The boys from Hawgleg Publishing have finally sobered up enough to announce (with much back-slappin' and gee-hawin') that they are releasing their latest product, distilled from the very finest of ingredients and imbued with the best of intentions, straight from the backwoods of the Bourbon Trail itself. With much fanfare (and while waiting for that donor liver to arrive), Mitchell, Murphy and Mauer are proud to announce the release of Gutshot Rotgut.
Gutshot Rotgut is a handcrafted, micro distilled, single-malt (probably) whiskey based on a recipe that Murphy obtained from some old family friends back in Virginia.
"My Family has known the Baldwin sisters for years," said Gutshot co-creator Mike Murphy. "I was fortunate enough to earn their trust and they passed The Recipe on to me, which I was able to make good use of in our latest venture."
This is the first non-gaming product to be released by the company (not counting T-shirts, mugs and their line of designer thongs), but it still ties into Hawgleg's key interests: The American Wild West and Historical Miniatures Gaming. The first association – the creators feel – is obvious, as whiskey was (and is) an important part of any Wild West movie or novel.
"I can't even picture a Western movie without someone being in a saloon and ordering a shot of whiskey," said Rotgut co-creator Mike Mitchell, taking a sip of his own beverage, his eyes bulging out like a gecko for a moment. Then, suppressing a Darth Vaderish wheeze, he muttered the word, "Smooth…"
The second connection, they admit, is a bit harder to make.
"First and foremost, Hawgleg is a gaming company," said company co-founder Mike Murphy. "We wrestled with it throughout the night, trying some way to fit it into what we enjoy doing. In fact, it's what some people say we do best. We went at it from every angle we could think of until, at last, it just sort of came to us: If we couldn't make it fit into what we did, then we would fit what we did into it. We decided to put a cowboy miniature inside each bottle of our whiskey."
The boys believe that the lead miniature – aside from being a fun prize akin to the toys you used to get out of a Cracker Jack box – also serves a practical purpose.
"The lead seems to give the drink that little something extra," Mitchell explained taking another sip. "It's almost like it somehow helps kick your brain cells around a little more than you get when you drink other whiskey."
Paul agreed. "Yeah, it's pretty good," he said.
The figures are the work of noted Western miniature sculptor, Forrest Harris of Knuckleduster productions.
"By that, we mean that Forrest sculpts miniatures, not that he is miniature," Mitchell said. "As far as we know, he's completely Normal… as in he lives in Normal, Illinois."
When offered the project, Forrest grew visibly excited.
"This was something I could really get behind," he said. "The kind of thing I could grab with both hands and just plunge right in. When Mitchell and Murphy presented it to me, I just knew that this wasn't the time to hesitate, but to just rush in and give it everything I had, no matter how long it took or how rough it got. This was something I wanted and, by gosh, I was going to take it and stake my claim to it."
"I must admit that Forrest really knows how to please a guy," Mitchell said with a smile. "I was never worried about him having the goods because he has a reputation as someone who knows how to handle tiny cowboys. But even still, when he gives it to you personally, at the same time catering to your every desire but still maintaining the dominant skill of a master to give you even more than you think you can handle, you walk away knowing that, in the end, you've received the handiwork of a gentleman."
"I like the figures he created for us," Paul said.
Each bottle of Hawgleg's signature hooch will contain a random miniature. These are painted and based and, when the bottle is empty, ready for use in a rousing game of Gutshot. In addition to the figures he created for Hawgleg, Forrest has his own miniatures for sale at www.knuckleduster.com (including, appropriately, a set of drinking and smoking saloon patrons).
Up Whiskey River Without a Paddle
As it often has in the past, the company's newest product came as a result of the boy's annual Spring Fling. This year, due to the increased expense of international airfare and the fact that both Mitchell and Murphy were on the TSA's "No Fly List," the co-founders of Hawgleg Publishing decided to stay domestic and go Old School with a good old-fashioned Road Trip.
"I was put on a Homeland Security Watch List due to a simple misunderstanding regarding my involvement with CSA Re-enacting – they don't trust anyone with 400 pounds of black powder stored in old coffee cans tucked up between the rafters above their garage," Murphy said. "And there was that incident with the wombat at the local zoo. But, I said it then and I say it now, 'Wombats need love, too.'"
Mitchell, on the other hand, was still on the list due to his habit of getting back in line for the TSA pat downs.
"I don't know why they say that upsets them," Mitchell mumbled into his whiskey glass, taking yet another sip. "I mean, Georgie and Keith don't seem to mind. In fact, Georgie always sends me the nicest cards and candies during the holidays." Mitchell paused then, took another sip, and seemed to consider something else. "Or maybe it was my "special underwear" that showed up during the body scan? I don't know," he admitted at last. "Whatever the reason, we decided to stay home in the US of A this year."
On the Road Again
After the Mikes tricked Paul into flying down to Texas (he's been reluctant to participate in the Spring Fling festivities after the unfortunate "Brokeback Mountain" incident back in 2005), they shanghaied him and hit the road in a 1969 Dodge Charger.
"I wish I could say it was painted orange like the one the Duke boys drove," Mitchell said. "But it wasn't. It was purple with some kind of rainbow flag on the roof. I figured it was close enough."
Paul wasn't amused. "They couldn't even get the car right," he muttered. "But at least I was able to talk Mitchell out of wearing his Daisy Duke shorts."
The boys didn't have a plan, they just hit the road and let it take them where it lead. They hit the obvious tourist locations like the Alamo in San Antonio and the Stonehenge duplicate (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/7819) located outside of Ingram, Texas. Then they got a hankering for some good bourbon whiskey, and that of course got them heading toward the source of all great whiskey: a strange and distant land known as Kentucky.
"Ahhhh, the far-off land known as "Kentucky" is famous for a few things... some of them are even legal!" Murphy said with a dreamy look in his eyes.
Backdoor to the Backwoods
It was at a Stucky's in Arkansas that the boys had a stroke of luck that would change the course of their entire trip: They bumped into Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty who were on a road trip of their own in Burt's tricked-out "Bandit" Trans-Am.
"Burt is actually one of the nicest celebrities I've ever had the pleasure to meet," Mitchell said. "Not like that Betty White."
Paul agreed. "Yeah. Betty White is a mean drunk. And she doesn't like to hear the word, 'No,'" he said, repressing a shiver as a dark memory replayed in his mind. "Doesn't like to hear that at all."
When the Hawgleg Boys told Burt and Ned that they were heading off to the backwoods of Kentucky, Burt jumped on the opportunity to form a convoy. Ned, on the other hand, was reluctant to be delivered to the Deep South again. When he expressed his concerns, Burt was uncharacteristically cross with his old buddy.
"Quit yer squealing," Burt snapped. "That was 30 years ago and it was just a movie!"
So, after Paul hit an ATM to confirm that the emergency fund still had enough money in it to cover bail, the fellas hit the road and headed off to Kentucky.
It's so smooth…
Kentucky was a big hit for the fellas, who enjoyed the tour of the Bourbon Trail, a series of distilleries famous throughout the world: Jack Daniels, Makers Mark, Knob Creek, and more.
"I liked Jack and I really enjoyed seeing the Knob, as I call the creek out there," Mitchell said. "I even suggested a T-shirt slogan to the JD marketing team: 'I got Jacked in Kentucky.' But they decided to pass on it."
Having Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty along was a boon to the trip, as their celebrity opened doors and got everyone into places they might not otherwise have made it. These included private tours of the distilleries and even a place in some private tasting lounges reserved for VIPs.
It was in the backwoods, though, off the beaten path, that the gang found the thing that would change their lives. It was on a dirt road that Murph spied the faint wisps of steam that were the telltale signs of a still. Creeping through the woods on foot, Ned nearly jumped out of his pants when he heard the familiar sound of Duelin' Banjos.
"In retrospect, perhaps that was not the best choice for a ringtone when you're traveling with Ned Beatty in the backwoods of Kentucky," Mitchell said.
The ringtone served to alert the still owners that they had company. But rather than the stereotypical, inbred, toothless, bearded, hillbillies of movies that have been propagated by decades of Yankee elitism, they found two fellas who went by the name of Cub and Bear who lived in a cabin and distilled their own whiskey "for medicinal purposes."
The two invited the group to stay for dinner and some drinking, but declined their offer to stay for the night.
"It was a nice cabin," Murphy said. "But a bit rustic. They had a hot tub that could easily fit eight full-grown men, but they only had one bed."
The party was just getting underway when things looked like they were about to take a turn for the worse. For once, Paul was actually able to hold on to the bail money, as no one wound up in the hoosegow.
"We ain't saying there were no lawmen involved," Mitchell slurred looking up from his just-refilled glass. "It's just that in Kentucky, when a sheriff's jeep pulls up to a still, chances are he's got a side of beef and barbeque fixings with him."
Murphy practically gushed about the sheriff's meat, saying it was the tastiest meat he'd ever had, "and surprisingly tender."
Starting to come together
To cut a very long story short, it was there, surrounded by the towering majesty in a forest of wood that the Hawgleg boys decided that this was something they wanted to grab and keep hold of. So they went home to Murphy's garage and set up their own still and started crafting their own, unique brand of whiskey: Gutshot Rotgut.
The first batches were somewhat less that promising.
"The first time we put a miniature in the bottle, it didn't sink to the bottom," Paul said.
"Yeah, that was bad. We had to dump that batch out and we made Murphy clean his bath tub before mixing the second batch," Mitchell said. "We also made him promise to wash his feet outside before coming inside the house again." Reportedly, Murphy's lady friend was very appreciative of that.
After the initial misstep (grass still refuses to grow where that first batch was dumped), things quickly improved. Following the Baldwin sister's Recipe solved future problems, creating an elixir guaranteed to put the shine in moonshine.
"It's good," Paul said.
Of course, there were a few problems. Even though this is based on a classic moonshine recipe, the boys went legal with it and had it inspected by the authorities. That led to a change in the packaging. Oddly enough, they didn't object to the inclusion of a lead miniature into the bottle.
"If lead was good enough for a generation of hyper school kids, it's good enough for gamers. Frankly, I can't see how it could make things worse," the representative from the Whiskey Authority said.
No, the problem came down to the label calling this "Fine Sippin' Whiskey."
"After his eyesight cleared up and he could talk again, the Revenuer Man said there was no way he could let us use the word 'Fine' to describe our 'concoction.' So, we had to change it to 'Tolerable,' which was a compromise on some of the four-letter adjectives he had suggested to describe our drink."
With the first batch passing muster, Gutshot Rotgut Tolerable Sippin' Whiskey was ready for distribution. Fortunately, Murphy had a few mob connections from his days in Las Vegas ("Let's just say that I know a fella who can always find you high-quality consumer electronics at a discount price") and was able to leverage that into a backend deal that would make everyone happy. More or less.
Because, of course, there is no back-end deal and there is no product. Although Mitchell, Murphy and Mauer do enjoy taking a shot now and then, they only drink whiskey, not make it. This is just another bit of tomfoolery for April Fools Day. Tip a glass of your favorite drink for us, and have a great day!
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