Special to the Mirror by Susan M. Bauer
The Cape Charles business district continues to expand along the Strawberry Street corridor and welcomes its newest addition, the Cape Charles Distillery.
Alaskans, from the town of Homer, first coined the phrase, calling themselves “a quaint little drinking village, with a fishing problem.” Many around Cape Charles have adopted the slogan as their own. There is no question we townspeople like to drink. Many will applaud the fact that the recent surge in development around town includes the addition of three new businesses that all feature alcoholic beverages. The Cape Charles Distillery joins Buskey Cider and the Cape Charles Brewery in providing artisanal, craft-made libations.
The owner, Bill Duncan, came by his craft in the most authentic way. As a child, in the mountains of Georgia, he helped his grandfather make moonshine. Bill describes his job as maintaining the map where the moonshine was buried. Some of the locations were conveniently “forgotten” until Bill and his buddies could dig them up later.
Bill’s tasting room is located at 12 Strawberry Street. The thoughtful decor includes velvet couches, a chalkboard wall, illustrating the distilling process, and a custom made bar, generously sized enough to serve a crowd of whiskey drinkers. Because my summer evenings usually involve my neighbor’s screened porch, and a chilled New Zealand Sav Blanc from the Gull Hummock, I brought along an experienced bourbon drinker for the tasting.
For an $8.00 charge, a tasting flight includes a sample of each of the six liquors that Cape Charles Distillery offers. All of our drinks were served “neat” – without ice or mixers – so that we could fully experience the flavor profile of each. We started with the flagship bourbon, aged 3 and a half years in charred American Oak barrels. My friend declared it an excellent bourbon with a nice finish, and an easy “burn.” The bourbon was followed by a peppery rye whiskey and a smooth wheat whiskey. The wheat whiskey was soft and floral, the perfect gateway whiskey for a neophyte like me. Next up was a maple whiskey.
Annually, the distillery purchases 500 gallons of Amish maple syrup, to make their fragrant, slightly sweet, maple whiskey. There is definitely a bread pudding with whiskey sauce in my future that is going to feature this whiskey. The final whiskey was an apple moonshine. Hands down, my favorite of the flight. Several women, who were tasting along with us, agreed wholeheartedly. Bill’s moonshine is not the “white lightning” version of prohibition days. It’s an apple based mash, loaded with cinnamon and autumn spices. Fragrant on the nose, and delicious going down, this 40 proof concoction was declared potentially dangerous by everyone at the bar.
Did I mention Bill also creates a vodka? Woo Woo vodka proclaims on its label that it “captures the spirit of the Eastern Shore in every bottle.” The label was inspired by Joe Coccaro’s totally fictional book of the same name that features almost every eclectic character in the town of Cape Charles, but of course bearing no actual resemblance to any real person, or so the disclaimer says. I do appreciate a fine vodka, and this is one of the best I have ever tasted. Distilled 9 times, this vodka is clean, crisp and smooth. I tasted 5 whiskeys but brought home the vodka.
The Cape Charles Distillery is open every day, except Tuesday. Allow yourself plenty of time if you plan to visit. Bill is passionate about his craft, and his easygoing Eastern Shore demeanor and excellent storytelling will keep you occupied for a while.