A funny thing happened in Bullock County, Alabama this month. Not since Jack Daniels left Birmingham during Prohibition has there been a distillery presence. But launching this month is Stills Crossroads ‘Shine, produced by High Ridge Spirits. It’s the product of moonshine masterminds Jamie Ray and Robert “Bubba” Hall, Jr.
Jamie Ray has been in the brewing spirits business for almost thirty years. A native of Idaho, he found himself in Florida due to a little thing called Jimmy Buffet several years ago. Bubba, a Georgia native, was formerly in corporate transportation but left to write songs and perform music full-time fifteen years ago. The two met through music and coincidence and eventually formed a partnership with three of Bubba’s friends from Alabama.
Bullock County is historically known for its superior moonshine, in large part because the local drinking water is renowned for its natural filtration. Bubba describes the moonshine as exceptionally smooth and not as sour as traditional moonshine, with an unusually pleasant aroma. “We don’t call it drinking,” he informs me. “We call it ‘market research.’ ”
Whereas moonshine is normally made with corn, High Ridge uses a special malted rye inspired by Jamie’s background in brewing. This winter they’ll be planting an organic GMO-free rye that will eventually be harvested and turned into moonshine. High Ridge Spirits’ ’shine is distilled three to ten times in 100-gallon stills, ensuring a handcrafted small-batch every time. Eventually they plan to release a bourbon, vodka, gin, and rum (with local sugarcane).
Bubba’s infectious enthusiasm and love for his region was palpable even on the telephone. He informed me that Bullock County is one of the poorest counties in Alabama, so local job creation is an especially important concern to High Ridge Spirits. I think we can all drink to that.