In 2011, the Discovery Channel launched a TV show called Moonshiners which chronicles the lives and crazy happenings of a group of guys making shine in the Appalachian Mountains. While it seems like a terrible idea to let a full-on camera crew film you doing illegal things, these guys managed to make their whiskey and evade the authorities while doing so. Reality TV is amazing.
I had never seen the show, nor heard of its star, Tim Smith, but when I was approached to write about Climax Moonshine I was intrigued. White whiskey obviously isn’t a daily sipper for me, but it’s something that’s fun to try from time to time as it’s a great way to experience where some of the world’s best whiskey starts. Doing distillery tours and getting to taste white dog fresh off the still is a blast, and the challenge of reviewing a moonshine piqued my interest, so here we are.
Climax isn’t a bourbon white dog, what makes it different is a very small amount of sugar cane that is added to the mash (and potentially the proof at which it comes off the still, but I don’t have that info). While Climax wouldn’t produce a bourbon if given proper aging, it does make for a little more of an interesting sip that just drinking a straight white dog (BT #1, for example). If you want to hear Mr. Smith talk about his whiskey he’s got an entire YouTube channel with him sporting overalls, sans-shirt, and drinking with his friends, check it out for a good time. Alright, now that we’ve got our bases covered on Tim Smith, let’s get to drinking his moonshine!
Disclaimer: This product was provided at no cost to Barrels and Mash with no strings attached.
Company: Prost Beverage Co.
Distillery: Belmont Farms Distillery
Location: Culpeper, Virginia
Mash Bill: Approx. 80% corn/10% rye/10% barely/”very little” sugar cane
Age: Brand spankin’ new
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Color: Crystal clear
Nose: Bright, sweet corn. The touch of sugar cane comes through augmenting the corn sweetness and giving the aroma almost a rum quality. I don’t get any heat from the rye and from a NEAT glass, there is no ethanol burn.
Taste: The sweet corn is by far the main component to the flavor here, but like the nose that sugar cane adds a different layer of sweetness that is pretty nice. The mouthfeel is thicker than I expected and is somewhat velvety and rich compared to some other white whiskeys I’ve had. There is a very slight cereal note from the rye lurking in the background, but you have to look fairly hard for it.
Finish: The rye finally comes out a little more here as the sweet corn and sugar dominance fades and some spice comes to the front. It’s not much, but it is very welcome and helps bring a bit of complexity to the sip. The finish is long and leaves your mouth coated with a sweetness as the alcohol floats off into space.
Overall: Well, to be completely honest, this stuff surprised me a little bit. I knew this would be a fun review to write, and it was, but I thought it would be due more to the producer and not the product itself. I actually enjoyed drinking this more than I expected. I also decided it would be a fun weekend activity to try the “Climax Ritual” with some friends (that sounds so dirty) and mix this with some sweet tea…in our mouths. Yep. Now, I can’t tell if this means that Tim Smith primarily only uses his own moonshine as a mixer (saving precious mixing glassware too), but it was definitely fun to watch a group of people try this thing out and see the full range of reactions. Some really hated it, and it pleasantly surprised others, results were all over place. It also gave everyone the opportunity to say “Climax” about a million times, which never got old. Check out the gallery below for some images from that night and some great facial expressions as people got their Climax on.
The hardest part is giving Climax Moonshine a rating. My first instinct was to grade it in its own context (and compared with other white whiskeys it would do well), but given Tim Smith adamantly believes that this product and taste profile stands on its own and states that while he loves bourbon “..we’ve distilled the taste profile, we don’t have to put it in a barrel, there’s no need to put it in the barrel” I decided to rate it along side the bourbons on this site. So, I went down the list of our reviews and figured out where this would fit in, and I’m pretty confident that if I had to choose between this and a bottle of Forged Oak , it would be a tough decision, and I would choose any other bourbon on the site over Climax. That being said, If you are looking for a white whiskey to try out, take this one for a spin, it makes for a good time.