“Traditional Scotch-Irish Appalachian moonshine had a history that dated back long before Prohibition, and it was one of the best hard liquors the world had ever known. And nobody, anywhere, was making it that way anymore. When I discovered that, I knew moonshine was my opportunity. It was going to be my business and my adventure. I guess I hoped moonshine would save my soul,” writes Troy Ball in her recently released memoir, Pure Heart:: A Spirited Tale of Grace, Grit, and Whiskey.
Ball, founder and owner of the Asheville Distilling Co. – Troy & Sons, has used a deft hand to craft an emotive memoir that winds the reader past numerous mileposts on her road to distilling moonshine. Ball and her family moved to Asheville from Texas when the health of her two special-needs sons, Marshall and Coulton Ball, demanded a different environmental climate. And in Western North Carolina, Ball found both comfort and inspiration.
“By missing out on every development trend since 1929, and by being forced to focus on the passions and talents of the people who lived there and loved it, the city had become the epitome of the urban ideals of the new century,” she writes of her adopted hometown. “This was a place people came for a fresh start, and many of our neighbors, like us, had picked up and moved here without jobs or a plan. Asheville had a vibe that made you feel, no matter what was happening at the moment, everything would work out okay.”
The chapters that examine her relationship with her children are heart-rending. Ball lifts then lowers the reader again and again as she describes the joys and difficulties of raising her developmentally challenged sons and how the experience impacted her life. Some of what she recounts is very inspiring. For example, the completely non-verbal and wheelchair-bound Marshall is a child prodigy who, through his insightful writing, became the published author of Kiss of God: The Wisdom of a Silent Child.
Of her decision to throw caution to the wind and pursue making legal moonshine, Ball says, “I can see how my decision might seem preposterous. After all, I was a 48-year-old mother who had been raised in a strict religious household and had consumed maybe 20 glasses of alcohol in her entire life, mostly red wine. I was a Texas girl, born to the ranch. I was also a Vandy girl, the kind who wore pressed jeans and pearl earrings. What could I possibly know about distilling moonshine?”
In the memoir, Ball notes that she was the “first woman to legally distill hard spirits in North Carolina since Prohibition (emphasis on “legally”) and the first woman in America to found a whiskey distillery in modern times.”
At first glance, Pure Heart: A Spirited Tale of Grace, Grit, and Whiskey is the story of an entrepreneur’s journey to become the first lawful female distiller of traditional Appalachian moonshine. But in turning the pages, it becomes apparent that it is much more than that: It is a tale of ingenuity, human connections, re-invention and perseverance.
A book launch event is planned for 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Asheville Distilling Co. – Troy & Sons, 12 Old Charlotte Highway (next to Highland Brewing Co.). The event will feature tastings of Troy & Sons whiskeys and moonshine, and Malaprop’s Bookstore will have copies of Pure Heart for sale. The author will be available for autographs.