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Monday, December 26, 2011

How about building RI's second on Larry LeBlanc's land?

Cheers to RI's First Whiskey Distillery

By DAVE FISHER/ecoRI News staff
SOUTH KINGSTOWN — For many years, whiskey connoisseurs have been forced to source their favorite brown spirit from overseas.

Lovers of malt whiskey generally look on the American version of whisky — aka bourbon — with disdain. Bourbon, by definition, is made with at least 51 percent corn mash, which lends a distinct sweetness and viscosity to the liquor. Malt whiskey fans generally consider the corn-based booze as a bastardization of the classic whiskeys distilled in the United Kingdom, and fret about the fact that no one in the United States is making a solid single malt.

Sons of Liberty distiller Mike Reppucci hands an autographed 
bottle of his first batch during a recent open house at t
he distillery. (Dave Fisher/ecoRI News)
Mike Reppucci, a lover of craft beers and single malt whiskeys, decided to do something about it. Last year, Reppucci leveraged his savings to build a small distillery in the Peacedale Mill Complex, and as of September of this year, began selling a single malt whiskey — distilled right here in Little Rhody — under the name Sons of Liberty.
“Most people don’t know that whiskey starts off as beer,” Reppucci said. "But most distillers use flavorless beer to begin the distillation process. I wanted to use all of the craft beers that I love as a base, and see what kind of flavors I could produce.”
That means that in addition to distilling the whiskey, Reppucci also is brewing beer. Not for sale, mind you, just to have a quality starting point for his whiskey.
The search for quality ingredients for the liquor was a difficult one. The malted barley necessary to brew beers is widely available in the United States, but only through Big Ag giants such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. There are a few distillers and brewers that are malting small batches of barley in the traditional manner known as floor malting, but, Reppucci said, they aren't willing to part with their finished malt. This, unfortunately, sent him sourcing overseas, back to the birthplace of single malt whiskeys.
“I found a man in Britain whose family has been floor malting barley for over one hundred years who was happy to part with some of his malt,” Reppucci said. And Sons of Liberty was born.
The company is bottling three distinct varieties of whiskey. One starts with a Guinness-style stout, one with a wheat beer and one with an ale. The whiskey is aged with wood staves in the barrels that lend the liquors the classic woody flavors that whiskey aficionados love, and a natural light brown tint — much lighter than most whiskeys — without the caramel color that many sub-par distillers add to their liquor. In the future, Reppucci will begin distilling with seasonal beers, such as winter ales and pumpkin beers.
Sons of Liberty whiskey is available in many liquor stores and restaurants in Rhode Island. You can find a list of them on the Sons of Liberty facebook page. Bar and liquor store owners who would like to carry the local hooch should contact Horizon Beverage Co.