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Is Charleston ready for the “grain-to-glass movement?” The men of Striped Pig Distillery think so.
Given South Carolina’s liquor history—between “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman’s corrupt dispensary system, Prohibition, those charming Blue Laws, and the Holy City’s mini-bottle past—it’s easy to see how Charleston could be a bit late to the micro-distillery craze. That is until now. With its name a humorous nod to Temperance days of yore, Striped Pig Distillery has come to market, releasing its inaugural batch of vodka (with rum and un-aged whiskey on the way).
Owners Johnny Pieper, Casey Lillie, Todd Weiss, Jim Craig, and Boris Van Dyck began separately. “We were all on similar tracks,” says Weiss. “I was seeking investors for my own rum company, while business partners Johnny and Casey were planning a distillery.” It made sense for the three to join forces. With the addition of local entrepreneur Craig and ICEBOX owner Van Dyck, the team has spent 2013 building out Striped Pig’s Azalea Drive headquarters. Inside, a mill processes 225,000 pounds of dried corn while two stainless steel stills sit across from fermenting jugs. Furniture handmade by the men from the wood of an abandoned Tennessee barn adds a masculine, down-home quality to the tasting and conference room, but this is no backwoods moonshine still. “We can produce 250 gallons of liquor a day,” says Pieper, the head distiller, who trained at Colorado’s Downslope Distilling. As their liquors are made with locally grown corn and rye, the men are calling their operation a “grain-to-glass movement.”
And the proof, pun completely intended, is in the bottle. Lillie found Myers Farm in Bowman, South Carolina, and tasked them with growing an heirloom corn, wheat, and rye. “Our goal is to become SC Certified,” notes Lillie. As for Striped Pig’s molasses, it’s sourced out of Savannah.
Weiss says their goal, like a fresh batch of vodka, is clear. “We want to be Charleston’s distillery, to source locally, recycle our mash for compost, and see our products in every area bar and restaurant.”