Broad Branch Distillery’s gamut captures Carolina heritage. Their mission statement is deeply rooted in the “old world craft Heritage and artisanal Blue Ridge Mountain Traditions.” With three distinct spirits on the market and a Rye in the works, they are growing rapidly, but still holding onto the traditions that have helped establish their brand.
I sat down and talked with distiller Joe Tappe at Broad Branch, located in Winston-Salem. Their flagship spiriit, Nightlab 1.0, showcases their traditional heritage methods of distilling. “Nightlab is based off a very old North Carolinan recipe, from distillers in Allegany Co., who had been doing this for 8 to 9 years,” explained Tappe of their unique recipe. The distillery brought in Frank Williams, a well-known distiller from Alleghany County, to teach the method that was passed down to him. Tappe refers to Nightlab as a “foundation spirit.” “Williams knows the mixture intrinsically, and we have taken the recipe and methods he taught us, and we use those as building blocks; we learn the science,” says Trappe. Trappe talks about Williams with great affection, and it’s lovely hearing stories of the learning process, and the eccentric gentleman who (allegedly) started distilling before he was even old enough to drive. You can’t help but giggle at the tales and feel a closer connection with the spirit after hearing more about Williams.
Nightlab is a modern expression of William’s recipe. All elements (sans rye) come from North Carolina, and Broad Branch grinds and distills all ingredients in-house., They use heirloom corn and non-GMO grains, and bring in artisanal water from the Blue Ridge Mountains. At a 91-proof point Nightlab 1.0 has a kick, but the mix of grains, and elements such as hops and sugar, end up giving the spirit an almost tequila-like taste and familiarity.
I asked about the Hops in the spirit, and Tappe pointed out that it was just the way Williams made it. “You can’t really taste them, but it’s possible they used them as a preservative. The same way the British used hops as one, inadvertently creating the popular IPA.”
Together with Nightlab 1.0, I was pleased to be introduced to Nobilium during my visit to the distillery. Tappe explained that the 3-barrel blend, aged in European Oak and sitting at 101.6 proof, is what they imagined Nightlab might have tasted like if the original distillers had access to barrels.
Along with their foundation spirit, Broad Branch is also creating a craft infusion known as Smashing Violet. Paying homage to the iconic Eastern NC blueberries, this 58-proof liquor is infused with hand-pressed blueberries from our state. They describe the liquor as “swagger meets sweet,” which is evident in its unique Carolina blueberry flavor and evocative blue coloring. (Tappe recommends serving Smashing Violet over ice with sparkling ginger beverages).
It’s great to see a distillery like Broad Branch sourcing recipes and ingredients from our state’s heritage, and continuing to produce new and unique spirits. They are planning to soon enter the market with a Rye whiskey, and have several new and unique products on the way.
To learn more about Broad Branch Distillery, you can visit their website, or drop by the distillery.
756 N. Trade Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101