Off the Bourbon Trail


Article by Margaret Curtis

Photography by Margaret Curtis

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., America’s native spirit has been enjoying a comeback in the past few years. In 2020, more than 28 million 9-liter cases of American Whiskey were sold in the U.S., generating over $4.3 billion in revenue for distillers. Nearly 40 percent of consumers buying bourbon were, and are, women.

I am one of those females who enjoys brown spirits, dating back to my college days when I met my first Old Fashioned. Fast forward a few years and now I prefer bourbon straight with a rock. Among my favorites are Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Noah’s Mill, Four Roses single barrel and, of course, Pappy Van Winkle when you can find or afford it. Since I live in Atlanta, I wanted to see what our local distilleries were up to and found, to my surprise, that there are more than a dozen in Georgia.  

I ventured just north of Atlanta to Forsyth County where I visited the Legends Distillery, nestled on top of a hill in a rural industrial park. Nothing special on the exterior, I was amazed at what I saw inside, which reminded me of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Toto pulls back the curtain on the great and powerful Oz.

A sterile football field-sized room full of polished silver silos and glass bottles on conveyor belts with gloved and masked “blenders” is the scene. What I think I’m viewing is the bottling process, but in actuality I am witnessing a patented process of purifying spirits that took more than a decade to create.

Legends keeps the story behind its technology close to the vest, mainly because, "We know we have something special, that is a game-changer in the industry so we don’t unzip too much," but this is what they will share.

Ten years ago, SpiritsUSA and Legends Distillery founder and CEO Michael Gerard had an idea to invent a new way of finishing spirits. While maintaining the ancient art of traditional aging, he wanted to create an ultra-pure and smooth finish by reducing the impurities in alcohol. Michael reached out to a friend, who also had many years of distilling experience, and between the two of them started the design process.

The idea was to reduce the impurities——by breaking down the molecules. The multi-step process was to then purify the liquid before the molecules return to their original state. Michael then reached out to local engineer and good friend Johnny Allen, who he began bringing their design to reality. After seven years of R&D and many barrels for testing, the result was SpiritsUSA’s patented Quantum Purity technology.

Not only does the technology work as originally planned, Michael says it exceeded expectations by also removing the high heat in alcohol, allowing for an extremely smooth finish that has been coined “All Flavor…No Burn.” And by reducing the impurities, it was discovered that you could enjoy several glasses of any of the Legends spirits and wake up the next morning with no headache or nausea. #TakeBackTheMorning

I must agree with the “no burn” aspect of these whiskey spirits. It is very easy going down with a velvety yet bold flavor. The vodka is so smooth it could be considered dangerous. I say that in jest, but for me it only requires ice and a squeeze of lemon or orange. While I do drink water while sipping cocktails, there were indeed no residual feelings of being over-served the next day.  

The adult beverage industry has noticed by the early awards Legends has won, including the "2019 Vodka of the Year" award and "Best of Class" Platinum at the 2020 Sip Awards, and multiple Double Golds, Gold and Silver medals for its 100 bourbon. 

I shared my bottles of Legends 87, 100 and 115 bourbon with my whiskey-loving women neighbors, and overwhelmingly they liked—no, LOVED—the 100 for sipping. At its price point of under $70, we all preferred the Legends over the higher priced Four Roses single barrel. We also like the idea of it being local, with half the impurities and the high likelihood of a good morning the next day. And with the Derby back this year, April 24 through May 1, bourbon will be flowing in Mint Juleps all spring and summer.

On the horizon at Legends is a Sweet Georgia Brown Whiskey, being released this spring, along with a tasting room and event space. And later this year, you can expect Legends Gin set to launch this fall. Cheers! SpiritsUSA.com

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