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Red Cup Distillery Wheat Shine

Review: Red Cup Distillery Wheat Shine (81.5/100)
Review By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted May 23, 2017

This past winter (on January 31, 2017), I took a little tour east of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway to the Town of Vegreville. This small town, which lies about 100 km east of Edmonton, is in the heart of what I call Alberta’s rural Ukrainian Country, and it is home to the world’s largest Easter Egg or Pysanka.

I was visiting Rob and Barb de Groot at the new Red Cup Distillery to learn about the Distillery and to sample some of their locally made prairie moonshine.

When I arrived, I found that Rob and Barb had developed a spirit which hearkened back to a time before prohibition. This is a spirit which was first produced when a small rural population (who had immigrated from Europe) carried on a centuries old tradition of small pot distillation. Before prohibition, (with very few police to patrol the vast prairie) the tradition prospered. However first prohibition, and then government taxation, drove the spirit underground where it almost vanished. Fortunately for us today, distillers, Rob and his wife Barb have (through their steadfast research and commitment) brought back a spirit steeped in the agricultural heritage of Alberta.

Pictured to the left is the small 250 gallon copper pot still which lies at the heart of Red Cup’s distilling operation which produces ‘in house’ green malt and prairie moonshine from locally grown grain which has been cleaned at the seed cleaning plant which sits just a few miles east and north of Vegreville, and malted at the distillery.

Rob gave me a tour of the entire facility as I was stepped through the entire process from grain to glass. I was even allowed to take a few pictures (like the one of the small copper pot still) but, because much of what I was shown was proprietary, Rob asked me to be discrete in the manner in which I shared what I learned.

Fortunately I was given a bottle of Red Cup Distillery’s Wheat Shine, and I have decided to share my thoughts on that spirit, here on the website.

Red Cup Distillery Wheat Shine is bottled at 50% alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4/5

I am never overly critical of the bottle presentations for new distilleries. This is because I realize that bottle and label design can be a costly affair, and these new distilleries are trying to bring an affordable spirit to the market and don’t want to drive up their prices with fancy bottles and labels.

Red Cup Distillery Wheat Shine is housed in a medium tall whisky bottle with a solid synthetic cork topper. The bottle works great in a bar setting where it is easy to store on the shelf, easy for the bartender to grab, and the medium-sized neck makes the spirit easy to pour. The label could perhaps be spruced up a bit, however I suspect that those persons looking for an authentic moonshine are much more interested in the contents of the bottle than in a fancy label.

In the Glass 8/10

The spirit is completely clear, and when I tilt and twirl the glencairn into which I poured the Wheat Shine I see that it has a lightly thickened consistency which leads to slightly thickened legs which run dow the inside of the glass. Although this spirit is not aged, the use of the small pot still and a wide distiller’s cut has ensured that the distillate has a bit of a buttery consistency.

The breezes above the glass are rich and complex. Wheat shines the brightest as a distinct porridge-like scent is immediately noticeable. There is more as mushy banana and plantain combined with a light grassiness rise up alongside the firm wheat aroma. Grilled zucchini and pumpkin, cooked pineapple, and citrus zest is hinted at as well. There is also a firm vegetal tone which is typical of new-make spirits.

In The Mouth 50/60

This Wheat Shine is not meant to be aged and so it is not surprising that it does not taste like any of the new-make spirits I have been sampling recently, nor is it anything like vodka. In fact, when I watched at the distillery, I was amazed at the wide distiller’s cut which was taken as the De Groot’s wanted to capture as much of the malted wheat distillate’s flavour as they could. And flavourful is exactly what this is. Fresh (somewhat green) wheat flavour dominates with grain spices and a touch of alcohol heat keeping things lively. There is a very apparent vegetal undertone with earthy tequila-like flavours that remind me of plantain and zucchini. Ribbons of tropical citrus and some flavours of apple and pear all seem to be mixed in.

My conundrum is that this sort of spirit is very new to me. My understanding is that the Red Cup Distillery has been selling each batch of Shine before they are even produced as there is a strong market for an authentic moonshine especially among those who remember prohibition era spirits.

I was told that it would be typical to mix the spirit with fresh juice and ice, so after a few experimental tries I came up with a cocktail mixing the spirit with lemon and grapefruit juice (shown below) that I found quite satisfying.

In The Throat 11/15

This is a completely unaged spirit which has been drawn from a wide distillation cut. It is also bottled at 50 % alcohol by volume. This means that the spirit is meant to have a little kick and fire in the delivery. And indeed it does kick at the tonsils, and it does heat the palate; but, not nearly as much as I was expecting. The wheat grain really shines through in the finish along with light grassy/vegetal flavours and bits of menthol. Taking my time I can sip the spirit and enjoy myself, but it would be fair to say that I much preferred the Wheat Shine mixed in a cocktail.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

Persons reading this review should treat my scoring with a lot of skepticism. Frankly, I just don’t have enough experience with moonshine to make accurate determinations. So what I have done, is I have defaulted to scoring my enjoyment of the spirit rather than my appreciation of the spirit’s intrinsic quality. And I must say that I enjoyed visiting the Red Cup Distillery; I enjoyed sampling the Wheat Shine; and I enjoyed exploring cocktails and finding one which really seemed to work for me. My sample bottle is more than half gone, and considering the amount of samples I receive, that is a far bigger dent in the bottle than I expected.

My final score of 81.5/100 hopefully reflects my recognition that this is not really a sipping spirit; but it is a spirit which can be enjoyed thoroughly nevertheless.

Note: Please use this link If you are interested in reviews of similar spirits.

Suggested Cocktail

It turns out that Lemon and Grapefruit juice are a great complement to the natural flavour of his malted wheat spirit.

The Mad Trapper

1 1/2 oz Wheat Shine (Red Cup Craft Distillery)
1 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Ice
Soda Water

Build in a rocks glass
Stir to chill

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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As usual, you may interpret the scores I provide as follows:

0-25   A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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