(Altered) State of Mind More than corn, grains or rice, the key ingredient in
Burnt Church Distillery’s line of whiskeys, vodkas, gins and moonshines will be Bluffton’s rich history. BY BARRY KAUFMAN
PHOTOS BY ROB KAUFMAN
An Early Sampling
While the distillery is not up and running yet, samples of the launch product currently aging at a separate facility are kept in Sean Watterson’s “laboratory” inside Watterson Brands. We were able to sneak a few sips. “We don’t like when people hint at flavor,” said Sean, “because it disappears so fast or you have to over garnish it to make your nose think that your mouth is tasting it. We’re very forward with things. We’re like, ‘Don’t hide it, bring it up.’” First there was the Bluffton Whiskey, the one brand whose name has been confirmed. A deep, mellow whiskey, this benefits tremendously from the Carolina Gold Rice for a distinctive profile. There are two bourbons – a four- and six-grain variety. The four grain tempts the palate with a hint of sweetness for a perfectly sippable bourbon. But it’s the six-grain that truly shines, with a complex flavor that could make it Old Town’s go-to. The cinnamon whiskey wisely avoids the saccharine sweetness that usually informs your major label brands, settling into a smokey appeal with hints of what this taster swore was gingerbread. For the record, there is no gingerbread, and this taster was a few samples in. One dark horse standout of the bunch was the chocolate moonshine, which seemed impossibly velvety and rich. If you remember how ice-cold Yoo-Hoo tasted when you were a kid on a hot summer day, you have some idea of how this tastes.
Many of us have made lofty plans while sipping back drinks. Tomorrow, we promise to a fresh glass, will be the day we finally pursue that dream we’d long held. Tomorrow we’ll tell that boss how we feel, start working on that novel, finally ask that someone out on a date or start hitting the gym. Those plans usually evaporate with the first light of dawn. Except in the case of brothers Billy and Sean Watterson. Billy, a serial entrepreneur, was always in pursuit of his next big passion. Sean was approaching semi-retirement. In the wilds of South Dakota, pouring drinks around the campfire, their conversation had turned to that eternal question: What do you want to do with the rest of your life? “We ended up landing on, of all things, ‘What about whiskey?’” said Billy. It took them a little less than a year, but after mulling over the possibilities, they were agreed. Sean would move down to join Billy in South Carolina, and the brothers Watterson were going into the distilling business. “We were really just starting from scratch,” said Sean. For six months, he dove headfirst into the process, looking at each ingredient with the seasoned eye of a foodie to determine what each added to the flavor profile. He attended
The Best of Dining, Nightlife and Entertainment on Hilton Head Island.