By Chris Heagney
Gin is starting to make a regular appearance in the craft beverage line-up. Prohibition-era speakeasies, a pensive Don Draper and cob-webbed barrels all produce a mysterious, sinister-yet-elegant aura around the distilled beverage. It is the furthest degree of alcohol production; after one has mashed, fermented and distilled, there is little more you can do aside from infusion or aging. The folks at Apothecary Beverage Company, producers of Chemist Gin, have studied this art form through years of research at wineries and distilleries in California, France and Scotland.
James Donaldson, one of the owners of Apothecary, explained that he, his wife Danielle and his mother-in-law, Debbie Word, began distilling on a moonshine still after their travels. “We were impressed by the quality of spirits we were able to produce with our small still and inspired by the incredible craft beer that surrounded us, so we began researching how we could start our own craft distillery in the heart of Asheville,” he says. The family approached Brandon Horne to join the team as a business partner and chief financial officer.
Once they were ready to begin production, they hired master distiller Anthony Mundy to help scale up the recipes they had crafted at home. “From there, Chemist Gin was born,” says Donaldson. “It’s a handmade spirit with the exceptional quality that can only be achieved with local Appalachian botanicals.” The gin’s namesake comes from Danielle Word Donaldson who is a chemist by trade. It is also an homage to the Prohibition-era pharmacies that prescribed “medicinal spirits,” many of which moonlighted as speakeasies.
Like all gins, The Chemist’s features juniper berries, but includes many other flavor profiles to distinguish itself as unique. “Our gin has a much softer and lighter flavor than many gins,” explains Donaldson. “We accomplish this by utilizing vapor distillation to gently infuse the spirit with our botanicals, which consist of a citrus-forward blend of tangerine, grapefruit, lemon and two types of oranges. This creates a gin that plays well in cocktails and when served neat.”
The distillery is open in Asheville’s South Slope for free samples of gin and an eau de vie distilled from cider. While Rhea Lidowski, the tasting room experience expert, takes you through the spirits, you can peer through the glass behind her at the bulbous copper stills and production facility. While Apothecary is only able to pour samples at the moment, they are slated to open a cocktail bar called Antidote later this month. It will be right next door and serve beer and wine alongside unique cocktail creations.
The Chemist is located at 151 Coxe Avenue in Asheville. Visit ChemistSpirits.com for more information. Christopher Heagney is the owner of Daidala Ciders, located in the Historic Cotton Mill Studios at 122 Riverside Drive, Unit G.