By Richard Thomas
When I first saw George Motz appearing in one of his hamburger-loving documentaries, I thought to myself “that looks like a fellow who likes a belt of bourbon.” As it turns out, I guessed absolutely right! Motz not only likes a good bourbon or rye, but is even in the midst of making a film about moonshine in South Carolina. Keeping that in mind, Motz was good enough to answer my questions about whiskey and how he likes it.
RT: I saw your Made in America piece on the Jack Daniel’s Distillery the other day. I found myself wondering that since George Dickel is one of your go-to whiskeys, did you take advantage of being in Lynchburg and sneak off to Cascade Hollow, only some 20 miles away?
GM: I wish, but no..the schedule was always very tight on Made In America. It was amazing to see the Jack Daniels process up close and I was pleased to find that the Master Distiller Jeff Arnett started out as a fan! They are all very proud of the Jack Daniels product, and they have been working on a few decent new ideas over there. I love Dickel of course and I’ve been on the tour before, but it has been years. I think I need a refresher.
RT: Speaking of go-to bourbons, you referred to Jim Beam Black as your main, day to day choice. That bourbon got some attention in whiskey circles lately for going to no age statement (NAS). Have you tried the new NAS version of Beam Black yet?
GM: I have not tried the NAS version of Black yet but I’m hopeful for a smooth transition, no pun intended. It’s a shame that the 8 year designation has been sacrificed, but I imagine that if they didn’t do something we would have to deal with unfortunate realities like price hikes and spotty availability.
RT: That switch Beam Black to NAS stirred up some more of the bourbon shortage articles that you might have seen. Have you discovered any of your favorite bourbons or ryes are becoming harder to find? Are you worried about a bourbon shortage at all?
GM: Not many yet, or I just have not been aware. NAS makes sense because no one wants a bourbon shortage! The bourbon community is strong, so I imagine that whiskey producers won’t attempt shortcuts. We all know what great whiskey should taste like and they know it.
RT: You are also a rye fan, and mentioned WhistlePig as a favorite in that department. What is it that you like about rye whiskey that you aren’t getting from bourbon?
GM: Bourbon is great, mixes well, and goes down easy neat or on rocks. But sometimes bourbon can seem too sweet, especially in a mixed drink. Rye has a great bite that you won’t find in bourbon. I love a good rye old fashioned because rye adds a complex spice that you can’t get from bourbon.
RT: You are now working on a film about moonshine in the Lowcountry in South Carolina. How did you get first become acquainted with white lightning?
GM: Welllll…I can’t say exactly how I became acquainted with moonshine, but let’s just say that I have a few connections down South that make some of the best Sugar Shine anywhere. The days of big moonshine production are over and most just make it for themselves in small batches. But the history of moonshine in the Lowcountry is so fascinating that I had to make a film about it. I have had unlimited access to old-timers deep in the South Carolina forest through family connections. The stories they tell are priceless and they were there when illegal production was in full swing.
RT: Finally, you are probably best known for Hambuger America and Burgerland. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask for your insight on pairing bourbon and burgers!
GM: Bourbon goes well with everything, but my favorite drink to enjoy with a burger is one that my Southern relatives indulge in at every outdoor function – the ‘Brown’. It’s a simple concoction of Evan Williams and ginger ale and definitely hits the spot. As the night wears on the ratios inevitably change, favoring the whiskey over ginger ale.