Troy Ball is on a quest to revolutionize whiskey.
Amid the backdrop of Western North Carolina’s mountain country, Troy Ball is busy crafting and promoting her fifth still of moonshine under her label, Troy & Sons Distillers. Distilled in copper, German-made stills, she and her small team carefully test and monitor every batch of moonshine until it’s perfectly, deliciously smooth.
Her renowned brand of moonshine is a far cry from the fiery “white lightning” she tasted when she first relocated from Austin to Asheville several years ago. When she and her husband, Charlie, moved to town, the older men that lived near them started dropping by with jars of moonshine as a sort of “welcome to the neighborhood” gesture. “Usually it was burning hot and I’d tell them ‘I don’t want any of this moonshine, it’s terrible!’ And then they’d say, ‘you know the good stuff never leaves the house.’” Resolute to dislike it, Ball was caught off guard in 2008 when she finally put her lips on a jar of the good stuff. “This 80-year-old man brought me some and made me promise I’d try it. So I did try it and was amazed by it.” After tasting the sparse selection at her local liquor store, and finding it lacking, a plan started taking shape. “I started this hunt to learn more about moonshine. I talked to old guys who introduced me to people that made moonshine. Then, I had to find someone who knew how to make great moonshine. Eventually, I found that guy.”
But, before we get to the founding of her family business, there’s something you should know about Ball: like her moonshine, she’s a rare breed. She’s not just a beautiful, self-taught moonshine-making woman named Troy. She also possesses a rather unusual juxtaposition of traits that makes her irresistible—she’s jubilant, yet classy; she’s a go-getter with heaps of patience; she can run with the boys but she is not one of them; she has an unbreakable will, yet, she knows how to kick back. Which might be why Appalachia’s mountain men entrusted their moonshine-making secrets to her in the first place. That, and there’s Ball’s inexhaustible persistence. She doesn’t ever give up.
In a separate lifetime, Ball competed in endurance horse races throughout the United States and Canada (and won a team gold medal in the Canadian National Championship in her first 100 mile race), knocking off win after win from the back of her silver-maned horse, Willie (named after Willie Nelson). She even joined acclaimed rider John Crandall’s support staff as he raced through the Middle East and Malaysia during the Wold Endurance Championship. Be it racing, raising her three sons or jumpstarting a whiskey business, Ball says,“I am just a person who focuses.”
So, in 2008 when Ball decided to make the leap into the distillery business, she didn’t hesitate on the follow-through. As Ball sought out local corn crops to use in her moonshine, she stumbled upon a man named John McEntire and his crop of Crooked Creek Corn. This white corn was unique to the area and had been thriving on the McEntire farm for the past 120 years—and, it made for exquisite whiskey. “According to scientists at the University of Tennessee, in the olden days people ate white corn and fed the yellow corn to their animals. If you lived on a little farm somewhere, you were using the white corn in your whiskey…. We’re trying really hard to produce a product that’s really close to the original American white whiskey,” says Ball. After a year of experimenting with Crooked Creek Corn (the distillery has exclusive rights to the corn) and local grains, Troy & Sons Distillers’ first batch hit the market in August of 2011. Two short years later, the brand has already received national acclaim. Their Platinum Moonshine was recently selected to go on the permanent drink menu at all Disney properties by next year.
Currently, Troy & Sons Distillers produces three varieties of moonshine. There’s the Platinum Moonshine, a warm, fruit-forward white whiskey with hints of melon and banana; there’s the bourbon-barrel aged Oak Reserve with undertones of caramel and pepper; and then there’s the rich, creamy Blonde Whiskey with its butterscotch and vanilla flavorings. Ball took what she learned from the moonshine masters to heart and makes pure craft moonshine wherein she removes the heads and the tails, avoids any additives, sugars or coloring, and incorporates local grains, Crooked Creek Corn and fresh mountain water. The result? Moonshine that’s equally suited to barefoot, back-porch sipping or to a posh night on the town. “Our goal is to make really smooth moonshine that can compete with vodka in cocktails. We’re a real craft brand.”
Check out a few drink recipes here