You cheddar believe itWestern North Carolina will soon have a cheese trail, ushering us into the ranks of regions such as the state of Vermont and California's Sonoma and Marin counties. The project has been in the works since last winter, but the Gouda gurus recently became incorporated and launched a website.
The WNC Cheese Trail will publicize area cheeses and build camaraderie between producers, who have been plagued by rivalry in the past.
'You've got to let people who are heading this way as a tourism destination know what's going on, and also for retailers and distributors who might want to carry cheeses from this area,' says Jennifer Perkins, chairman of the board of the Trail, who owns Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview with her husband, Andy. 'It's a resource that says, 'Here they all are.' It's getting the word out there and building a bigger marketplace for everyone.'
So far, the group includes eight of 14 established WNC fromage fanatics, but they welcome additional members who are located to the west of U.S. Highway 77 within the state boundaries. They also hope to include associate members in the group - such as breweries, farms and wineries - who support the cheese industry by creating complementary products.
The cheese makers plan to release a digital map of their creameries this winter as their membership grows. In the spring, they hope to print a physical map that will be available in the Asheville Visitor Center and with their corporate sponsors, grocery stores, restaurants and cheese enthusiasts in general.
To learn more about the cheese trail and its founding members, visit wnccheesetrail.org.
Distilling me softlyTroy & Sons, the distillery that brought moonshine to Asheville a year ago, has just released Troy & Sons Oak Reserve, which they slate as the first legal, aged whiskey made in the state since prohibition. The product is available now in ABC stores.
Owner Troy Ball distills the whiskey at her facility east of town through a process designed to produce a smooth product. 'There's no burn and no bite,' she says. 'We are just putting a clean, naturally sweet, heart product in the barrel, so it makes the whiskey entirely different.'
The facility currently houses a 2,000-liter still that can produce about a barrel-and-a-half of whiskey every 10 to 12 hours, but Ball has ordered a 5,000- liter still that will arrive later this fall. 'That will be the largest still, as far as I know, in a craft distillery in America,' she says.
The timing is right to increase production: Troy & Sons recently signed an important contract with Walt Disney World Resort, and their products feature in specialty cocktails in numerous hotels there. One hotel sells as much Troy & Sons as they do Jack Daniels, according to Ball.