White Mule’s got kick
Whisky distillery opens near Purdy
September 28, 2016
Hooch. Mountain dew. Catdaddy. Moonshine has many names, usually implying a mountain man makeshift hidden endeavor. However, for White Mule Distillery west of Purdy, moonshine and whisky making is a delicate process with attention paid to all the details. It’s an art form.
As White Mule owner Gary Grantham walked the property and talked about his whisky and moonshine, it’s immediately clear how much he cares about his process. Behind the distillery is a smokehouse dedicated to smoking all of the locally-grown corn that is used to make the mash. He grabs a handful, breathing in the aroma, and says, “You can smell the hickory, and it changes the flavor profile in the finished product. We only use hickory for it.”
Grantham took an interest in making moonshine when he was much younger, and the hobby bloomed into a dedication and appreciation for every aspect of the process. He said, “I played around with it for awhile, ever since I ruined my mom’s pressure cooker making a still.” The tradition runs in his veins. His great-grandfather also made moonshine.
For Grantham, the process is about so much more than just making whisky. He is extremely genuine and conscientious. He lives by principles dedicated to passing on what he loves to others. He gets all of his grain locally except for the malted barley, which isn’t available from the Ozarks.
He said, “We’ve got really hardworking farmers with excellent grain. I have great guys working with me, and it’s a great location. This is where I wanted to be.”
His hope is for the distillery to continue to provide an outlet for farmers and create jobs for locals while also sharing some tasty liquor.
He chose outside of Purdy because of his ties to the area. He grew up in Neosho and knew he wanted to be in the Ozarks to start his distillery. He chose his property primarily for one reason. Grantham said, “The realtor probably thought we were crazy because we weren’t looking at the houses really, just the spring. We came here because of the spring.” The naturally-occurring year-round spring provides about 80 gallons of clear, clean water every minute. The spring water is what he uses to make his libations.
The ingredients that go into each hand-crafted batch of moonshine or whisky are cool spring water, locally-grown corn and wheat, and malted barley. After the corn is smoked, the mash is made in a 360 gallon vat where the direct flames never touch the mash.
On top of that, the product is pure. While much of the locally-made moonshine has added sugar to feed the yeast because it is faster, Grantham never puts additives in it. He said, “That stuff is cheap. It’s easy. It’s fast. And it’ll give you a great hangover.” The difference is a matter of patience and concern for the taste of the final product.
Grantham gets excited talking about the flavor profiles of each batch. He said, “We have some added steps that makes the process longer, but you have so much more control.”
As time goes on, his whisky, different from whiskey, will age in French Oak barrels. His whisky isn’t technically bourbon because that goes against his beliefs on being resourceful. Legally, to be called bourbon, the alcohol has to be aged in new, charred oak barrels, but the White Mule aging barrels are former bourbon barrels that have been recoopered. That is to say, 1/16 inch of wood has been removed so they may be reused after charring.
Attention to details and dedication to local elements are the aspects of White Mule that show the difference between them and other manufacturers. Even the names of the moonshine and whisky pay homage to local history. The moonshine, named Mountain Maid, is a nod to the Mountain Maid of Roaring River, a supposed clairvoyant from the turn of the 20th century who known well in the Barry County community and CCC workers. The whisky is named Undefeated, referring to the two Battles of Newtonia, involving General Jo Shelby in Newton County.
On top of that, as sales roll in, White Mule will be donating 10 percent of their profits for local education.
Currently, White Mule is offering 500 mL bottles of clear moonshine and apple pie liqueur. Bottles sell for $16 at the distillery. Retail sales will be similar and Grantham hopes to have multiple locations selling his products soon.
The whisky in the works has a three-year aging process and will be available in 2019.
White Mule will be holding a grand opening and open house this week on Friday, September 30, and Saturday, October 1, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Grantham will have tours throughout the day during the grand opening for guests. Music kicks off at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
White Mule Distillery is located at 7631 State Highway T. From Purdy, go west on Hwy. B until it turns to 97, then turn right on Hwy. T. White Mule is on the left.
Grantham owns White Mule Distillery with his wife, Misty. They have one daughter, Neoma, 3, and another on the way.
For a limited time, White Mule is offering deals via a crowd funding campaign. See https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/white-mule-distillery-let-s-make-some-shine#/ for specials.
White Mule can be reached through Facebook under White Mule Distillery, online at www.ozarkwhisky.com or at (417) 454-5142.