Vodka is the most widely consumed liquor in the U.S. Fermented, distilled and filtered, it can be created from almost any starch or sugar-rich plant matter, ranging from grains to potatoes to sugar beets. It’s as nuanced and dynamic as its makers let it be, especially when it comes to the flavored variety.
Liquor stores stock bottles infused with strawberry, green apple, habanero pepper, cranberry and tangerine. Bottles like these sometimes have the ability to harness terroir, the sense of place. That is precisely what Georgia beverage producer Jeff Moses of MBF Company Brands was going for when he created Slapjack. And, according to Moses, it’s the world’s first jackfruit-infused spirit.
Moses remembers the feeling of eating jackfruit while traveling throughout Asia, and making wine in Mumbai, India. “It’s an odd flavor, smooth and tropical,” he said, recounting an experience in Kashmir. Despite being from a single flavor source, he said, it is “like 10 flavors in one. It really is a magical fruit — probably why 3 billion people eat it.”
Jackfruit has been called a key to the future of food. A relative of the fig, mulberry and breadfruit trees, it not only is sustainable, but is an environmentally friendly crop. The tree is resistant to drought and pesticides. It creates a dense canopy. Its leaves are good feed for goats. And, it has a high yield.
It’s the largest tree-borne fruit in the world, bearing bumpy, green, oblong fruit that grow up to 3 feet long. The plump bulbs inside are rich in antioxidants, nutrients, vitamins and fiber. Meat-like in texture, jackfruit can be used as a meat replacement, and has become quite trendy for plant-based eating.
The fruit grows in tropical and near-tropical conditions. “Some of the best comes from Malaysia and southern India, and we try to work with the best jackfruit available,” Moses said.
He partnered with Dalton Distillery in Dalton to create a jackfruit spirit. Along with the infusion of jackfruit, 70-proof Slapjack is made from 100% corn, filtered three times, and distilled six times. Why six? Moses said it’s the right amount for grain spirits. Distilling, he said, “strips away harshness and makes it smooth.” Overdistilling, he said, would strip away all the flavor.
Slapjack offers tropical notes of pineapple, banana, mango, peach, and a sort of unknown flavor that you can’t put your finger on, like old-time bubblegum. There is just a bit of savory that makes it more intriguing. “Just pure luck,” Moses said.
The texture was equally important to Moses. “It has to be smooth and lush,” he said.
Slapjack is a vodka that can be enjoyed by itself. Moses suggested a straight-up sip, fresh from the freezer. Yet, the liquor has enough flavor to serve as a base spirit in cocktails, especially tiki drinks. It also would add a tropical blast to a vodka soda. “It marries well with Coca-Cola, too,” Moses said.
Slapjack is the newest addition to the MBF Company Brands portfolio, which also includes 404 Vodka, Boja Bo wines, and a variety of craft beers. Forthcoming from Moses and Dalton Distillery is an unaged brandy made from estate-grown rosé.
Packaged in 750-milliliter bottles, the jackfruit vodka is available in liquor stores across Georgia for $15.
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