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NEW GREAT WHITE HOPE FOR ST. CROIX? Breadfruit Whiskey: Chesapeake Bay Distillery Says It’s On

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CHRISTIANSTED — Is it great white hope or great white hype?

Some folks cook it with coconut milk and spices to make a curry dish. Others fry it into fritters. Others still boil it and serve alongside salted codfish.

In Virginia Beach, Chris Richeson is making whiskey with it.

It’s breadfruit – a large, misshapen green oval with a stark white interior. It grows in tropical climates, including Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, where it is a food staple. Captain Cooke died for it in Hawaii … for England. When cooked, it tastes a bit like freshly baked bread.

Richeson, owner of Chesapeake Bay Distillery, takes fruit that has been dehydrated and milled and works his magic. The distillery already offers variations of vodka, bourbon and liqueurs at ABC stores and their own tasting room.

He completed the distillation process in February, and is now awaiting government approval for labeling before it can be sold.

Todd Manley, a former Virginia chef now a restaurateur in St. Croix, contacted Richeson about crafting the spirit.

“We are extremely excited that our little distillery in Virginia Beach was selected as the first commercial distiller of breadfruit,” Richeson says. “It’s providing value-added agricultural products for St. Croix, and assist in the relief of the hurricane-devastated population.”

He notes that the product will also raise the public consciousness of breadfruit, which is seen by some as a way to ease world hunger. A study by the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Breadfruit Institute promotes it as a superfood from a high- and long-yielding tree that has many culinary uses.

At the distillery, Richeson greets visitors with a clear bottle simply adorned with the word “Breadfruit” scrawled across blue painter’s tape.

He poured a shot glass full. There was a simple earthiness to the colorless liquid. After a sip, it seems to have many gin-like qualities, but with a bit more robustness.

Richeson calls it a Caribbean gin. Mixed with with sparkling water and lime for a defacto gin and tonic and it is delicious.

I’ll keep you informed once it is available in stores.

The company hopes using the tropical food will help rebuild the St. Croix which was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

Breadfruit is a food staple in the Caribbean that’s been touted as a superfood. Its name derives from its taste.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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