DIS­TILLED :

Whiskey with a dif­fer­ence.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents - BY F R ANCINE MAROUKIAN

WORM­WOOD ( ARTEMISIA ABSINTHIUM) is a wild plant in the daisy fam­ily na­tive to north­ern Euro­pean moun­tain­sides. It is na­ture’s rich­est source of al­pha-thu­jone, a chem­i­cal com­pound be­lieved to have mind-il­lu­mi­nat­ing pow­ers. It tastes harshly bit­ter.

None of that stopped Sasha Se­limotic and Taras Hrabowsky, co­founders of Stan­dard Worm­wood Dis­tillery, from build­ing a line of spir­its around it. ‘We were drawn to the mythol­ogy,’ says Se­limotic. ‘Be­fore ab­sinthe was le­galised, it was a lost in­gre­di­ent. We had to boot­strap worm­wood’s re­def­i­ni­tion out­side the tra­di­tional palate.’

The busi­ness part­ners, who have known each other since pri­mary school in up­state New York, were home dis­tillers – moon­shin­ers, re­ally – in Brook­lyn for nearly a decade be­fore de­cid­ing to go le­git. Their spir­its main­tain a cre­ative DIY char­ac­ter. They source grains up­state, rye be­ing a hardy win­ter grain typ­i­cal of north­ern whiskies, use worm­wood that’s grown, cut, dried, and sifted on the Hrabowsky fam­ily herb farm in the Hud­son Val­ley, and do their spirit runs in a re­tooled, stain­less-steel-jack­eted ket­tle they re­cov­ered from an old bagel fac­tory in Queens.

One spirit run yields about 900 bot­tles and takes about eight months, ac­tu­ally a re­mark­ably short time for such a beau­ti­fully am­ber, warm, and woody whiskey that goes down easy in clas­sic cock­tails, such as a man­hat­tan or boule­vardier. And it goes down even eas­ier when you have it neat, undi­luted by ice – per­haps be­cause Se­limotic and Hrabowsky don’t put the spir­its in a bar­rel; they put the bar­rel in the spir­its.

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From left: Se­limotic adds wood staves dur­ing dis­til­la­tion; Hrabowsky, whose fam­ily grows botan­i­cals in the Hud­son Val­ley; the charred oak adds colour and rich­ness.

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