By Kathy K. Martin
Cindy Davis Harthcock and her husband, Andy, of Djinn Spirits have paid homage to their Mississippi roots by naming their whiskey “Beat 3.”
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, her family moved to Lawrence County in Monticello, Mississippi when she was seven years old so her father could start his new job with the local paper mill. Located in bucolic Lawrence County, she says that Monticello has been largely conservative and devoutly religious for generations and the citizens voted it dry 14 years before Prohibition, and for the most part it remains that way today.
“It was quite a culture adjustment for me,” she says of the move there, which was during the late 60s. She later graduated from nursing school at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she first met her husband, a computer science major from the Jackson area. They moved to Southern Florida, got married, and later moved to Georgia and Texas before settling in New Hampshire about 13 years ago. Around eight years ago while still working in nursing, she read an article in a food magazine about chefs making their own apple brandy. She and her husband began building their dream of operating their own distillery. Distilling at home isn’t legal, she says, but they attended classes to get their license and they may have experimented in their kitchen making whiskey to get started.
Their dream was about to become a reality in late 2013, when they realized they needed a name for their “now legal” whiskey. This is when Cindy recalled her childhood. Growing up in a strictly dry county could probably be a poor source for material to name a liquor, she says, but there was intrigue and whispers.
Like all Mississippi counties, Lawrence County was divided into “beats.” Each beat was a voting district similar to other districts or wards in other state counties. People of a certain age from Lawrence County knew that when you were looking for adult beverages, Beat 3 was the place to go, says Harthcock. “There were a couple of upstanding families who bootlegged and moonshined, strictly as a public service mind you, and everyone knew it. It was such an open secret that even a seven-year-old girl knew it and remembered.”
When the couple opened Djinn Spirits in Nashua, New Hampshire, their first whiskey was a moonshine that sported the Beat 3 name on a map of Lawrence County. Located about an hour north of Boston, Nashua is one of the state’s biggest cities, she says, but without any of the hustle and bustle. “It’s quiet here with lots of farms and apple orchards and we’re within an hour’s drive from the coast and about two hours to Vermont.”
Now the distillery manufactures award-winning, aged whiskies, gin, and liqueurs. They also offer a popular new line of pre-packaged cocktails with names like Beachday, Scarecrow and Winter Sun. These cocktails have fun, seasonal flavors available only at the distillery.
Krupnik, a Polish spiced honey liqueur, became their fourth product in 2014, using a 500-year-old recipe and help from a Polish friend. “We lost so much in the way of product development during Prohibition and I hope to up America’s liqueur game.” Following that, the next year they launched their first single-malt whiskey, and then introduced their Henry Knox gin.
Some of Djinn’s latest products are blended whiskies. “My strength is in blending barrels to get the best taste.” She says that taste is very subjective and although predicting exactly what a combination of whiskies will taste like is impossible, she frequently has a rough idea of what will work, then proceeds to do controlled experiments until she gets the best flavor.
The name for the distillery came interestingly enough from a game of Scrabble. She jokes that she doesn’t really like to share the story because her husband beat her in a game after a great score from the word “djinn.” She says that dijinn is the name of a spirit from Middle Eastern mythology. It’s the origin of the word “genie.”
“Unlike an angel, a being that has to be good, a dijinn can be good or bad and I think the same is true for alcohol. It can be good or bad and I like that concept of free will,” she explains, “We have a choice.”
When she returned home for her high school reunion in 2019, she brought some Beat 3 whiskey to share with her former Lawrence County classmates. “Sharing that with old friends was the height of Southern hospitality.” It was such a hit that she plans to return soon and bring that Beat 3 back home again.
Ready to try Djinn’s famous Beat 3? Here’s a recipe using their liquid gold, perfect for gatherings or a weekend cocktail at home.
2 oz Beat 3 Single Malt Whisky (or Rye)
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (we like Punt e Mes)
1/4 oz Benedictine
3 dashes Paychaud's Bitters
Rinse glass with absinthe and drain. Stir other ingredients over ice and strain into coup. Garnish with a cherry (we like the Luxardo brand).