Made in Virginia 2015: Belle Isle Craft Spirits, Richmond

Belle Isle Craft Spirits

Every sip of Honey Habanero Premium Moonshine is a daring adventure with a happy ending. The habanero gets your tongue tingling and, just for a moment, you think you might be in trouble. But then a welcome wave of sweet honey soothes before the two flavors finally settle into a perfectly balanced palate pleaser. Vince Riggi, Alex Wotring and Brian Marks founded Belle Isle Craft Spirits in 2013. The plan, says Riggi, 31, “was to start with moonshine and then graduate into whiskeys.” But then people tried their Honey Habanero at the 2014 Virginia Moonshine Festival and, says Riggi, the guys realized they had a winner. “We sold every bottle.”

At the distillery in Richmond’s Manchester district, near Belle Isle, the moonshine is carefully crafted using habanero peppers purchased through Richmond’s Ellwood Thompson’s grocery store, while the clover honey comes from Bubba’s Sweet Nectar in Waynesboro. The magic ingredients are infused over the course of a few days. Gregg Brooks, the bartender who came up with the recipe and is now head of production at Belle Isle—and whom Riggi calls a “mad scientist and a magician”—oversees the process, sampling the spirit and making adjustments until the infusion is perfectly balanced between heat and sweetness.

The long-term plan is still to produce whiskey, and they’d also like to open a tasting room. “We get 10 emails a day from people who want a tour or a tasting or a sampling,” says Riggi. We look forward to future adventures in flavor from Belle Isle Craft Spirits. $24.99.

See all the Made in Virginia 2015 Winners!

Overall Winner

Fern and Roby, Richmond


Monolith Studios, Charlottesville (category winner)

Huger Embroidery, Richmond

Duvall Designs, Millwood

Owen Suter’s Fine Furniture, Richmond


Shockoe Atelier, Richmond (category winner)

Rockbridge Guitar Company, Charlottesville

Melissa Lew Jewelry, South Riding

North End Bag Co., Virginia Beach


Belle Isle Craft Spirits, Richmond (category winner)

Early Mountain Vineyards, Madison

Texas Beach, Richmond

LUMI Juice, Charlottesville


Brown Dog Handcrafted Premium Ice Cream, Cape Charles (category winner)

S. Wallace Edwards & Sons, Surry

Swover Creek Farms, Edinburg

Pennacook Peppers, Virginia Beach

Click here to see 2017 winners.

Click here to see 2016 winners.

Click here to see 2014 winners.

Click here to see 2013 winners.

Click here to see 2012 winners.

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