A lot has changed about North Carolina corn liquor in the past century. Some are even calling it vodka.
Social House Vodka, branded in Raleigh and distilled in Kinston, is made entirely from corn grown within 60 miles of the Neuse River. After less than three months on the market, it’s making the leap to other states.
Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits distributes Social House within North Carolina and recently signed a deal with the distiller to get the vodka in stores beyond the state line.
Co-founder Mark Mullins declined to say which states they’ll head to, but said the deal is for seven East Coast states beyond North Carolina. Now, it is sold in more than 100 ABC stores in North Carolina.
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“This opens the door, but each state has a different listing period for state approval,” Mullins said. “This agreement bolsters the company and we can cut down our time to market by leveraging (Southern Glazer’s) strength.”
North Carolina has a long, storied history with hooch, but perhaps only in the last few years has really explored its expertise. A number of notable distilleries have popped up in recent years, including Durham Distillery, which makes Conniption gin, and Graybeard Distillery, which makes Bedlam Vodka from rice.
“Prior to prohibition, there were more registered distilleries in North Carolina than anywhere else in the country,” Mullins said. “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see companies tapping into the expertise that’s here in North Carolina. Craft distillers are lagging behind the craft beer industry, but lately we’re starting to see some come into this space.”
Mullins founded Social House in August with Gaurev “G” Patel, the owner of Echelon Experiences restaurant group, and Cary Joshi. Joshi said the surge in craft spirits is part of the movement of encouraging consumers to buy local and artisanal products.
“There’s the local component, but also transparency,” Joshi said. “People care what they put into their bodies and where it comes from. We worked really hard to make a vodka that’s gluten free and tested 29 different varieties of corn.”
Clear spirits, like vodka and gin, have so far led the craft distilling industry, as they’re fairly quick to manufacture compared to whiskey, which takes years to age. Vodka is generally distilled to be neutral in taste, but Joshi said there’s character to Social House.
“Vodka should be neutral, and ours will be if you’re drinking a vodka cranberry or a bloody Mary,” he said. “But we wanted to give it a little character if you’re sipping on it. It has a sweet corn flavor and a little hint of pepper from the water we use, which comes from the Black Creek aquifer, water permeating through the salt and pepper sand through thousands of years.”
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson