: From the bottle, Steve’s Soulshine Brown is a beautiful dark amber color. In the glass, this liquor is tawny in appearance. A thin viscous line presents when tilting the tasting vessel to the side. Small beads form into thick droplets. Oily streaks remain as the spirit charges down the sides of the glass.
Purchase Price: $28.20 from the North Carolina ABC
Bottle Label Information:
“Steve’s Soulshine Craft Distillery”
“Spirits Distilled from Cane and Grain, Finished on Oak and Cherry Wood”
“Steve’s Soulshine Craft Distillery”
“Highest Distillery East of the Rockies”
“Spirits distilled from our special grain blend and cane, finished on oak and cherry wood”
“Nestled in Pisgah National Forest, Steve’s Soulshine takes pure mountain water and the finest local ingredients for our mash. Following our family traditions, we create the smoothest liquor in these mountains…It’s that good.”
“The liquor made on Roaring Creek has always been the finest, but it has never been available in bottles. We bring the best of the past in a new way. Thanks for being part of our new tradition.”
“Distiller: SS | Bottler: SS”
“Distilled & Bottled by Soulshine LLC Newland, NC”
In February 2017, business partners Steve Salmieri and Charles Holwerk decided to form a legal distillery in Pisgah National Forest in Newland, North Carolina. Mr. Salmieri was first introduced to vinification, or production of wine, in high school while being employed by a local winery. Although his career path would eventually lead him into a different direction, Mr. Salmieri would continue to appreciate the process and practice in the production of wine. While working locally at a ski resort, Mr. Salmieri would be introduced to the science of distillation and would eventually build his first still, from scratch, under the guidance of two local moonshiners. On July 4th, 2017, Mr. Salmieri and his business partner would begin construction of their distillery–a small metal building constructed over the course of a year. A traditional pot still and thumper design was hand-built on site and is still used today in the production of Soulshine LLC’s Brown, Apple, and Pumpkin Liquor offerings. Soulshine LLC is proud of its heritage and the tradition of the moonshiners who came before them producing their goods in a way that isn’t quite legalized. Steve’s Soulshine Liquors is produced as close to products made in an era past as one can legally make them today while using local ingredients from Bladen, Yancey, Avery, and other local counties. The distillery currently produces and sells approximately 400 to 500 cases per year and is distributed in 75 stores across North Carolina.
In addition to past experiences as well as some trial and error, Steve and his wife Joyce, a career nurse, have a rich family history in the production of moonshine. We had the opportunity to speak with both Steve and Joyce while preparing this article. As a person who loves history, I could have spent all afternoon talking to Joyce about her family’s moonshine background. Her stories, handed down from her grandpas, include legends of stints in federal prison, family feuds, severed ears, family owned dry goods stores used to procure sugar, and much more. The story that stood out the most was that of the Cable Family.
Joyce’s family can be traced back to the Avery County area of North Carolina as far back as the late 1700’s. This is the same area in which the Salmieri family currently distills. In the mid 1890’s, moonshine was being made in those mountains by the Cable family. The Cable brothers had been identified in news reports as “outlaws” and “known manufacturers of moonshine whiskey.” They were even under surveillance by local authorities. Upon finding out about the general area of the still site, Deputy Sheriff Green and an individual named Greenlee, were asked to stand watch for the brothers. At some point the Cable brothers would cross paths with their watchers and try to escape to their father’s home while under pursuit. A gun fight would ensue, resulting in both officers being shot and killed. One Cable brother would receive a shot to the stomach while his wife was shot in the shoulder and hand. Newspaper reports indicate that he would eventually succumb to his injuries, but family legend reports that this was not the case. In fact, it is believed that all four Cables would escape under the cover of darkness to Kentucky, where they would stay for two generations!
Steve’s Soulshine Craft Distillery Brown Liquor
Steve’s Soulshine Craft Distillery Brown Liquor is a multi-grain moonshine distilled from a blend of cane sugar, corn, wheat, and oats before being rapidly aged for six months in a vat with charred oak and cherry wood chips. This is not a traditional bourbon or whiskey – but a rapid aged moonshine. After the rapid aging process, the moonshine is tempered down to 100 proof using fresh clean mountain water retrieved from the springs of the Stillhouse Branch on Big Yellow Mountain. The finished Steve’s Soulshine Craft Distillery Brown Liquor is bottled in American-made Philadelphia Flasks. Distribution is currently available across North Carolina from the ABC store.
Tasting Date/Vessel: April 10, 2022 – Neat in a Glencairn glass; Then with a few drops of distilled water.
Christian: In the bottle, after the fresh crack, you are welcomed by a distinctive bouquet of aromas. A rich butteriness is present and joined by sweet maraschino cherries and a hint of butterscotch candies. In my Glencairn glass, Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor is unbelievably sweet smelling. Freshly baked yeast rolls with honey butter drizzle draw you in quickly. A soft swirl in the glass really allows the grain essence and moonshine qualities to emit from the glass. A second swirl unleashes subtle hints of caramel and tart green apple – reminiscent of a Tootsie Caramel Apple pop. To sum this up in three words – buttery, sweet, candies. Oh man, the added distilled water makes this so sweet on the nose. Butter, brown sugar, and confectionery sugar all come to mind.
Mike: From the bottle, this unique spirit entices you with buttery aromas that transition to mixed berries with a touch of oak essence. From the glass, I nose yeasty new-make fragrances intermingled with hints of fresh brown sugar. Very soft notes of butterscotch and brown sugar glaze emerge with a second pass. As the spirit settles in the glass, a late surge of additional brown sugar radiates as it’s overcome with hints of muted ethanol.
Christian: On my tongue, Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor has a thick yet silky mouthfeel that I find common in other moonshine products. On the tip of the tongue, this spirit releases a very sweet drupes flavor before transitioning to robust woody oak flavors. Dark cherries in heavy syrup jump onto my palate. Luden’s Cherry cough drops, from my elementary school days, permeate my memory. Distilled water allows this spirit to soften. Wood still really dominates, making the cherry tones rather muted.
Mike: The first sip of Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor offers a velvety mouthfeel on the tongue and is semi-dry on the palate. An offering of mixed berries blended with fresh tanned leather hits mid-palate. A flavorful balance of crafted moonshine opens then shifts to gentle sweetened cherries.
Christian: Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor offers a nice medium finish that has a pleasing and comfortable zip. Just a touch of bitterness wells up in the back of this pour, but that quickly gives way to subtle wisps of natural leather, light cherry cough syrup (not in a bad way), and star anise. An enjoyable and gentle warmth shows itself very late – it is a really nice touch that ends this pour with just a little pop! Water doesn’t change much in the finish. Surprisingly, the zip in the finish and nice warm hug stick around.
Mike: This spirit offers a medium soft finish. At 100 proof, this is a relaxed sipper and textbook Kentucky hug. Subtle notes of leather, mixed berries and light charred oak are a pleasant cohesiveness of flavor with a white pepper spice in the back of your throat.
Christian: Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor is a unique, approachable, drinkable rapid aged moonshine. Honestly I cannot believe it is proofed at 100. It is rare we find a spirit that holds up to the addition of water without losing considerable flavor – that is not the case here; Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor is tasty neat, holds up to a cube, and makes a uniquely pleasant old fashioned. Don’t approach this spirit if all you are looking for is a standard bourbon offering, however, don’t sleep on it because it is a rapid aged moonshine. Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor offers you a well rounded, balanced, authentic shine experience with more robust sweet flavors that can be enjoyed multiple different ways. I really hope we get to try some of their more seasonal offerings in the very near future!
Rating: 3.125 Rickhouses
Mike: Not overly complex in flavor but unique nonetheless, this Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor is a gratifying pour. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this spirit with its minimalist labeling and “generic” bottle, but I am very pleasantly surprised by its contents. While not a bourbon or whiskey by definition, this spirit does offer some traditional bourbon flavors while delicately letting its moonshine roots “shine” through! Steve’s Soulshine Brown Liquor is distinct in its overall profile and is quite drinkable.
Rating: 3.00 Rickhouses
Special thanks to Steve Salmieri and his wife, Joyce for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us! We really appreciate your willingness to share your story and traditions with Rickhouse Ramblings! I hope one day we can share a pour while digging deeper into some of the history you have in moonshine! Thanks So Much!!!