Made in Orange County, NC
Made in Orange County, NC features local products that are affectionately and passionately made right here in Orange County.
TOPO Organic Spirits
About ten years ago, in a meeting between Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery owner, Scott Maitland (pictured left), and Ernest Winslow of the Jack H. Winslow Farms in Scotland Neck, a partnership was born. Who would have known that partnership would produce the first fully local and USDA certified organic distillery in the Deep South!
At the time, downtown Chapel Hill’s Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery was producing award-winning craft beer. Ernest Winslow thought his 100% organic soft red winter wheat would be a perfect addition to TOPO’s Old Well White beer; however, that would not be the case. Entrepreneur Scott Maitland instead foresaw using Ernest’s grain to produce world–class spirits; Scott did just that. To date, TOPO spirits have won a multitude of double gold, gold, and silver medals, and many other awards, including being recognized by Southern Living as one of “The South’s Best Distilleries.” TOPO is also the only North Carolina distillery to win the “Good Food Award.”
Scott’s business partner in this journey is Esteban McMahan (pictured left), Spirit Guide for TOPO. Esteban can be found giving tours at the distillery, shaking things up at festivals and galas across the state, and passionately telling everyone why TOPO spirits should be a part of their liquor cabinets and store shelves.
As the Visitors Bureau, we were curious about a few things and asked Esteban…
Currently TOPO is the only Green+Certified distillery in the country – tell us what that means:
“Green Plus is a business improvement program that works on the philosophy of triple bottom line sustainability: helping improve the bottom line by focusing on environmental, social and business practices. Our energy and water conservation systems are only one part of the equation, we also do our best to use public transportation and bicycles whenever possible, have bee hives on our rooftop…”
Tours of the distillery are available most Fridays and Saturdays - tell us what a visitor can expect while taking this tour:
“We start you off with a talk about what we’re doing and what sets our spirits apart, then walk you through our equipment and our distillation process and our bottling line, then take you through a tasting of all of our award-winning spirits.”
TOPO brand has now been in the market for 4 years, anything new on the horizon?
“Yes! We will be releasing our TOPO Organic Straight Wheat Whiskey, our TOPO Organic Spiced Rum, and our TOPO Organic Whiskey-Barrel Aged Rum over the next few months. We will continue to honor tradition and innovate with new practices and spirits.”
As mentioned earlier, tours are given most Friday’s beginning at 7:00pm as well as Saturdays, which times vary: please check on their website for available tour dates and times. Cost is $20/pp. TOPO Organic Distillery is located at 505 West Franklin Street however; the entrance is off South Graham Street in Chapel Hill.
TOPO Organics taste best… check out more recipes here
SPICY CUCUMBER LEMONADE2 oz. TOPO Organic vodka 2 oz. Cucumber juice* 2 oz. Lemon Juice 1 oz. Jalapeño Simple Syrup**
Fill a shaker half way with ice and add all ingredients. Shake vigorously until very cold. Pour into a tall glass and add a cucumber slice garnish.
*To make Cucumber Juice, combine one cup of chopped cucumber (large chunks with skin on) with two cups water in a blender. Blend until fully pureed. **To make jalapeño simple syrup, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, stir until dissolved. Turn down heat and add 3 sliced jalapeño peppers. Simmer for 5 minutes on low heat. The longer the mixer simmers, the hotter the syrup. If the mixture is still not hot enough, add habanero pepper slices. When the desired heat flavor is reached, remove from heat, strain and chill. (Be sure all pepper seeds are removed.)
From the Blog
Before heading back home, be sure to pick up
a taste of Orange County!
Accidental Baker artisan flatbread crackers using locally milled flour is baked in Hillsborough and sold at area stores.
Blakemere Company clotted cream, the taste of England right here in Chapel Hill; their signature item is their Devonshire Delight. Southern Season, Weaver Street Markets and Whole Foods.
Bloody Brando Bloody Mary Mix – Locally made in Chapel Hill with a 'secret recipe' handed down through generations and proudly mixed at several local bars or for purchase at Southern Season.
Box Carr Farms Handmade Cheese – Italian inspired cheeses made in Cedar Grove just north of Hillsborough. Locally these cheeses can be found at all three Weaver Street Markets, Southern Season and Whole Foods.
Busy Bee Apiaries’ Honey – Local sweetness from Chapel Hill. Found at many local stores plus Maple View Farm Store and Hillsborough BBQ.
Carrboro Coffee Roasters Coffees – 30 types of coffee both regular and decaf. For a cup of coffee visit the two cafes: Open Eye Café and Caffe Driade, and for the beans visit any local grocery store.
Chapel Hill Toffee – The gift that is good to give and better to receive! Found at Weaver Street Markets in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough besides many other stores and hotels in Chapel Hill.
Cottage Lane Kitchen award winning spicy pepper relish produced in Chapel Hill, buy online or available at Southern Season, Johnny's Gone Fishing, and Weaver Street Market.
Elodie Farms Farmstead Goat Cheese with homemade crackers, buy directly from the farm in Rougemont.
Farmer’s Daughter Pickles & Preserves – Award winning Preserves, Figs and Pickles which can be found at the Carrboro Winter Farmers’ Market, Panciuto in Hillsborough and Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill.
Hillsborough Cheese Company – Bloomin’ Sweet Ash Cheese plus others can be found at the Eno River and Chapel Hill Farmers’ Markets and Weaver Street Markets.
Just Bee Apiary in Chapel Hill– Citrus Pepper Infused Honey and Short or Tall-Barrel Aged Whiskey Honey that can be found in area stores, restaurants and the Carrboro Farmers’ Market in 2004,
Little Red Wagon Granola makes six varieties of granola from natural ingredients. First appearing at the Carrboro Farmers Market in 2004, it is now available in 22 states as well as Canada.
Luna Pops makes handcrafted all natural frozen pops in flavors such as their award winning Hibiscus Lemon. Other flavors, seven in all include Cookies & Cream, Rhubarb lime and Sea Salt Caramel, a family favorite!
Matthew’s Chocolates – Handmade works of art found in Matthew’s shop on Churton Street downtown Hillsborough.
Plowgirl Farm Honey – Honey, vegetables and did we mention honey? Find this sweet treat at the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market and bee pollen in Dingo Dog craft beer named BEE de Garde!
Pluto’s Jamaican Jerk Sauce – BBQ and Jerk sauces, marinades and dry rub seasonings found at Whole Foods, Weaver Street Markets, Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods.
Sunshine Lavender Farm culinary lavender – this can be found on Etsy through their website or visit the farm during their 2 open houses scheduled for June and December.
Sweet Neecy Cake Mix – along with Chocolate, Original and Red Velvet which can be picked up at Whole Foods, Cliff’s Meat Market and Southern Season.
Tempeh Girl Tempeh - traditionally crafted, double fermented soy food with a meaty texture and versatility which can be found at Johnny’s in Carrboro and Weaver Street Markets.
Tonya’s Cookies – Tonya Council, Mama Dip’s Granddaughter’s crisp gluten-free cookies can be found at her store on Rosemary Street, at Mama Dip’s restaurant or Whole Foods.
FEATURED Topo Organic Award-winning Spirits and Age Your Own Whiskey Kits found at the restaurant, tours at Topo Distillery and the local ABC stores.
Two Chicks Farm – Homemade sauerkraut and award-winning Kimchi and pickles for sale locally at Weaver Street Markets and the Carrboro and Eno River Farmers’ Markets.