Whiskey to love made in South Carolina.
By Bill Bauer
“Every bourbon is a whiskey, but not every whiskey is a bourbon,” says Robert “Farmer” Redmond as he takes a sip of his Six and Twenty Distillery’s 5-Grain Bourbon. “And we make South Carolina’s premier whiskey.” Farmer and his college rugby mate, David Raad, comprise the “we” as co-owners of Six and Twenty Distillery in Powdersville, SC. I recently sat and sipped with Farmer as he schooled me on the art of distilling whiskey and told me a love story.
Farmer is the great great nephew of Major Lewis Redmond, the infamous Oconee County moonshiner who was harassed and eventually arrested by revenuers, but was so talented that he was actually pardoned from prison to work in a government distillery. David had recently returned from Africa where he helped establish SAB Miller’s brewing operation in Kenya. It was at Redmond’s annual company Christmas party where the two reunited and gathered with a group of guys around a pickup truck to sample a little local moonshine. Redmond recalls the evening very well. “David said to me, ‘ We can make this stuff and actually make it better.’”
That was December 2010, and after a year of planning, their love affair with distilling began with the production of Virgin Wheat, a clear, 93 proof “youthful” whiskey, and a blended and aged variety called Six and Twenty Blue. “We married the Virgin Wheat with a 6-year old Kentucky bourbon, aged it in an oak barrel for several months, and named it Blue after the old wedding tradition,” says Redmond. “Something old is the Kentucky bourbon, something new is the virgin wheat whiskey, something borrowed is time in a barrel, and you come out with something blue.” Their first batch of Blue hit the market just before Christmas 2012 and was sold out by New Year’s. Today Redmond and Raad have just bottled their ninth batch of 5-Grain Bourbon Whiskey and 12th batch of Old Money Wheat Whiskey.
“We make the only 5-grain bourbon whiskey in the world right here in Anderson County,” boasts Redmond. Using only products from South Carolina, it is truly the Palmetto State’s bourbon. “We get our corn and wheat from the upstate, barley and rye from the midlands, and rice from the lowcountry. Each batch of 5-Grain or Old Money, aged two years in a new oak barrel, by design has a flavor all its own, the result of using an open vat, Belgian style of distillation. Uncovered stainless steel tanks containing the fermenting mash are exposed to different seasons, daily changes in temperature and humidity, natural yeasts in the air, and eventually its own unique charred oak barrel. “The process is always the same, but nature varies the batch,” says Redmond.
Old Money Whiskey, at 80 proof, strikes your palate quickly with hints of caramel, toffee, and dark chocolate, but the smooth flavor lingers as it finishes slowly. Made by slowly aging Six and Twenty’s signature, clear Virgin White Wheat whiskey, it is as good over ice as it is straight up. “It was always what we set out to do. Craft an aged whiskey smooth enough for our wives to drink neat!” Exciting and bold best describes the 5-Grain Bourbon. It explodes in your mouth with delight as you discover each harmonious flavor. Redmond prides himself in identifying each single batch and describes #8 as a “South Carolina Hay Ride!”
Tasting Six and Twenty’s craft whiskeys is easy. Open Monday through Saturday from Noon to a very appropriate 6:20, David, Farmer, or Maureen Redmond will take you on a tour of the distillery, explain their distillation process, and serve up whiskey samples of all three varieties. The showroom, in the front of their location, the former Peeler milk transfer station on Hwy 153 in Powdersville, displays their whiskeys and assorted Six and Twenty souvenirs. Be prepared for some holiday specials that David and Farmer have been concocting behind the scenes. A Six and Twenty Crème Liqueur is almost ready for the shelf, as is Bullrush Gin. A limited whiskey, Carolina Rouge, has been aching to be bottled after aging in two, cote rotie wine barrels procured from the Rhone Valley region of France. It promises to be special and will most likely disappear quickly.
Old Money, 5-Grain Bourbon, and Virgin Wheat can also be purchased in a host of retail stores and fine dining restaurants in South Carolina and Georgia. Check Six and Twenty Distillery’s website for directions to the distillery and exact locations at sixandtwentydistillery.com.
– Photo by Bill Bauer
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.