If you happen to bump into an attractive blonde with a friendly demeanor while touring this distillery, chances are she’s “Moonshine Mama” Troy Ball. A former competitive horse racer who describes herself as “entrepreneurial by nature,” Ball moved from Austin, Texas, with her family a decade ago because she thought the cool mountain air would be healthier for her two special-needs sons. When neighbors stopped by to welcome them with a jar of white lightnin’, Ball was intrigued. She soon formulated her own corn liquor in a five-gallon pressure cooker.
“My husband truly thought I was crazy,” Ball laughs. Yet she convinced him they could make a business out of it, and they opened their operation in 2011. “Today he’s the master distiller,” she says.
An engineer with an MBA and a background in green development, Charlie Ball is the mastermind of the gleaming 5,000-liter, German-made copper still that you see on the distillery tour. It stays busy almost ’round the clock, producing 100,000 cases a year. Troy says she’s not surprised by their success: “When I got into this, I wanted to make the finest example of a great American white whiskey that I could.”
The process begins in the fields. The Balls pride themselves on the sweet white heirloom corn they procure from local farmer John McEntire. An 1840s variety called Crooked Creek, it’s the main ingredient in Troy & Sons Platinum Whiskey and Troy & Sons Oak Reserve, which is mellowed in bourbon barrels.
In a city famous for the Biltmore Estate, the boyhood home of Look Homeward, Angel author Thomas Wolfe, and a pioneering craft-beer scene, Asheville Distilling Co. has already found a niche as a tourist destination. (Five minutes from downtown off Interstate 40, it sits next to Highland Brewing Co., a nationally regarded craft brewer.)
Though North Carolina prohibits distilleries from selling whiskey on the premises, the Balls hope the law will soon change. In the meantime, thirsty guests seek out local restaurants with Troy & Sons cocktails on the menu. “Our visitors want to know which restaurants in town sell our products. ‘Where can we get a cocktail?’” Troy says. (One answer: Try the house Old Fashioned—Troy & Sons Reserve, honey, bitters, and lemon—at Chestnut.) ashevilledistilling.com •