Special to Iredell Free News

Statesville-based Southern Distilling Co. is building on its partnership with the Carolina Panthers with a limited release whiskey commemorating the team’s 2003 NFC Championship season.

Six unique single barrels of Southern Star Paragon were carefully selected and bottled with commemorative labeling that celebrates the team’s achievements. Fewer than 1,000 bottles will be offered beginning October 20, exclusively available in the Carolinas and debuting with a special event at Southern Distilling Company that day.

“As a longtime Panthers fan, I’m thrilled to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our team’s first NFC championship,” said Southern Distilling co-founder and CEO Pete Barger. “I grew up here, and it’s where my wife Vienna and I have raised our family and started our business. We’re proud to have grown tremendously and earned national recognition, and it’s a privilege to celebrate our success alongside the Panthers in this way. I can’t wait for us to share this release honoring the 2003 team — and I’ll be keeping a bottle on hand to raise a glass to future success, too!”

All bottles will feature a specially designed Carolina Panthers label unlike anything previously released in conjunction with the NFL. Each bottle will be numbered by hand, with the first 150 bottles on sale at Southern Distilling Company in Statesville, beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, October 20, with a Panthers Legend on-site to autograph bottles.

Barger, who grew up in the Carolinas rooting for the Panthers, led the barrel pick process of identifying six exceptional barrels of Paragon bourbon, each an exemplar of the distillery’s signature whiskey. While each barrel will have unique characteristics thanks to the aging process, Paragon Single Barrels are sweet with fruity florals and ripe apple notes on the nose; the palate bursts with vanilla, honey, subtle hints of walnuts and a rich texture.

Paragon Single Barrel is made with 70% corn, 16% wheat and 14% malted barley. The Panthers Limited Edition will be offered at cask strength varying by barrel, at an MSRP of $99.95/750mL.