The Bee’s Knees

Honey Habanero Moonshine from 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.

Belle Isle Craft Spirits was selected as a winner in our 2015 Made in Virginia Awards. Click here to view the full list of winners.

Hot and Heavy

Belle Isle Craft Spirits, Richmond

1 ounce Belle Isle Honey Habanero Moonshine
½ ounce Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit Moonshine
½ ounce aperol lime wedge club soda

Combine moonshines and aperol into a glass. Add ice, and top with club soda. Squeeze the fresh lime wedge over top, then add to the glass for more citrus flavor.

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