By Juanice Gray
The Coushatta native’s name and face have become synonymous with liquor, the moonshine variety. As a little girl Patti probably did not think her future lay in the illegal distribution of alcohol, but as a woman, a wife and a mother that is exactly the route destiny took her. She and her father, David Parker, have made a name for themselves on the Discovery Channel program “Moonshiners” since they joined the show in November 2015. (It airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m.) Discovery Channel was looking for new blood for their series and having a Louisiana tie-in appealed to the producers. Having a father/daughter team was unusual and had the potential to be a draw for viewers. They’re still going strong and are gaining in popularity.
With popularity comes opportunity. Sugarland Distillery Company based in Gatlinburg, Tenn., contacted Bryan with a proposal to package and distribute, legally, her mayhaw moonshine recipe. An agreement was reached and Bryan is now the first female on their label. Why mayhaws? A couple reasons. Everyone in this area knows the deliciousness of mayhaw jelly, but “Northerners don’t know mayhaws,” Bryan said. “They only grow in the south so this is a new flavor for them.” Second, the distillery, and Bryan wanted to appeal to women. The pink shine, due to the natural coloring of mayhaws, and the less than 100 proof recipe had all the right stuff to market. “Men want the 100 proof or more but most women, moms, tend to like something a little milder,” Bryan said.
Mayhaws have a bitter twang right off the tree, but add enough sugar and bam, you get some good jelly. Less sugar, plus Bryan’s secret ingredients and 27.5 percent alcohol volume and you get a smooth 55 proof brew. It’s sweet without being overwhelming, slightly fruity, smooth, has that mayhaw bitter at the end and definitely has a kick. Heck, it just downright good. Maybe that is the real reason they wanted to bottle it. Bryan made several trips to tastings and for pictures. “I had to approve all of it. I had to ensure it is mine and my dad’s recipe, my product,” Bryan said. “They were the nicest group to work with. There was a real family style atmosphere and I liked that. They’re good people at Sugarlands.”
“Patti wasn’t chosen to only reach the female demographic. Patti was chosen because we’ve worked with a few of the other Moonshiners from Discovery channel and had met Patti on a few occasions. We enjoyed the unique style of ‘shine she brought to the table. Patti & David create really fun recipes that aren’t something you’d typically find in east Tennessee,” said Ashley McCloud,Public Relations Manager at Sugarlands. “Wild Mayhaw is a unique flavor and we wanted to help get Patti’s recipe to fans across the country.”
Patti and David spent at least a year getting the recipe right and seeing it now on shelves in 27 states is gratifying. Bryan’s shine is featured in the Legends Series. Sugarlands Distilling Co. is an exclusive partner with Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners Legends to bring their traditional recipes to the dinner table, holiday table or backyard barbeque. They also feature shines from show regulars Mark Rogers, Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes, Steven Tickle and Jim Tom Hedrick. Now back to the woods of Red River and surrounding parishes where the duo continues to brew their moonshine. They have expanded their duo to include another family member, Cupcake, a pet pig. The little porker accompanies father and daughter to their still. Not sure of her role yet, taster or lookout, but she is on the job. In 2015, Bryan and Davis admitted they knew making moonshine was illegal and together stated it did not matter. What they do is carry on their family heritage. Bryan is a fourth generation shiner.
Parker grew up in the Appalachian Mountains where it was a way of life and brought the craft with him when he followed his bride to Louisiana. First came his moonshine, then her mayhaw shine and there are plans for additional flavors to hit store shelves in the future. With the holidays approaching, a little shine in the wine glass might be a welcome change. It can be found in Coushatta at Silver Dollar Liquor and is available in a glass quart jar. Sugarlands also sells it directly from their website at www.sugarlands.com. “Merry Christmas from the Moonshiners”
“At Sugarlands Distilling Company we have built our business around the philosophy that early moonshiners followed. It is simple, help your neighbor by lending a hand. It is the mountain way. We take that approach to everything we do, we want everyone that walks through the doors of our downtown Gatlinburg distillery to instantly feel like family and when they take a jar home we want them to have fond memories of their times with Sugarlands Distilling Co. Our company is named after the Sugarlands area of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Sugarlands was a country of ill fame, hidden deep in remote gorges, difficult access, tenanted by a sparse population who preferred to be a law unto themselves. For many a year it had been known on our side as Blockaders’ Glory, which is the same as saying Moonshiners’ Paradise, and we all believed it to be a fitly named.”