Food & Drink

Heritage Hooch

A modern-day moonshiner draws 
on an old-time source

Photo: Emily Chaplin

A fresh batch of Troy & Sons.

Chances are if you met Troy Ball on
 the street, the last thing you’d think is “moonshiner.”
 But sip the white lightning this energetic businesswoman is whipping up, and you’ll most likely get down on your knees and thank the heavens she’s found her calling.

A Vanderbilt grad, former national equestrian champion, and the mother of three sons—including two with special needs—Ball and her business partner husband, Charlie, have opened Troy & Sons Distillers in Asheville, North Carolina, making what some old-time ’shiners call “real good boot.” Using heirloom Crooked Creek Corn from farmer John McEntire’s land just south of nearby Old Fort, Ball produces an überclean white whiskey with hints of vanilla, cucumber, and melon.

Ball insists much of the credit should go to McEntire and his corn, an American white variety first planted at the McEntire family’s Peaceful Valley Farm in the mid-1800s. “Our product is made in the tradition of a hundred percent corn whiskey, like heritage moonshine,” she says. “We take extra time and produce lower quantities so we don’t sacrifice flavor. We distill in a way that retains the natural flavors of the corn.” Credit also belongs to her Madison County neighbors who toted jars of homemade ’shine to welcome the former Texans when they relocated to the Blue Ridge Mountains in 2004. Some tentative sips later, the Balls realized there might just be a market for a high-quality version, smooth and potent.

Photo: Emily Chaplin

Distiller Troy Ball at Peaceful Valley Farm.

Troy & Sons began in a sixty-gallon still in McEntire’s red barn, before moving to an expanded facility adjacent to Asheville’s Highland Brewing Company. Highland owner Oscar Wong has been a mentor to the Balls in the venture. “I had tasted other moonshines over the years and found they always had a harshness that you just came to expect,” Wong says. “But this product is sippable by itself.”

The new distillery is equipped with a 
German-made 2,000-liter still and a sparkling copper bar for tastings. With a production level of around 1,800 bottles a week, Troy & Sons is now distributed through North Carolina ABC outlets, and it’s even developing a following in local restaurants—both the Biltmore and Grove Park inns are customers, and South Asheville’s Tupelo Honey Cafe makes a killer Bloody Mary with Troy & Sons, infused with jalapeño and bacon. The Balls plan to soon introduce the whiskey into additional markets around the South, and they are already refining a new oak-aged blonde whiskey.

Continued success seems likely if Troy Ball’s past is any indication. She is persistence personified. Her work with her eldest son, Marshall, who is confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, resulted in the publication of two books, including Kiss of God: The Wisdom of a Silent Child. She also cofounded Thoughtful House Center for Children (now named the Johnson Center) in Austin, Texas, for children with autism and other developmental disorders. And now, she’s the fourth female distillery owner in the country, and the first to make moonshine.

“I wanted to name the product after my sons,” she says. “It honors them. The fortitude I had to develop and the perseverance and patience I had to learn in living with these guys is just who I am. They are much healthier since we moved to North Carolina, and that’s part of why I gave myself permission to do this.”

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