Yeah, there are a bajillion micro-breweries across the nation, some of which you might even find in someone’s basement. What you won’t find many of out there are micro-distilleries. And even fewer still, micro-distilleries making their own alcohol from domestic and organic raw ingredients. You can count those on one hand. Then once you add in all of the environmentally friendly practices that TOPO Distillery has incorporated into their distilling process you are talking about a truly unique beverage. TOPO, or Top of the Hill, got their start as a pub and restaurant over looking the scene of many college basketball victory celebrations on Franklin St. in the little college town of Chapel Hill. After securing an iconic spot and becoming successful at their own micro-brewery, the next step was obviously to make their own Vodka, Whisky, and Gin.
It all starts with a soft red winter wheat organically grown down the road in Scotland Neck, NC. The wheat is ground and turned into mash which ferments in a huge fermenting chamber that is temperature controlled.
With a custom built distillation tower that uses up to 70% less water and energy TOPO separates the alcohol from the mash in about half the time it would normally take. Part of what makes this process so efficient is recycling water which cuts down on water use and makes it easier to control the temperature. Most distilleries don’t even make their own alcohol, but instead buy it from facilities that do just that. And the process has really only just begun.
TOPO then takes the separated alcohol, puts it in the beautiful copper pot still, and begins the rigorous purification process. Rigorous because if you are going to make a clean crisp tasting vodka then you are going to need to get rid of impurities like methanol and aldehydes. For vodka TOPO starts with alcohol that is above 80 proof and runs it up a tower with 22 condensation plates where the alcohol goes from gas to liquid at each stop getting rid of those impurities. This is done 3 times essentially distilling the alcohol 66 times to give you a 97 proof product.
TOPO has a white whisky that goes through a shorter distillation column and straight to the bottle or to a red oak barrel to be aged and bottled later. Gin is infused with Juniper and other botanicals before going through the column. Botanicals and flavors were at first sourced from all over, but with strong ties with their farming partners TOPO convinced them to grow those ingredients too. Now approximately 97 percent of all TOPO’s ingredients come within 150 miles from the distillery.
Even their bottling, labeling, and packaging is done in house. All their efforts in building an environmentally conscious craft distillery has earned them a Green Plus label, lots of awards, and should earn your top shelf.
Find out where you can buy a bottle at TOPO Distillery.
Materials and labor all American.