By Richard Thomas
As I keep an eye out for whiskey fans among actors, artists, authors and the like, one of the things I have noticed is how popular the “water of life” is with those notables of the more underground persuasion. This was certainly the case several years ago, prior to the current big whiskey boom, and it seems to be even more so now. So when I catch up with an alternative model and burlesque performer like Memphis Moonshine, it wasn’t just her moniker that told me she might just like a little whiskey every now and again, and would have something to say on the subject.
RT: You’ve described yourself as being a fan of bourbon, Tennessee and Irish whiskeys, and even some white lightning. With a range like that, I have to ask what your “go to” choices are.
MM: If the bar has a nice selection, I’m always open to trying new drinks, but my “go to” drinks include Henry McKenna, Bulleit, Four Roses, Woodford Reserve, Green Spot, and while neither of these next two are renowned for their classiness, I will always have a soft spot for Jack Daniels and Wild Turkey.
RT: You aren’t fond of the legal moonshine thing, and you are also a straight-up whiskey drinker. Is it that you prefer your clear stuff stronger, more authentic, or both?
MM: When I see billboard on the highway selling moonshine, I cringe. Objectively, I understand that moonshine is unaged whiskey, but to me, and I would bet a lot of other southerners, it connotes a much larger meaning. Moonshine is a romanticized symbol of rebellion, self-reliance, and a general nihilistic attitude towards the established status quo. It represents a big middle finger to “the man.” So when it gets watered down and put in brand new mason jars that are trying to emulate the original, it just doesn’t feel right. It feels like the capitalization off of what was the symbol against the very process. And all of my moonshine ethics aside- it doesn’t taste the same. I understand there are legalities with alcohol content, but moonshine should not be 100%.
RT: Now a nice mellow Tennessee whiskey or light Irish whiskey is pretty far removed from a potent belt of moonshine. What kind of a mood or circumstance might draw you to one type of whiskey over the other?
MM: I’m a big believer that moonshine should be enjoyed while in the woods…and probably causing trouble.
RT: Speaking of moonshine, getting one’s hands on the homemade, illegal stuff that is both good and safe usually means knowing some you trust, either the shiner or someone close to the shiner. Not that I expect you to reveal where you get yours, but if someone were looking to find a good shiner, do you have any advice for them?
MM: Move to the southeast and make friends with either the backwoods hill people or new age herbalists. Both populations are filled with people that make their own moonshine and are usually happy to share. In my experience, it is not very hard at all to find homemade moonshine in this area of the country.
MM: I think there is a definite fondness of drinking, even by performers that don’t partake. A drunk audience is usually a happy audience, and in my profession that means a larger payout at the end of the night.
RT: You are currently based in Asheville, which is one of my favorite cities by the way. However, the last time I was there I didn’t find myself a good whiskey bar! Can you recommend a place with a good vibe and a decent selection?
MM: Whiskey can be tricky in Asheville, which has been named Beer City, USA for the past four years. The Troy and Sons Distillery is located in Asheville, where you can tour the facility and sample whiskeys and moonshines. Seven Sows Bourbon and Larder has quite a decent selection, as well as amazing food. Crow and Quill is also a small, off the map establishment that ranks number one, for me, in creating craft cocktails-for those that like to mix their whiskey.