Master Distiller John Wilcox doesn't look like the typical southern gentlemen who typically stroll Greenville South Carolina's Main Street. And he's not. This Renaissance man moved to upstate South Carolina from Fairbanks, Alaska. He brought with him a master's in sculpture, a passion for craft distilling and a foodie's sense of adventure. "Everyone is Alaska is a foodie," he says, with a laugh. "What else are you gonna do all winter?"
White Tiger Gin, South Carolina's first legal gin — Photo courtesy of Dark Corner DistilleryWilcox is the force behind the recently released small batch gin called White Tiger. When asked about the name, he explains that his own grandfather was a gin drinker and the Chinese call the rare white tiger 'grandfather' . . . thus, a brand was born in the Greenville distillery where he now spends the majority of his waking hours.
Barrels are used in the distilling process — Photo courtesy of Dark Corner DistilleryDark Corner Distillery - named for the geographic area of upstate South Carolina where moonshine stills are a way of life - is located on Greenville's award-winning Main Street. It's open to the public as a tasting room, and see-through walls allow visitors to see the distilling process up close. Now, its White Tiger is South Carolina's first-ever legal gin and it's being very well received in local tastings.
"Gin comes out clear," says Wilcox, "but it doesn't start that way." The distilling process in Grenville starts with corn whiskey, which is then redistilled with exotic herbs. By the time you mix in all the botanicals, you have a big ugly batch of brownish, green liquid," Wilcox says with a smile. His finished product, however, is a smooth, clear gin. Spirits distilled at Dark Corner are based on corn — Photo courtesy of Dark Corner Distillery - Greenville, SC
Wilcox is proud of White Tiger and he should be: it's got a very different taste than the majority of gins, which are, he says, "very juniper forward." The juniper berry is the boldest flavor in a typical gin, Wilcox explains, and many people don't like it. It turns off a lot of potential gin drinkers. So he turned tradition on its ear - which is, actually, a tradition in craft distilling (ah, the irony). "I made gin-making a much more democratic process, giving equal weight to all the botanicals," he said.
White Tiger is South Carolina’s first hand-distilled gin. Wilcox infused it with Szechuan pepper, lemongrass, jasmine, and Thai basil. The result is a delicious and refreshing 90-proof gin perfect for sipping or for mixing. It's already brought home a Bronze medal at the exclusive Los Angeles International Wine & Sprits competition, as well as a gold medal for from the 2012 MicroLiquor Spirit Awards, in which craft distillers vie with each other.
To learn more about visiting Dark Corner Distillery, or to order a bottle of the newest artisanal spirit - White Tiger gin - visit www.darkcornerdistillery.com . Thai basil is one ingredient used in White Tiger gin — Photo courtesy of choking sun