The Spirit of Defiant

Defiant Whisky
Defiant Whisky

Defiant Marine is owned and operated by Tim Ferris. He and Bob Wiehe have traveled the world over helping solve maritime problems. Both are experienced salvage divers who live by the code and believe that there are “effective and efficient solutions to any and all situations that may arise” as long as they are handled “with courage, integrity, and honor.” Their work takes them into dangerous situations. They’ve worked off the coast of Italy where they helped re-mediate a chemical and oil tanker—the Gelso M —that had run aground, to Argentina where they performed a re-float of the M.V. Aristeas P, to NYC where they helped pump flood waters from the subway systems after Hurricane Sandy hit, and just recently off the coast of West Africa where they helped salvage a downed helicopter. Ferris and Wiehe defy the odds in more ways than one. With bold resistance, the two defiantly chose to start a distillery as a side job.

Makers of Defiant Whisky
Makers of Defiant Whisky


After returning home from really big salvage dives both Ferris and Wiehe, who don’t drink while on the job, would buy fine scotch, kick back, and enjoy.  With lots of down time between salvage dives and money not an issue; Ferris came up with an idea to distill whisky. To the Scots, whisky is “the water of life.”  Similar words have probably been spoken by Ferris. With Wiehe at his side, the two have made it their mission to “make the best [single malt] whisky known to man.” The Blue Ridge Distillery, where Defiant Whisky is made, is located on Ferris’ family farm in Golden Valley, North Carolina, a town whose history is heavily laden with gold and moonshine.  Ferris is not an idle man; his hands and mind are always working.  This prompted his decision to have the water on the property tested.  His findings were better than great. The water streaming down from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the aquifer on his property was the purest of waters. With no need for filters or additives, it’s no wonder the moonshine made in those hills was so good. He hoped the same would be true for his whisky.

Defiant Wisky
Defiant Wisky

Ferris and Wiehe wanted to make Scotch, but because they aren’t Scottish, the law-of-the-land says you can’t. Instead, they decided to take the “best Scottish tradition” and “combine it with American ingenuity.” What they came up with is an amazing American single malt. Defiant Whisky uses premium American white oak–“toasted to perfection,” “specially cultured yeast”–turning the wort into a barley wine, “two-row premium brewer’s barley– cracked on a custom roller,” and pure mountain water.  

The process is very detailed. “[Our suppliers] take barley and once it sprouts, cut it off. At this point the plant thinks it’s still growing and needs to get bigger, so the plant produces extra sugar to do so.” Defiant then gets the grain once that malting process and drying process is complete. Once the kernels are ready, they go into a grinder and are toppled. Over a ton of toppled barley is mixed with hundreds of gallons of water. The mixture cooks for a few hours, the length of time needed for the sugar to be cooked out of the cereal.  The liquid is separated from the grain through a lautering process. Once the sugar water cools, the fermenting process begins. Made in an artisan column-pot still hybrid, the vapors run through one of two pipes: one runs out, while the other runs in.  Distillation is a four step process.  Every Monday through Friday a new batch is made producing about 560-600 gallons a day.  

Defiant Whisky has a high conversion process. The “still is efficient which cuts down on labor and makes for a very good product.” In the olden days everybody used barrels. “They found if liquor sits in barrels longer, it affects taste, smell, and color.  But this is a very inefficient system.” Barrels were used for aging and still are the most popular way to age. Defiant reduced their aging time to 60 days by using the spirals instead of barrels. Ferris came up with this far more efficient method and can have a drink-ready whisky in 90 days; a-typical to the average 7-12 year spirits produced elsewhere.

Distilling Defiant Whisky
Distilling Defiant Whisky

“Our recipe comes from the best guys.  The crew is ‘mad scientist’ types who work together and socialize after hours.  The light is never off.” By trade most of them are salvage divers, so it goes without saying that each possesses a similar attitude–drive, passion, and boundary pushing–needed to make the best damn single malt in America. It’s definitely a stand out whisky.  Not only has Defiant Whisky been named Best New Whisky of the Year 2013, but it has placed Bronze in Berlin, and Silver at the Craft Distilling in a California blind taste test where it was judged against 7-12 year spirits. A featured whisky at the Super Bowl VIP, it was also the drink at the Grammys, Oscars, and New York Fashion week.  The “Big Guys” in the business are looking at us and wondering, what we are doing here in the backwards of North Carolina.”

Currently, Defiant is in 22 states, Canada, Singapore, and Malaysia. “Every week we have a new state trying to get a hold of our whiskey, but we’re taking it slow.  Defiant produces 2 ½ skids, about 1800-2000 bottles each week.  We have our production, facility, and recipe.  We’re figuring all that out, and think we can take it to the next level in a year.  We plan on producing 5 times more than we do now with a new 5,000 liter still.” Expansion at Defiant would grow exponentially.

The process for Defiant Whisky
The process for Defiant Whisky

An important aspect of making whiskey is TLC.  “We let the whiskey breath like a fine wine.  We hand pour, and hand cork.  Everything is hand done.”  Tours are given at Blue Ridge Distillery where you can learn about the distilling process and Defiant Whisky, but you have to visit your local ABC store or private distributor to purchase it.  People who have tasted Defiant are amazed by the taste. “It’s like an old friend [and so] easy to start a conversation over,” says Wiehe.

Ferris and Wiehe are very picky when it comes to quality control and consistency of product.  No two days are the same, so they keep a close eye on production due to weather changes.  It’s the south, wait five minutes and it’ll change. “There are nuances [to whiskey making,] explains Wiehe. “We’re not a push button system, and it’s not easy making whisky. You’ve got to have guts.” Things work at Defiant Whisky because “we have no reserve.” Where “some choose a few defiant moments, others live a lifetime in the spirit.” The former is true of Ferris, Wiehe and his crew and the real reason why Defiant Whisky is fast becoming America’s most renowned single malt.
For more information on Blue Ridge Distilling Co. and their award-winning product visit www.defiantwhisky.com.