The Great Wagon Road Distillery may share a common wall with private club The Broken Spoke, but the distillery’s bottles must travel much further than simply through a doorway.
Ollie Mulligan, owner of Great Wagon Road, has done the math. Their single-malt Rua must travel an astonishing 580 miles before it ends up in my glass next door, neat pour please.
North Carolina law mandates that all liquor entering the state must be routed through the primary ABC warehouse.
So for those of you following along at home, my pour ventured from the other side of a common wall, up to the main Raleigh warehouse where it must legally spend the night, back to the Charlotte distribution center, over to the ABC store, plus roundtrip mileage between the Broken Spoke and said ABC store.
I spend a good chunk of my time in Charlotte breweries, so this odyssey boggles my mind. I’m accustomed to my libations being made on premise and served there too, no travel necessary.
There’s good news for folks taking a tour of Charlotte’s distilleries
If you’re touring, you can legally buy directly from local distilleries like Doc Porter’s or Great Wagon Road without that bottle ever leaving those four walls. The bad news is, you’re quite limited in the quantity you can buy: one bottle, per person, per year.
In June of 2015, House Bill 909 passed through the North Carolina General Assembly. It mainly served as a catch-all for many smaller alcohol-related issues, but HB 909 did carry one important provision for North Carolina’s burgeoning homegrown spirits industry: It allowed them to sell a single bottle of their output annually directly to an individual, effective October 1, 2015.
I recently spent some quality time at both Doc Porter’s and Great Wagon Road, conveniently located mere blocks apart in the Lower South End area. My goals were twofold – buy a take-home bottle (you know, for “research purposes”), and to break the law. I only halfway succeeded, but had a great time nonetheless.
Even this jaded veteran of brewery tours stands in awe of a polished column still. No brewery’s brewhouse or rows of fermenters can even compare.
I’ll not spoil the actual contents of the tour for you. Archaic bottle purchasing limits aside, it’s certainly worth an hour of your time to be walked through the process of turning mash of grain and hot water into distilled liquor. Plus, there’s a sampling session at the end.
In interests of full disclosure, I didn’t hide the fact that I was there to break the one-bottle law. Trying to buy a second bottle immediately after the first has that effect; I just wanted to see what would happen. Would alarms go off? Members of Alcohol Law Enforcement rappelling down from the ceiling? No, turns out I’d just get an error code, saying I’d bought a bottle inside my legal window. What a killjoy.
Visitors to Charlotte’s breweries take the smallest things for granted. We have the abilities to visit said brewery, enjoy a pint or few at their taproom, perhaps take a tour, and buy a to-go growler, four-pack, or keg. Sadly, state law drastically limits what visitors to our area distilleries can walk out with to a single bottle, but it’s better than nothing and is certainly time well-spent.
Doc Porter’s tour info
Mini-tours offered Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Cost is $5, no reservations.
Guided tours offered Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Cost is $10, reservations required.
More information here
Great Wagon Road tour info
Guided tours offered Thursdays and Fridays at 6 p.m., Saturdays at noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.. Cost is $15. Reservations required.
More information here