Did you know you can buy vodka, gin, and whisky that is made right here in the Triangle? I didn’t either until earlier this year when I visited Top of the Hill Distillery (TOPO) located in the former Chapel Hill News building off Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill. Scott Maitland, founder and owner of the iconic Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery, opened the distillery because he wanted to make spirits from organic ingredients local to North Carolina.
I took a tour of the distillery with several of my foodie blogger friends where I tried samples and learned about how TOPO sources local ingredients to make their organic spirits. TOPO Distillery is the only certified organic and fully local distillery in the South. They use local, organic ingredients (all obtained within 100 miles of the distillery) and transform the grain to spirits using equipment sourced from a fifth generation German still maker.
Tours of the distillery are a lot of fun because you get a behind the scenes look at how the spirits are made and you get to sample them. Esteban, our guide was great explaining how TOPO’s spirits are different from other brands on the market. I tried all three of the spirits(Vodka, Gin, and Whiskey). Each was excellent in its own way but as a gin drinker my favorite was the TOPO Piedmont Gin. It is American Dry gin with a natural smoothness featuring botanical flavors like citrus, cardamom, coriander, and cucumber. It has become my “go to” gin for homemade gin and tonics
TOPO also makes a great Carolina Whiskey. It is made using 100% organic soft red winter wheat from Scotland Neck, NC. It won a silver medal in the 2013 San Francisco International Spirits Competition and a silver medal at the Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago. Top of the Hill Distillery is one of only six distilleries in the United States making wheat whiskey.
They also sell “Age Your Own Whiskey” Kits that allow you to age 2 liters of Carolina Whiskey to perfection at home! Because of the increased surface area to volume ratio of the two liter barrel, the whiskey ages approximately 12–15 times faster than in a normal 53 gallon barrel. So the aging process only takes about three months and results in an incredible Wheat Whiskey. These make great gifts for the home brewer!
Guided tours and tastings of the spirits are typically held each week on Thursday & Friday at 6pm and 7pm and Saturday at 4pm and 5pm. Tours must be scheduled in advance on the Top of The Hill website. Tours cost $20 per person but you can typically find groupon and living social deals online offering 50% off. The tours are a fun for locals and out of town guest and a great way to enjoy a visit to Chapel Hill. Bottles of Top of The Hills spirits can be found in ABC stores throughout the Triangle and North Carolina.
505 West Franklin Street
Chapel Hill, NC 27514