Taking a 'Shine' to White Lightnin'

A new white corn whiskey is sophisticated but its spirit is in the hills

As someone who grew up in a holler in darkest West Virginia, I can tell you that the newly launched Shine white whiskey — aka, moonshine — would never make it as the booze du jour on the back porch of my neighbor up the road who ran his own copper still deep in the woods (before going off to prison for an enforced career change, that is).

One, Shine is legal.

Two, it tastes so good the down-home boys wouldn’t appreciate it.

Like white lightning, Shine is clear corn whiskey, but, unlike moonshine, it is made by a master distiller, Robert Cassell of the Philadelphia Distilling, from the best ingredients. One of a growing breed of regional spirits makers, the distiller has already successfully launched Bluecoat gin, Penn 1681 vodka, and Vieux Carré absinthe.

“My target with Shine was for it to showcase the raw material — the corn,” Cassell says, adding that the use of a pot still was important. “The pot still retains the full character and rich oils derived from the heirloom corn, as well as the other corns used.”

Andrew Auwerda, one of the partners in Philadelphia Distilling, points out proudly that Pennsylvania was once the cradle of both rye and corn whiskey making. Western Pennsylvanians felt so strongly about their corn and rye that they launched the Whiskey Rebellion against the new American government over alcohol taxes. Launched in 2005, Philadelphia Distilling is now the first craft distillery licensed there since the Prohibition.

“Shine is an un-aged, naked corn whiskey, intended for immediate consumption and not for aging,” Cassell points out. Served neat, Shine is very full, smooth and well-balanced with a pleasant, natural bite at the end of the taste followed by a long aftertaste of warm, rich, cracked grain. Shine can also be a mixologist’s best friend, as it goes well either as the main ingredient in a cocktail, like a mildly flavored vodka, or as a special ingredient to give weight and mellow flavors.

Shine is 44.4% alcohol, so it is not for the weak of knees, and comes in an attractive, 750-milliliter clear glass jug with a cork stopper. And, when you take a swig yourself, you’ll see that Shine unleashes a real corn-ucopia of flavor and enjoyment.

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