By Terry Badman | photos by Nancy Ho
Buying booze is something we take for granted. From the convenience of liquor stores to the neighborhood pub, there’s no shortage of ways to get your drink on. But for some, obtaining a bottle of hooch is all about where you are, and who you know.
Deep in the southern heart of Mississippi lies Lawrence County. And during the years before and after prohibition, the county as a whole remained dry, imposing a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages. But humans are a resilient species, and while the ban on alcohol had an effect in the public eye, moonshiners quietly worked to provide illegal spirits to those who knew how to find them.
Today in New Hampshire, those original moonshiners continue to influence the work of a local distillery, which is bringing southern traditions to the Granite State.
Djinn Spirits (pronounced “gin” like the drink) has distilled quality gin and whiskeys in Nashua since December 2013. The concept of the city’s sole distillery was crafted by husband and wife team Andy and Cindy Harthcock. Their signature whiskey, Beat 3, is a tribute to their southern roots.
“It’s a nod to my wife’s heritage,” Andy said. “We’re both originally from Mississippi. She grew up in Lawrence County, which is still a dry county.”
“If you wanted some moonshine, you went down to Beat 3 to see one of a couple families that did moonshine,” Andy explained.
Djinn Spirits operates out of a 3,000 square-foot facility in an office park off an Amherst Street side road. Walking through the modest glass door entryway brings you into a cozy reception area, where custom t-shirts, glassware, bottled spirits, and other branded items are available to purchase. The centerpiece of the room is the high-gloss, pine wood bar where patrons can gather to taste and ponder samples of Djinn’s top shelf spirits. A hallway behind the bar area leads to the distillery room housed in a large, open concept warehouse space.
In addition to running the business with Cindy, Andy also teaches classes, Spirits 101 and Whiskey 101, during some evenings.
“I had great times learning about this stuff in the industry. That’s what prompted me to offer the classes,” he said. “People have a fundamental lack of knowledge of where spirits come from. How do you manufacture it? But the truth is, when beer grows up it becomes whiskey.”
Speaking of whiskey, the distillery currently offers four products. Beat 3 is a young, white whiskey, and has much in common with traditional moonshine. Beat 3 only spends a handful of days barrel-aging, leaving it with a smooth, sweet, and slightly hot finish, allowing the flavors of the grains to shine through.
“Aging gives the aromatic volatiles that are not desirable a chance to mellow out,” Andy said. “And it does lend a little color to my moonshine. It’s not totally clear like traditional moonshine, but it tastes a lot better.”
In contrast, Djinn’s other whiskey product, Beat 3 Reserve, takes a batch of Beat 3 and ages it in small charred, American white oak barrels for several months. This produces a smooth, spicy, golden-hued whiskey with warm, caramel notes and aromas of vanilla and oak.
“The smaller the barrel, the faster a whiskey will mature. I only have to leave it on the barrels for three or four months to get a good quality product,” Andy said. “About 60 percent of the flavor of whiskey comes from the barrel.”
One of the biggest draws at Djinn Spirits is the product that phonetically shares the company’s name: gin. While many gins you see on the shelf at your local liquor store appear clear in color, Djinn Spirits gin takes on a slight shade of pale, dandelion yellow.
“It makes for an unusual color,” Andy said. “It’s one of those things I could change, but I thought about it, and it’s an all-natural process, so why fix it? It’s kind of unique.”
The color is created by utilizing a gin head during the distilling process. This less commonly used device forces alcohol vapors to move through botanicals – such as juniper, hibiscus and elder flowers – before it condenses into a liquid alcohol. This eventually becomes a tasty liquid infused with the flavors, aromas, and colors of the botanicals. This same gin was also named Best of NH 2014 by New Hampshire Magazine.
The final product offered by Djinn Spirits is also the company’s newest creation: a Krupnik. This old-world styled honey liqueur has roots dating back to the 1300s, and was originally developed in the regions near Poland and Lithuania.
“It was a drink that was a symbol of family and friendship,” Andy said. “It was always used for celebrations. To toast the bride and groom, you’d take a shot of Krupnik.”
Keeping in tradition of Krupniks of old, the Djinn Spirits’ version is made with local honey, has an intense sweetness and flavor profile of cinnamon and other seasonal spices. The high alcohol proof leaves you feeling warm and cozy while New England winters rage outside your window. If the holidays were a drink, they would taste like this.
But whatever your preference may be, you don’t need to travel all the way to Mississippi’s Beat 3 to get some southern hospitality and top-shelf moonshine. Djinn Spirits has you covered.
Djinn Spirits products can be purchased at the distillery (2 Townsend W #9, Nashua, N.H.) Saturday and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and at various liquor stores in New Hampshire. For more information, visit www.djinnspirits.com. | 617-649-6972