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by Bill Burke

Granite State Spirits

A

s whiskey and bourbon

continue to tempt the palates and

capture the imaginations of discerning sippers throughout the world, New Hampshire’s distillers have put a distinctive Granite State stamp on the white-hot industry.

The veteran

» Nine years ago, Kevin Kur-

land was on his second tour of duty for the New Hampshire Air National Guard when his position came under mortar attack at the Baghdad International Airport. It turned out to be a fortuitous event. “It was the first half of that deployment in 2008, and the insurgency was still relatively strong in the Baghdad region,” Kurland says from the much quieter environs of his Seabrook distillery. “About once a week or more we’d get a rocket or mortar barrage on the airfield. When that happens, you put on your helmet and your gear and basically, you’re stuck wherever you are.” Kurland took shelter with a copy of the Wall Street Journal someone had abandoned, and an article on the promising future of craft distilling caught his attention. At that moment, Kurland knew what he was going to do when his tour was up. Appropriately for this veteran 42

Destination NH | 2017

and father of three, Smoky Quartz Distillery (named for our state gemstone) moved into its Lafayette Road location on July 4, 2013. An eye-catching, well-kept exterior right on Route 1 near the Hampton Falls line leads to a welcoming, comfortable tasting room. Reclaimed wood from a barn built in 1850 lines the walls; a chalkboard filled with events came from an old schoolhouse undergoing renovations in Pittsfield, and whiskey barrels hold up the well-worn bar top. A door leads visitors into the distillery itself, where a large, shiny still of Kurland’s own design sits alongside Northern Wisconsin White Oak barrels and a 1953 Yankee cook kettle serving as a mash tun. It’s here that Smoky Quartz’s spirits are crafted. The Smoky Quartz V5 Bourbon (named for the five veterans in the family), is a small-batch whiskey aged in 15-gallon white oak barrels and bottled at 90 proof. It’s sweet, flavorful and has a long, warm finish. The company’s

With stores of the high-quality stuff aging in barrels laid down from from Tamworth to Seabrook, there’s plenty of America’s native spirit ready for bottling. For those interested in surfing the amber wave, New Hampshire has several distilleries producing top-notch whiskies along an impromptu granite whiskey trail. Interested sippers need only point their designated driver at one of several spirits crafters around the state to discover some of the finest whiskey this side of Jefferson’s, Jack and Jim. Besides, Kentucky is so last year. Leading the way: The veteran, the teacher, the farmer, the alchemist and the filmmaker.

While you’re there:

Try the Solid Granite Vodka. It’s crafted with corn grown within 125 miles of the distillery, fresh, local grains and New Hampshire spring water. It’s got a natural sweetness with a smooth, no-burn finish.

flagship, it garnered Kurland the 2016 American Craft Spirit Association’s Silver Medal. “I just wanted to keep it simple,” Kurland says. “There’s no malt in it — it’s 100 percent corn. I call it a very simple whiskey. You’re not going to get overly complex. It’s a very balanced whiskey. There’s a nice balance between the sweet and the heat, and at the back of the throat you get a nice warmth with no burn to it.”

Smoky Quartz Distillery owner Kevin Kurland Photo by Susan Laughlin

Destination NH 2017  
Destination NH 2017