Forget the drug store caramels. Hello, Shotwells.

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I first discovered Shotwell Candy Co. when Box South was founded in January, 2014. I had always been ambivalent towards caramels; to me they were always stogy, dilapidated relics of a by-gone South that predated my birth. I remembered my great-grandmother, the clichéd Southern Belle, having an insulin-spiking, pancreas-destroying combination or Werther’s Originals and drug-store butter mints in a ceramic bowl, flanked by flaccid, random Christmas candy.  In my mind, caramels tasted of awkward family gatherings, funerals of long-forgotten great-uncles, and pre-holiday gatherings.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I was wrong – damned wrong, in fact, as Shotwell ‘s taste nothing like my adult therapy sessions. Sure, the gist is the same – caramelized sugar, melted butter, 2nd degree hand burns – but what Shotwell  perfects is not only technique, but flavor profile.  They make gourmet rifts on your classic caramels, infusing Chinese five spice or pretzels and local craft beer into a singular, artisan experience.

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Shotwell  Candy Co. was founded in December, 2012 by Jerrod and Lisa Smith, denizens of Memphis, Tennessee. Jerrod’s grandparents owned a general goods store in Aliceville, Kansas – a place that defines “fly-over country” – where his grandfather made confections using classic, old-school recipes. Jerrod used to pull a Charles Dickens’ on the candy counter, but Grandpa Shot never seemed to mind – and 30 years later, his grandson is both a practicing lawyer and premium confections maker.

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Using Grandpa Shot’s caramel recipe, Jerrod and Lisa began creating their own modernist twist on the classic candy. The caramels are obviously hand-made: The slightly imprecise cut; the hand-wrapped wax paper; the rustic, utilitarian boxes let you know that each caramel was truly made by a person, not an automated machination. But what’s truly unique, beyond the almost-passé “artisan” moniker, is the fact that Shotwell attempts to surpass the standard “Southern” palate- something that can be a massive hurdle for any business.  As stated earlier, their use of chocolate and Chinese five spice – a combination of clove, cinnamon, star anise, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seed – is not a only interesting, but exceptionally provocative. As is their “Old Fashioned,” a combination of Maker’s Mark, orange, and bitters, a rift on the post-Colonial, high society cocktail.

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If nothing else, Shotwell deserves your respect (and business) for understanding that “Southern” is no longer a pejorative – it’s a celebration in both past and future tense, understanding that great things remain constant while forever evolving.

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For more information about Shotwell Candy Co., please visit their website at http://www.shotwellcandy.com

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Robert Mooney is the founder of Box South, a monthly subscription service that ships the best in Southern small-batch foods directly to your door. Each month we scour the Southeast for the best, the brightest, and the most interesting in gourmet food producers in an attempt to help our subscribers discover what the South has to offer. For more information about Box South please see their website at www.BoxSouth.com.

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