In search of ‘White Lightnin’: Moonshine in Southern Appalachia

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July 31, 2013

Smokey Mountain News

It was the only thing he knew how to do. It was the only thing he wanted to do.

Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton was a moonshiner, through and through. Meandering the thick woods surrounding Maggie Valley, and points beyond in Southern Appalachia, Sutton gained a reputation throughout the Southeast as the maker of the finest ‘shine ever created. For decades, he kept making liquor even after being caught on a handful of occasions.


After his last arrest, he was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison. With mounting health problems and personal convictions about the law, he found himself at a dead end. Rather than report to jail, he committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in 2009 at age 62.

“He didn’t care about anything but making moonshine, and he didn’t feel like he was doing anything wrong,” said his widow, Pam Sutton.

Though already a legendary and controversial figure during his lifetime, Popcorn’s death immortalized his role as the outlaw moonshiner. The iconic image of a bootlegger has been part of American culture since the country’s inception and with that image came centuries of confrontation, vilification and condemnation.

It’s an Appalachian tradition as deep and rich as the Great Smoky Mountains themselves — one still finding its footing in a modern world where few things survive the onslaught of time.


Headin’ south

The practice of distilling and making spirits in Southern Appalachia dates back hundreds of years. With an influx of Scots-Irish settlers into the area during the 17th and 18th centuries, their ancient methods and techniques of making liquor came with them. Whisky production was not only an economic vehicle for society but also one that influenced politics and culture.

Once in America, these early pioneers molded their distilling ways to fit the new crop they discovered — corn, which was a plentiful ingredient grown by Native Americans and quickly adopted by newcomers.

“Making liquor was a natural way of life for these settlers,” said Dan Pierce, chairman of the history department at UNC-Asheville and author the newly published book on moonshining, Corn From A Jar. “These early Appalachian people had long traditions of making liquor, and they adapted it to the new grains of the land, particularly corn.”


Dark side of the moonshine

During the 18th and 19th century, several attempts by the U.S. government to tax liquor spurred protest and, in certain situations, violence. According to Pierce, Congress brought about a $2 tax on liquor, an enormous jump from the 20 cents taxed in previous years. Distillers immediately became outlaws, with federal revenuers looking to collect.

“From the start, moonshiners have always had this ‘outlaw’ image,” Pierce said. “Society’s fascination with the moonshiners is part nostalgia, part outlaw, where that person pushes the boundaries, all in an effort to make a living. Once something like that gains momentum, it just takes off.”

In 1876, moonshiner Lewis Redmond found himself in a shootout with a federal marshall. Redmond killed the official and was dubbed “King of the Moonshiners.” After the incident, Redmond relocated to Bryson City, where he continued his distilling empire in Western North Carolina. Sylva writer Gary Carden wrote a play, “The Prince of Dark Corners,” about Redmond, which was also made into a PBS special.

With the popularity of moonshine came stereotypes. Those in other parts of the country often viewed the entire South as a band of outlaws. Though an important aspect of the history of Southern Appalachia, many feel it isn’t the whole story.

“Moonshining is a part of the cultural history here, but not the entire history,” said author, historian and folklorist George Ellison, of Bryson City. “These characteristics of the moonshiner put us in a cubby hole. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not accurate of the entire population and culture.”

Into the mid-20th century, the illegal moonshiners developed new tactics to get their product to clients. Faster, more savvy automobiles graced the twisted backroads of the mountains. Bootleggers customized their vehicles with faster engines in seemingly slow vehicles, stronger axles and leaf springs to not make a heavy load of moonshine obvious when driving down the road.

The 1958 crime-drama thriller “Thunder Road” saw Hollywood introduce their take on the “life of a moonshiner” to the world. Starring Robert Mitchum, the film became a cult classic that perpetuated the outlaw image of moonshiners.

“‘Thunder Road’ definitely fired up a national hype by overly romanticizing moonshining,” Ellison said. “And a lot of people related to it, because almost everyone has a story about trying moonshine.”

Consequently, many of those actual bootleg drivers became pioneers in another Southern tradition — stock car racing. Taking their talents of evading the law, these moonshine drivers, most notably Junior Johnson, were part of the newly formed National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR, which today is America’s biggest spectator sport.

“Moonshine really was integral to the inception of NASCAR,” Pierce said. “Everyone was involved in moonshine, from drivers to track owners to promoters. They were looking for the next thing, and they found it with racing.”


The man behind the ‘shine

Pam Sutton was working at a café in Parrottsville, Tenn., when a skinny, bearded man walked in. Adorned with a rolled cigarette hanging from his lips, trademark bib overalls, long sleeve plaid and floppy hat with a raccoon penis bone through the top, he looked at her and soon walked back out.

“I knew who he was; I knew it was Popcorn,” she said. “He came down again the next day for some business with somebody, and he gave them a card to give me. It said, ‘Call me.’”

From there, a romance blossomed. At the time, Popcorn resided in Parrottsville. He made every effort to win over Pam’s heart. It was a notion many aware of his legend may have been surprised by.

“Personally, he was a very caring, loving man,” Pam said. “He was totally different with me than in public — he treated me like a queen. He was a very romantic guy, and you wouldn’t think that by looking at him.”

The couple was married for two years before Popcorn committed suicide to avoid spending what arguably would have been the rest of his life in prison, given his poor health at the time. In his final years, he was setting the foundation to make his longtime illegal practice legal by starting his own licensed business.

But, he’d never see the fruits of his labors. In his honor, Pam has taken the reins and created “Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey.” The company brings together Pam, J&M Concepts LLC and outlaw country musician Hank Williams Jr., who was a fan of Popcorn’s moonshine and wanted to continue the tradition.

“Moonshine keeps our culture here in Southern Appalachia alive; it’s our history. It’s how people made a living in these mountains, and it keeps Popcorn’s memory alive,” Pam said.

In its fourth year, the Popcorn Sutton Summer Jam, a.k.a. “Hillbilly Woodstock,” is held at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. The event is Aug. 2-3. Starting as a grassroots get-together of a couple hundred people, the festival has grown to more than 4,000 attendees, according to promoters.


Distilling tradition

For every batch of moonshine he makes, Cody Bradford is distilling his lineage. The tradition of making ‘shine has been in his family for more than 150 years. The recipe remains the same, and it’s as strong and real as each generation of crafters.

“It’s in my blood; it’s the whole reason I wanted to do this, to keep the tradition alive,” he said. “By learning about moonshine, you’re learning the history behind the hardworking people of these mountains. I want people to know what’s good moonshine and what’s not.”

In 2010, Bradford opened the Howling Moon Distillery in Asheville. Putting out hundreds of gallons of moonshine, Bradford can’t keep up with demand, even with the product only being sold in Western North Carolina.

“Making liquor is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” he said. “And doing it legally, I can pass along the tradition without the fear anymore of getting caught.”

In a twist of fate, his wife’s great-great uncle was the federal marshal shot by “King of the Moonshiners” Lewis Redmond in 1876.

“Moonshine isn’t about a bunch of hillbillies getting drunk,” he said. “It’s about people whose only survival was brewing ‘shine. For me, brewing it is a thrill, and it’s part of who I am.”

In recent years, the image of the bootlegger has increased through popular reality shows like “Moonshiners” and “Hillbilly Blood.” But still, how has the public fascination with moonshiners remained so strong through the generations?

“People like outlaws, whether it’s Al Capone, Jesse James or Billy the Kid,” Bradford said. “And moonshiners are the last real outlaws still out there.”

Flowing into modernity

Moonshine arrests and convictions have drastically dropped in recent decades. With illegal trades shifting more to hard drugs and black market materials, the number of stills confiscated is nearly nonexistent in Western North Carolina.

“I’ve been here over eight years and have yet to see one still,” said Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran.

But Bradford assures there is no shortage of bootleggers still operating in Southern Appalachia. He estimates hundreds of ‘shiners are cooking up their trademarks brews to this day, high up in the deep forests, far away from Main Street America.

“There are more moonshiners out there today than I can count,” he said. “They’re smarter these days; they don’t talk about it at all, and they’ve survived.”

And the proof of their existence is in the ‘shine. Just last month, sheriff deputies in Mitchell County (north of Asheville) seized more than 150 gallons of illegal moonshine in a raid on a production facility following a tip.

“It’s not a common occurrence anymore, but we still come across them once in a while,” said Josh Sparks, chief deputy for Mitchell County. “More than anything, we have our sights on the increasing drug problem. It was a good bust, though.”

Sparks said moonshine arrests and convictions are nowhere near the numbers 30 or 40 years ago. He feels moonshiners are keeping their clients closer these days and not expanding as far, where those who do expand tend to be the ones getting ahead of themselves and caught. But, that doesn’t mean public interested has decreased.

“We’ve had more calls about what we were going to do with that seized moonshine than on anything else,” Sparks chuckled. “It all gets poured out and destroyed, but people wanted to know if we ‘would donate a jar here and there to them.’”


Making a stand

Moonshine has remained a line in the sand that places American citizens on one side of the law or the other. The rebellion behind the making and selling of the liquor has pushed through the ages with a “Whack-A-Mole” mentality, where for every moonshiner caught, several more pop up. Co-owner of Twisted Hillbilly Magazine, a key sponsor of the Jam, Jeff Whitaker looks towards Popcorn as a hero to the individual.

“You look at Popcorn like you look at Hank Williams III or Willie Nelson, who were people with their finger in the air, just rebels, and Popcorn was the ultimate rebel,” he said. “Popcorn held his finger in the air ‘til the very end.”

Whitaker noted that Popcorn felt he had already paid his taxes by purchasing the materials and ingredients he used to make his moonshine. For both men, making ‘shine is a form of protest that is an essential right of being an American.

“People can embrace this kind of rebellion; it’s a quiet and harmless rebellion that crosses a broad spectrum,” Whitaker said. “I love the fierce independence of this region. In Southern Appalachia, we want to do our thing and be left alone. You’re either a decent person or not, and that’s the way we measure things in these parts — it’s always been that way.”

And as moonshining rolls into the 21st century, it seems there’s no stopping a storied and proud tradition in Southern Appalachia. Though production numbers may have dwindled, on paper, one can find a jar of white lightning with the slightest of ease. It’s about trust and confidence in doing so, which are key traits of this wild landscape.

“Popcorn was great at marketing himself, and when you’re doing something illegal, and in the public eye, you tend to be in the crosshairs of the law,” Pierce said. “They say Popcorn was ‘The Last One,’ but he wasn’t the end of the line; he was the beginning of a Renaissance for moonshining.”



‘Shining a light on history

During America’s infancy, distillers were able to practice their trade legally, making liquors to not only consume but for trade, medicine and seemingly everything in between. All walks of life from farmers to the President of United States purchased, consumed and enjoyed spirits. 

It was an honorable and sacred profession, one that was left alone for decades during the nation’s development. But, that all changed with the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791. According to the Library of Congress, in an effort to increase the power of the government and pay off state debts from the Revolutionary War, U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton introduced a new tax on people who made and used whiskey as a means of exchange. The tax sparked a protest, one that was “against taxation without local representation.” 

The feuding hit a head in 1794 with protesters attacking the home of a tax inspector who was serving writs to people who hadn’t adhered to paying the tax. President George Washington sent peace commissioners, with thousands of militia later being deployed to quell the rebellion.

The suppression showcased a change in the new nation where resistance could be thwarted by the government. The tax was eventually repealed when President Thomas Jefferson came to office in 1801.

Following the Civil War, another tax on spirits was enacted by the federal government to once again pay for the cost of battle. Already physically and economically devastated by the war, the Confederate States of America felt they couldn’t take another financial blow by allowing the tax in the years during Reconstruction.

“Making moonshine was the primary way people paid their taxes. It was a dependable thing for a cash crop when a lot of these agricultural families of the South couldn’t rely on their farms every year,” said Dan Pierce, UNC-Asheville history professor and author of Corn From A Jar. “Making and transporting liquor was cheaper and more profitable than growing corn. But, by the 1870s, the government started cracking down on the production.”

If a distiller did pay tax on their product, they were legally allowed to keep brewing. But, for small-time farmers and producers, the tax ate up too much of their profit to justify making the liquor.

“Liquor was a poor farmer’s hedge,” Pierce said. “When agriculture in this area went down in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these distillers relied more and more on making moonshine to get by.”

Though a temperance movement to ban alcohol has early roots in this country, it gained significant momentum at the turn of the 20th century. By 1918, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution – an action that prohibited the manufacture, transport and sale of alcohol. “Prohibition” was finally repealed in 1933, after years of heightened crime, violence and protest due to the controversial laws.

Get Your Shine On

Article By: Beth Bacheldor
Photography By: Local Photographer Teeny Harris
Edge of the Carolinas

Whiskey Creek, the meandering waterway that winds through Wilmington neighborhoods and empties into Masonboro Sound, was once a popular avenue for smuggling moonshine in and out of eastern North Carolina. In fact, that’s how the creek―known as Purviance Creek prior to the 1860s―got its name.

It’s one of the many legends that make up the state’s illustrious, long-standing love affair with moonshine, a very high proof distilled spirit that for hundreds of years was made by the light of the moon to avoid taxation or busts during bans on alcoholic drinks. That love affair―starting with bootleggers in the backwoods of the North Carolina mountains surreptitiously distilling corn mash into whiskey―nearly died when prohibition ended. But it’s been renewed in a cottage industry that’s turning out legal moonshine by the gallons. Moonshine that still hums of ethanol, goes down like fire, yet finishes smooth with just the tiniest hints of vanilla oak or even apples.

There are as many as 13 distilleries in North Carolina today, up from just one in 2005, according to Greg Matheson, who pours spirits, mixes cocktails and dispenses tales of North Carolina moonshine from behind the bar at City Club of Wilmington, where he’s the restaurant and bar manager. Only a few of them distill corn mash into pure white whiskey. There’s Troy & Sons Distillers and Howling Moon Distillery in Asheville, Broadslab Distillery in Benson and Piedmont Distillers in Madison. Others produce everything from vodka, brandy, rum, single malt whiskey and even wheat whiskey.

Howling Moon Distillery produces 400 to 500 gallons of moonshine each month, in stainless stills that president and co-founder Chivous Downey describes as “bigger versions of your grand-daddies’ stills.” Downey and co-founder Cody Bradford , Howling Moon’s CEO, began producing the moonshine in February 2012. The cousins, whose family history in moonshining goes back 150 years, focus on using historically accurate corn mash recipes and processes to make their whiskey. “That’s the reason we started,” says Downey. “We’ve got a lot of moonshiners in our family and we believed we could put out a traditional whiskey.” He recalls the rows and rows of liquid-filled quart jars that used to line the shelves at his grandpa’s house. “I always thought it was water and couldn’t figure out why they needed all that water when they could get it from the tap. As I got older, I figured it out.”

Classic moonshine is a simple concoction of corn meal, sugar, yeast and water. According to the website, Jeff and Mark’s Carolina Moonshine, authored by North Carolina mountain boys with family moonshining legacies that reach back generations, early American moonshiners used rye or barley, but most moonshine made in the United States for the last 150 years has been made with corn. Jeff and Mark have appeared on the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” series and own a store, Carolina Moonshiners, in Robbinsville, N.C.

What makes moonshine different from the commercial whiskey that saturates the current liquor market, according to Jeff and Mark’s website, is that moonshine is made to be enjoyed pretty much right out of the still. There’s little aging in charred oak barrels to mellow it or give it a golden hue. Hence the fiery taste, nicknames like white lightening, and the high proof―in some cases 190 proof (equaling about 95% alcohol). The term proof, incidentally, came about because purveyors used to take a handful of gun powder, set it atop of a jug of liquor, and light it. If a fire or explosion erupted, that proved the liquor was legit, explains the City Club’s Matheson.

North Carolina moonshining is filled with colorful, legendary characters. Matheson rattles off a list of them: Amos Owens, Willard Watson (cousin to Arthel “Doc” Watson, the famous North Carolina guitarist), Doc King, Clayton McKinney, Joshua “Percy” Flowers, and Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton.

Percy Flowers, Matheson says, operated a huge moonshine operation from his 5,000-acre farm in Johnston County. “There was a rail line that ran right through his property, and he’d receive box-loads of sugar right off the train to make his moonshine,” he says. Percy died in 1982 after 79 years of hard living that included 10 indictments by federal grand juries, 18 indictments at the state level on various charges, and a 12-month stint in prison, all related to the illegal production of alcoholic beverages and tax evasion in the 1950s and 1960s. He was well-connected― “he had the politicians in his pocket,”

Matheson says―and was reported to have made more than a million dollars a year with his moonshining operation. Flowers’ son, Perry Sullivan, recently published the book “Lost Flowers: True Stories of the Moonshine King Percy Flowers and is available at and in bookstores now.

Originally from Maggie Valley, N.C., the notorious moonshiner Popcorn Sutton got started in the 1970s. He earned his moonshine fame from distilling whiskey in Cocke County, Tenn., in the Great Smoky Mountains, and publishing “Me and My Likker” in 1999 that served as an autobiography and guide to moonshine production.

He was also featured in several documentaries, including “Last Run.” Filming beside his last working still in 2002, the camera pans to a handpainted sign that reads, “Popcorn & J.B. Raders Moonshine Shack. Keep Yore Dam Ass Out.” The 2-hour documentary gives a firsthand account of Popcorn’s life, how to make shine and features many memorable quotes directly from the legend’s mouth, including “That’s the only thing I can brag about in my life―that’s my likker. Ain’t nobody can beat me.”

In the spring of 2009, he committed suicide by rigging the exhaust pipe of his car, climbing in and starting the engine. It’s been reported that Popcorn Sutton killed himself to avoid serving 18 months in a federal prison for illegally distilling spirits and possession of a firearm as a felon. He was 62 when he died, and a little more than a year later, his legend was immortalized when country music star Hank Williams, Jr., partnered with J&M Concepts LLC and widow Pam Sutton to distill and distribute “Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey.” It is still sold today.

And then there’s “Major” Louis Redmond, a moonshiner and bootlegger who killed the great-great-uncle of the wife of Howling Moon’s Bradford. Alfred Duckworth was a Deputy U.S. Marshall who tried to arrest Major Redmond, but the moonshiner shot him at point-blank range. Later, Major Redmond was captured by a group of deputies, who shot him numerous times but didn’t kill him. He served some time in a federal prison in New York. After he was released, he moved to South Carolina where he was ultimately pardoned by the governor there. Bradford says it was Major Redmond’s popularity among the many women he had helped during the years after the Civil War, when mountain families―many who had lost husbands, fathers, brothers and sons in the war―had no way of making a living. “He had a gang of 30 people running liquor and running from the law,” Bradford says. “He’d make moonshine, and then offer it to the families so they could sell it and buy food.” This modern-day Robin Hood gained national fame as a romantic hero and even had a “dime novel” based on his life written about him.

The new distilleries that have opened doors in North Carolina in recent years are bringing to life a craft that’s steeped in the state’s culture and history. Of course, they’re all doing it legally with permits and by paying taxes on the alcohol. (It is still illegal to distill alcohol without the permits, even if the alcohol is for personal use only. And people still get arrested. In February 2012, for example, state Alcohol Law Enforcement agents arrested a man in Benson, N.C., for alleged moonshining, seizing hundreds of gallons of finished liquor and mash.) The distilleries like Howling Moon, Broadslab and Troy & Sons focus on making time-honored corn whiskey that’s fiery yet smooth. Troy & Son’s Platinum Moonshine is made from Crooked Creek Corn, an open-pollinated heirloom white corn, and pure Appalachian spring water. In some cases, the craft distilleries have added just a dash of flavor, just like moonshiners of old. Piedmont Distillers’ Midnight Moon fruit infusions include real fruit like blackberries that age right in the jars of liquor. Howling Moon’s Apple Pie Moonshine has been lightly infused with fresh apples and cinnamon.

“There’s a lure about moonshine,” Bradford says. “It’s always been illegal, part of a secret society, the stuff of legends. And people today want to drink it for that experience. But if it is done right, it’s all about the taste. It’s smooth. Even at a 100 proof.”



Another moonshine maker cranks up

Written By: Mackensy Kunsford

June 2013

Asheville Citizen Times

Cody Bradford of Howling Moon Moonshine balks at the idea that his products might get lost with all of the talk of Troy & Sons, Asheville’s other moonshine makers.

“We were just in Bon Appetit, and they said we’re at the vanguard of the moonshine renaissance right now,” Bradford said. “So that’s pretty good.”

The January article also mentioned a handful of other moonshiners (including Troy & Sons) but pointed out that moonshine is in Bradford’s blood.

“My family was seriously into this stuff,” said Bradford, whose relatives made and dealt moonshine out of a certain sort of Appalachian necessity, he said. One of Bradford’s two new stills even makes use of his great-great-grandfather’s condenser, now 150 years old.

“In these mountains, everyone (made moonshine),” said Bradford. “Most of the farmers had a still and ran liquor on the side. Back then, everything was bartered, but if you needed to buy something with real cash, it was one of the only easy ways to get it.”

Additionally, it was a way to preserve extra farm produce — like strawberries and apples, for example — in a time when chest freezers weren’t yet available.

Howling Moon recently released a line of moonshine made in the old-fashioned way, with fresh fruit used in the distillation process. An apple pie moonshine can already be found at some local bars, including Wild Wing, which makes with the product an apple-tini with an Appalachian twist. The strawberry shine is to be released next month, and Bradford imagines it would work well in a strawberry daiquiri, though he concedes he’s a purist at heart.

Since Howling Moonshine was permitted for business about a year and a half ago, the output of the distillery has grown from 40 cases a month to about 320 (about 360 gallons). Bradford projects a growth to 400 cases a month once the strawberry moonshine is released in July.

“We’ve pretty much grown ridiculously over the past year,” he said. “Moonshine’s just so big right now.”

‘Shine On: The Moonshine Renaissance

Bon Appetit

Written By:  Melba Newsome

January 2013

Cody Bradford has moonshine in his blood. Going back 150 years, he says, his father, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather all made their own ‘shine–unlicensed and unregulated pure corn liquor.

“My great-grandfather made it because if they grew corn and couldn’t get it to market, they could make liquor out of it,” the 28-year-old says. “I love moonshine and think it’s the best alcohol out there if it’s done right.”

But the family tradition nearly came to an end with Bradford. “My father wanted to teach me how,” he says, “but I was afraid of taking the risk.”

And the risk was serious. Moonshiners like Bradford’s ancestors skirted the law by distilling and selling their corn whiskey without a permit–and without paying taxes on the proceeds. If caught, they faced years in prison. Of course, that failed to deter many ‘shiners, and it was the folklore and enthusiasm surrounding their exploits that convinced several present-day entrepreneurs that making moonshine–aboveboard, this time–could be a viable business. Now a moonshine renaissance is under way, with Gen X’ers, housewives, and NASCAR legends firing up their copper stills to turn out triple-distilled corn whiskey in small, handcrafted batches…

Much of the action is taking place in North Carolina, whose love-hate relationship with alcohol dates back to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791. Since then, the state has flip-flopped between being wet and dry; it even outlawed alcohol more than a decade before Prohibition, and when that ban went national, N.C. moonshining not only saw a boom but continued to thrive after Prohibition’s repeal. Many families now have their own recipe for moonshine (a.k.a. white lightning or white whiskey), and during the holidays, it’s the Southern equivalent of eggnog. Now Howling Moon Moonshine, the company that Bradford formed with his UNC Asheville buddy Chivous Downey and legendary mountain moonshiner and musician Raymond Fairchild, is at the vanguard of the industry. In just the past few years, dozens of distilleries haved jumped into the market, some of the country’s best bars have started serving up moonshine cocktails, and more liquor stores seem to stock the stuff every day.No doubt, the biggest name in moonshine today is NASCAR legend Junior Johnson. He began running ‘shine as a kid during the Great Depression and spent 11 months in federal prison during the 1950s for tending the family still. In 2007, at the age of 76, he launched Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon. In addition to the signature white lightning, Johnson also makes a variety of flavors akin to fruity mixed drinks, including apple pie, blackberry, blueberry, cherry, cranberry, and strawberry.But while Bradford and Johnson were both raised on moonshine (so to speak), one of the most celebrated distillers is a relative newbie. In fact, Troy Ball had never tasted moonshine until she relocated from Texas to western North Carolina. In 2008, she took her first sip of true, corn-based moonshine and loved it, she says, because “it didn’t start a fire in your throat.” “I realized that this traditional American spirit is not well-represented in the market place,”‘ says Ball. “I decided to see if I could bring this to market.” That sparked a mad search through the state archives and among neighbors for the perfect recipe and the perfect variety of corn, which Ball eventually found in the nearly extinct heirloom Crooked Creek Corn, which had only survived from the 19th century on one small farm outside of Asheville, N.C. Today, Troy & Sons produces and distributes 10,000 bottles of Platinum Moonshine and Oak Reserve Moonshine whiskey each month throughout the southeast. It is available for order online and also served in restaurants and hotels such as the Wilderness Lodge, at Disney World, and Husk in Charleston, S.C. “I’m a really big fan of Troy & Sons,” says Dan Latimer, Husk’s general manager. “The flavors in there and the nuances in that moonshine are really awesome to me, and I think that [Ball’s] ability to really showcase the ingredient that goes into the whiskey is just beautiful, this strong cereal flavor that comes through.”Latimer says that moonshine is best thought of as a spirit unto itself, since the flavor profile of bourbon, its older brother, is so heavily influenced by its years spent aging in charred oak barrels. “Compared to other clear spirits, you can definitely taste the corn,” he says. “Sometimes there’s that cereal profile, and sometimes, like with white whiskey from a Tennessee distillery called Prichard’s, it has a little bit more of a sweetness, and that kind of comes forth, like a corn cake or johnnycake.”And the moonshine surge isn’t limited to the South. Sean Josephs, owner of the encyclopedic Brooklyn whiskey bar Char No. 4, keeps a selection of white whiskeys on hand, and sees them as a necessary teaching tool for whiskey tasting. “Tasting it with no wood, just with the raw corn flavor,” Josephs says, “lets you really get a sense of how char affects the spirit, as it matures into bourbon.”Taste aside, though, the moonshine renaissance is both a product of and a boon to the boom of artisanal distilleries that have cropped up across the country in recent years. Bourbon is generally aged for a minimum of four years, which means that startup distillers have a long time to wait before they can even start making a return on their investments. “Just one standard barrel holds 240 bottles, or 20 cases,” Josephs says. “That’s a lot of product to be sitting on.” But with white whiskey, distillers can start shipping as soon as their first batch of mash makes its way through the stills.“It’s an opportunity for a lot of people to get some positive cash-flow while they’re aging their other bourbons and whiskeys,” says Latimer. And indeed Troy & Sons is already waiting on batches of barrel-aged bourbon to mature.

But that doesn’t mean that moonshine’s star will fade as soon as those barrels hit the right birthday. “I do think that the art of the craft will maintain, because there’s an allure to it, that historical breaking the law kind of appeal,” says Latimer, “I think a couple people who are really doing it the right way and paying attention to the distillation process will stick and hold, and turn into a kind of standard in the industry.” –Melba Newsome


Mountain Spirits

It has been called a quiet revolution. A renaissance. And Western North Carolina is smack in the middle of it. With five distilleries opening in the last two years, our region is keeping stride with a national craft liquor trend.

WNC Magazine

Written By:  Jim Murphy

Photographs by:  Peter Frank Edwards

November/December 2012

“It’s exploding,” says Bill Owens, president of The American Distilling Institute in California. It’s part of his job to promote this young industry, and his enthusiasm is obvious as he rattles off numbers. “In 2000, there were only 24 craft distilleries in the United States. By the end of last year, there were 244. And it keeps getting bigger.”

He credits the growth to a confluence of changing attitudes about food and drink. “Ten years ago in a lot of small towns, the only place to get a meal was IHOP,” he says. “Now you can find great little restaurants serving creative menus that feature fresh, local dishes. The young foodies have created a new market, which extends to craft beers, local wines, and now good, smooth, high-quality craft liquor.” Considering the moonshine history of Western North Carolina, Owens says, “It was a natural for your area. It was inevitable.”

But maybe not. North Carolina has endured a love-hate relationship with alcohol that dates back to the early days of the republic. From the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 to the bootleg era of the 20th century, the state has vacillated between wet and dry, legal and illegal.

In 1908, with Prohibition still 12 years away, North Carolina outlawed alcoholic beverages in a referendum that passed with 62 percent of the vote. But when alcohol was banned nationwide, the moonshine business only grew. Federal and state agents scoured the mountains to bust up stills and arrest moonshiners to shut down the flow that was looking more like a flood. Academic and news accounts of Prohibition in North Carolina often include a statement by the chief alcohol enforcement officer venting his frustration, saying, “We have more illicit distilleries than any other state in this union, and that number is increasing.”

Even after Prohibition ran its course in 1933, homemade liquor remained a thriving industry. To the moonshiners, it was more than a business; it was a way of life.

Today, a new generation of distillers is bringing a fresh perspective and commitment to the tradition, albeit on the right side of the law. Whether you prefer white lightning, brandy, gin, or single malt whiskey, you can find a locally made liquor to fill your glass or blend a favorite cocktail. Here’s your chance to get to know the committed and ambitious folks putting spirits back in the mountains.

Old-time Inspiration Howling Moon Distillery

Raymond Fairchild is that rare moonshiner who has walked both sides of the legal line. He began working at his family’s still when he was about five years old, and grew up to become a popular bluegrass banjo player, cutting two gold records and appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. With his success, he no longer needed the income from selling ’shine, yet he couldn’t bring himself to give it up. “It gets in your blood,” he says. “It’s a rush. You gotta do it.”

Now the 73-years-old’s name and picture adorn the label of Howling Moon Moonshine. “We got to know Raymond when we went to see him play a few times,” says Cody Bradford, CEO of the distillery. “We would get to talking, and when the conversation turned to moonshine, I realized his recipe and name would be a natural for us.”

Howling Moon distills its whiskey in a modest building just north of Asheville. Bradford and his cousin, Chivous Downey, released their white lightning in February and already anticipate a move to bigger digs. The cousins, in their 20s, constitute the entire staff at Howling Moon. Entrepreneurs in baseball caps and T-shirts, they take on every job, from unloading sacks of corn to bottling the final product. And just as they went with an old-time recipe, they stuck with the old methods, from the homemade still to the corn ground at a local water wheel.

“My family has been making moonshine for 150 years,” Bradford says. “My father wanted to teach me how, but I was afraid of taking the risk.” But when he got tired of traveling for his job with a nursing home service, he decided to take the leap.

The operation began on a shoestring, and had some shaky moments. “We were biting our nails,” Bradford says. “We were worried our money would run out before we got our permits.” The permits finally came in, the product hit shelves, and business is booming. “We had to build a second still, and it’s still not enough to fill the demand,” Bradford says. “The only reason this won’t work is if we don’t work hard enough.”

As for Fairchild, he doesn’t mind the tamer side of the liquor business. “I don’t have to keep looking over my shoulder any more, and that’s a good thing because at my age I can’t turn around as fast.”



From still to store: North Carolina-made liquor business booming

The Charlotte Observer
October 2, 2012
By Andrea Weigl

North Carolina history is full of tales about clandestine copper stills, bootleggers evading revenuers and Mason jars of illegal ’shine.

That legacy can be seen in today’s liquor stores, where more and more legal North Carolina-made spirits stock the shelves.

North Carolina now has nine liquor distilleries with another on the horizon. More than half began selling their products in state-run stores within the past nine months. Tar Heels can now enjoy a cocktail made with rum by Muddy River Distillery in Belmont or vodka by Top of the Hill Distillery in Chapel Hill, which started bottling last week.

It’s part of a national trend. Three years ago, there were about 150 microdistilleries across the country; today, there are more than 400.

That North Carolina has seen similar growth doesn’t surprise Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute, a trade organization founded a decade ago.

“A lot of people (in North Carolina) have distilling DNA in their blood,” Owens said.

While bootlegging liquor – making it without government permits and without paying taxes – has always been illegal, Joe Michalek was the first in North Carolina to take advantage of the legal way to make moonshine in 2005. His Piedmont Distillers in Madison is North Carolina’s largest, selling more than 10,000 cases in the state over the past year.

Michalek smartly tapped into the connection between bootlegging and NASCAR by getting former driver Junior Johnson to add his name to a line of moonshine. Johnson used to race through Wilkes County running bootleg liquor for his daddy – a family history shared by several new distillers.

Jeremy Norris of Broadslab Distillery has a part of his granddaddy’s busted-up still hanging on the wall of his distillery outside Benson in southern Johnston County. Cody Bradford, who makes Howling Moon moonshine in Asheville, is using a condenser that his great-granddaddy used to make corn whiskey.

“My family has been in this business for generations,” said Bradford, whose white moonshine recipe comes from renowned banjo player Raymond Fairchild of the Maggie Valley Boys.

Others see the state’s growing distilling business and bootlegging heritage as a draw for tourists. Chris Hollifield, who is continuing a family tradition by making Carriage House apple brandy in Lenoir, said: “I think North Carolina is going to be the next Bardstown in Kentucky.”

Instead of the “bourbon capital of the world,” North Carolina could be the moonshine (and brandy and vodka and gin and rum) capital of the world.

How do they taste?

Howling Moon Moonshine: Raymond Fairchild’s Mountain Moonshine had a clean smell with an initial sweet taste and a hint of corn at the end. It is a friendly, not overpowering, moonshine that would be good mixed or straight. The apple-pie version smelled of cinnamon and tasted of apples, but the drinker still knows it is moonshine. Made by Copper Still, Asheville,  Read more here:

Read more here:

Carry It Out in the Front Pocket of Your Trench Coat if You Like, but Howling Moon Moonshine is Completely Legal

Beer City Guide September 4, 2012

Are you looking for authentic moonshine? Not only is Howling Moon in Weaverville the real thing, but you can buy it legally.

Howling Moon can be purchased at many ABC stores throughout western North Carolina. You can also get it at three area restaurants: Jack of Hearts in Weaverville, Wild Wing Café in Asheville and Baja Café in Woodfin. Keep an eye on its Web site for the latest updates.

The team at Beer City Guide arranged a tour of the distillery with Cody Bradford, the owner… The distillery isn’t open to the public so this was a pretty neat inside look at the production.

We visited Troy & Sons Distillery on the same day, and the two area moonshiners are at different ends of the spectrum. While Troy & Sons is very corporate and industrial, Howling Moon is quite the opposite. {They}… make their beer from locally sourced corn, which ferments in barrels stored in a temperature controlled room in a basement. Once the beer is fermented it goes into the still, a process they demonstrated to us.

The old fashioned still is just like the ones used by generations of their family and is made with rocks, wooden barrels, and metal tubes.

We were offered a taste of the moonshine. Now, please keep in mind that I am a beer girl – whiskey and I broke up a long time ago; wine and I only date occasionally. Craft beer and I go everywhere together.  Tasting moonshine is simply not something I’ve had a lot of experience with. I knew that Howling Moon was the real thing, but I can’t really say that I liked it. This was not the fault of Howling Moon, just my palate’s preference for beer.

Cody…told me that they would be releasing their flavored liquors, Apple Pie and Strawberry Pie, both made with real fruit, soon. Many years ago I was at a camping festival, and someone I didn’t know offered me a sip of “Apple Jack” from a mason jar. I couldn’t tell you the origin of this moonshine, and I wouldn’t recommend drinking anything a stranger gives you in general. But I did, and it was amazingly delicious. I can’t wait to see what the Apple Pie from Howling Moon tastes like.

If you’re looking for an authentic mountain experience here in Asheville you can’t get much more real than Howling Moon. Check them out when you can and stay tuned for information on their flavored moonshine.

Trivial Destination
Howling Moon Moonshine

Why It’s Worth the Gas: In a word, “process.” There are bigger moonshine makers in the South, but there might not be a more purposeful legal moonshine distillery in our parts. The folks at Howling Moon create small batch hooch made from local corn, using a family recipe, in a hand-crafted still with pipes held together with rye paste. Now that’s old school. Howling Moon can only produce 80 cases a month, and you can only find it in a dozen places in Western North Carolina.

Howling moonshine tastes like tradition

Mackensy Lunsford
Mountain Xpress
In a barely marked, relatively charmless building right off of I-26 in Woodfin, a sweet corn mash bubbles languidly in oak whiskey barrels that have been scraped clean of their charred interior. That helps the moonshine, made from a 150-year-old recipe, run clean and clear, says Howling Moon Distillery’s CEO Cody Bradford.
“We do almost everything exactly how it was done 150 years ago,” says Bradford, pointing out how the pipes that run between the barrels of the hand-crafted still are held together with rye paste. “That’s just rye flour and water,” he says, tapping at the joints. “You’ve got to get it just right, and it will harden like cement.”
Chivous Downey, Howling Moon’s president, offers a taste of the moonshine, cool and clean in the distillery’s nearly oppressively humid, ferment-scented air. The corn whiskey is 100-proof, and tastes exactly like moonshine should taste if you’ve ever sipped it out of a mason jar next to a bonfire. If you have, then you know.
Except there’s this: the moonshine leaves a trail of heat in its wake and, beyond that, there’s a distinct flavor of the sweetest corn that hits the palate as the warmth subsides. The North Carolina-grown white corn that makes this moonshine is processed at a historic grist mill in Cane Creek. Built in 1867, it’s the last water-powered mill of its kind left in the state. Howling Moon’s Appalachian heritage can practically be tasted.
Howling Moon only turns out 80 cases a month, with more on the way. The moonshine comes in a large mason jar that costs a reasonable $23.95. “It’s good, authentic, traditional moonshine at a good, authentic price,” says Downey.
The distillery doesn’t have a great PR machine, a tourist-appropriate tasting area or slick branding. It’s just good moonshine that packs a hefty wallop, with 150 years of history standing behind it.
The distillery will host a “Howling Moon goes legal party” at Wild Wings on April 14 beginning at 6 p.m. Tim Smith from the Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners will be on hand, as will Raymond Fairchild, the banjo player who gave the distillery the recipe for its ‘shine. Fairchild, Steve Brown and the Maggie Valley Boys will perform.

White Lightning Strikes Twice

Asheville Welcomes Its Newest Moonshine Distillery

(Article from
Chivous Downey, left, and Cody Bradford, founders of Howling Moon distillery Photo courtesy of John Coutlakis /Asheville Citizen Times

Asheville has held the title of Beer City USA for three years running, but it appears heady brew isn’t the only libation seeing growth in the region. The Howling Moon Distillery has become the second legal moonshine producer to open its doors in the mountains.

With a recipe that can be traced back 150 years and utilizing a traditional moonshine still, Howling Moon is making what it calls, “real moonshine”. See the full story in the Asheville Citizen Times.
At 100 proof, the Howling Moon blend certainly packs more of a punch than the moonshine produced by Troy & Sons Distillery (their smooth blend weighs in at 80 proof). Howling Moon has named their shine after Raymond Fairchild, a legendary banjo picker who helped them with the recipe. Currently, their moonshine is only available in the Asheville area, but they hope to expand their operation in time.



Second moonshine distillery opens in North Carolina

By Mackensy Lunsford
March 2, 2012
Mountain Xpress
Moonshine is the new thing, apparently.
Though Troy & Sons claims much of the spotlight, appearing in the pages of Garden & Gun, Savor NC, among other publications, Howling Moon Distillery is the new kid in town.
Located just north of Asheville on Old Elk Mountain Road, Howling Moon‘s moonshine is made with a recipe from bluegrass artist Raymond Fairchild and sometimes incorporates seasonal fruits like apples and strawberries.
The corn used for Howling Moonshine is processed at Dellinger Grist Mill on Cane Creek, located four miles east of Bakersville, N.C. The mill is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the last water-powered, stone-ground grist mill of its kind in North Carolina.
A little information from the distillery’s website, written by CEO Cody Bradford:

The art of making moonshine has been passed down for generations as it was in my family. My great-uncle was a moonshiner and I want to continue the tradition by making traditional moonshine legally with family recipes. We use all-natural ingredients in every step of the process. The only way to make true moonshine is use fresh and natural ingredients, but it’s not moonshine if its not made in a moonshine still like the one we are using, which was hand-crafted, not store bought — like everything we make. We spend a lot of time and money to make less product, but it is the highest quality moonshine you can find in the woods or the store. We can trace our recipe back over 150 years, when everything was handmade in these mountains with pride. If you want to know what moonshine really tasted like in these mountains 150 years ago, then try Howling Moon.
Our straight white moonshine [is from] the recipe of moonshiner and bluegrass star Raymond Fairchild. Raymond has two gold records and is recognized by the International Bluegrass Music Museum as a pioneer of Bluegrass. He will help us make his own brand of moonshine. In a few months we will also offer fruit flavors from my family recipe and in time a variety of moonshine flavors and styles generations old that are rare even in these mountains. Some of the flavors will be seasonal because we will use local fruits and some will be consistent like Strawberry and Apple Pie. We are making moonshine the traditional way with old Appalachian recipes and a traditional moonshine still. Our products will be available in Western North Carolina first. We plan to grow, but we won’t compromise our quality or our traditional methods, which take longer to produce alcohol, but the quality is better and the moonshine is genuine.

New Woodfin distillery taps into legal moonshine market

2nd Buncombe ‘moonshiner’ opens distillery

Feb. 27, 2012

Written by Tony Kiss-The Asheville Citizen Times

WOODFIN — A new craft distillery has opened here, and it has delivered its first batch of white corn liquor to state ABC stores.

The Howling Moon Distillery is making what it calls “real moonshine,” using a century-old recipe from legendary Western North Carolina banjo picker Raymond Fairchild, who is also promoting the product by lending his name to the liquor.

Raymond Fairchild Mountain Moonshine is now available at ABC stores in Woodfin and Weaverville.

Asheville’s first legal distillery, Troy & Sons, is selling its white corn liquor across North Carolina, and now in Florida, and will soon be marketing in South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. That operation is also changing its name to Asheville Distilling Co.

The craft distilling industry is continuing to grow nationwide. Across the country, almost 400 small craft distilleries have opened. Buncombe County is also home to 10 craft breweries and the Biltmore Estate winery.

Howling Moon was founded by Cody Bradford, who constructed most of his distillery by hand. He said that distilling has “been in my family for generations. It’s a part of mountain history, but the tradition is kind of dying out.”

He spent a year and a half building the operation and began distilling in November while awaiting bottle label approval. The first bottles of his liquor were shipped to stores this week.

Bradford said he faced lengthy challenges in obtaining federal permitting but was assisted by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler. Bradford is planning a promotional party April 14 at the Wild Wing Cafe in Asheville.

At the newly renamed Asheville Distilling Co., founder Troy Ball said that her business is booming, and the company has ordered a second still to increase production.

“I’m glad that more people are getting involved in the distilling industry,” she said.

The company will release two more products later this year: an oak-aged reserve corn liquor and a blond whiskey.


Local distiller gets in the spirits

By: Ragan Robinson
Gaston Gazette
March 11 2012

Robbie Delaney had a crowd covering the plank floors of his one-man  distillery.

They were waiting, joking, having fun while his stainless steel machine  churned, turning sugar, molasses and yeast into what Delaney hoped would be a  batch of rum.

He was sweating it out.

With an entire year and untold thousands already invested, Delaney had no  idea whether his still would work properly, or what it would produce.

Muddy River Distillery had the still. It had a pile of paperwork to secure  federal and state permits. It had a legal, bonded location in Belmont’s  Riverside Complex.

What it needed was a product.

Dollars and distilleries

Delaney is among a growing breed of craft distillers in North Carolina, a  group hoping for a spot on the ground floor of an industry poised to proliferate  in the shadow of the state’s craft-beer brewing craze.

Independent makers of moonshine and gin, brandy and vodka and other stout  spirits have multiplied across the state.

At the end of 2011, four distillers had state permits for producing liquor.  Today they number nine.

That’s a far cry from the 540 registered distillers operating in North  Carolina 100 years ago during pre-Prohibition days. Back then, the Tar Heel  state led the nation on the liquor front, according to the state’s Alcoholic  Beverage Control Commission.

The agency can’t help but wonder whether those happy days are here again.


The nearly giddy tone with which the N.C. ABC’s annual report deals with  distilleries would suggest it.

“Could history repeat itself?” the report asks.

And it answers, “If North Carolina’s distilleries see the strong popularity  experienced by the state’s craft brewers and local wineries in recent years, ABC  stores across the state will need to get some additional space ready on the  North Carolina shelf.”

From 2008 to 2011 the state collected nearly $500 million on beer and wine  sales. And North Carolina’s beer and wine revenue grew by more than $20 million  between 2008 and 2011.

Native spirits, quality, choices

Distillers say there are other good reasons to like homegrown liquor.

“We don’t get a big yield but it’s a really good-quality product,” says Cody  Bradford, the CEO of moonshine-making Howling Moon Distillery in Asheville.

The company is preparing to add a second still and expects to soon produce  160 cases a month of its mason-jar fifths.

Part of the draw for buyers is also about choices, according Charlie Mauney,  manager and distiller at Kings Mountain’s Southern Artisan Spirits, home to  Cardinal Gin.

Go into the ABC store and you’ll see almost everything on the shelf is owned  by a large, often multinational, company, he says.

“When people see something on the shelf made in North Carolina or close by,  they really take an interest in it. We’re using local grains and whatnot to  produce our spirits.”

Cardinal Gin helps prove his point. Southern Artisan started producing in  August 2011. The first of its batches went into a dozen stores in North  Carolina.

It is now in more than 300. Last year, ABC stores ordered more than 240  cases, according to the commission.

And that’s not counting the Cardinal Gin distributors in Virginia and South  Carolina or online sales in New Jersey.

The Kings Mountain distillery also has a license to sell in Georgia, mostly  because a store owner there called to ask for the gin, Mauney said. Maryland is  next on the list.

By the end of the summer, Southern Artisan expects to be making rye whiskey  and bourbon as well as the signature gin.

Still waiting — and spending

Delaney shares in the optimism.

His goal in founding Muddy River Distillery was to grow it into a large  enough operation to make distilling his full-time gig.

A 27-year-old who works full time in the construction business, he lives in  Charlotte but works in Durham. The position has him regularly flying out of  state for major jobs and an in-flight magazine gave him the idea about craft  distilling.

Delaney is a beer drinker. Liquor has never been his thing. But he has a  friend who is a fan of rum and the two decided to partner on the project.

That friend bailed about four months later.

Determined to follow through, Delaney built the original still himself.

He started with a 32-gallon stainless steel tub and put together the most  manual machine he could envision, from the tall column to the copper tubing to  the customary coil, familiar to anyone who ever watched a movie about  moonshiners.

Before he has sold even a drop of Muddy River rum — that’s a different set of  permits and he’s waiting now to have his label approved — Delaney has plans for  a second still that is five times the size of his original.

“The new tank is insane,” he said. “I could crawl inside it.”

It will also represent an estimated $5,000 to $7,000 investment.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what Delaney has spent so far. He  doesn’t want to disclose a dollar amount but he’s using the money he and his  Gaston-native fiancée, Caroline Burnet, saved to build a house.

“I figured I could do this for around 25 (thousand),” he said. “Let’s just  say I’m close.”

A maze of regulation

The process consumes as much time as money.

And the real time-killer is the regulations.

Delaney and Mauney both say it took about a year to get permits just to make  liquor.

For Bradford, it was more like a year and a half. His words on the subject of  federal licensing are as heated as his still. He says he spent that time  submitting and re-submitting paperwork, waiting for never-returned calls, seeing  the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau miss the deadlines it  imposes on itself and generally boiling over for more than 12 months.

Bradford finally called his congressman for help and says the process moved  more swiftly afterward.

The bureau recently announced it would streamline at least one of its  permitting processes.

Approving labels, the process for which Delaney is waiting now, will be  simpler after the changes, according to the TTB. It will stop considering type  size and issues related to the types of image files distillers are using, as  well as publicize turnaround times and make other changes to speed up the  process.

Different steps left Delaney scratching his head when it came to permitting.  The 78-page application for a federal distilling permit could only be approved  after the still was installed.

But in North Carolina it’s illegal to even possess a still before possessing  a permit.

The distillery has to be bonded, similar to being insured, so that the taxes  are covered even if something happens to keep the rum from selling.

But Delaney has to have a special, non-bonded space, with a door and a lock,  where he must store any returns.

The first sweet sip

Only after all the red tape can he get to the white rum.

Then it takes from eight to nine days for the ingredients to fully ferment.  The resulting “mash” goes into the still and, in a short seven hours, Delaney  has the result, a whole couple gallons of it.

That’s what he got from that first batch from the first still he ever tried.  It poured, clear as water, out of the copper spiral into a waiting mason  jar.

He took the first sweet sip and sighed in relief.

“Thank God,” Delaney said to himself. “It works.”

Now it’s time for him to.


Distilleries begin to show up in area

March 17, 2011

By Matt Tate-The Weaverville Tribune

Rickety copper stills hidden deep in the woods for clandestine distilling. Souped-up or modified engines designed to outrun the law. Mason jars of clear corn liquor that pack a formidable punch.

These are usually the images that come to mind with moonshine, but authorized distilleries for moonshine and other liquors are becoming increasingly prevalent in the state and across the country.

Two men are in the process of opening North Buncombe’s first legally operating distillery.

Cody Bradford and Chivous Downey are the two men behind Copper Still in Woodfin. They hope to be producing moonshine liquor within the coming months.

Bradford said Copper Still will have three different flavors and use all-natural ingredients.

Both said their love of moonshine is part of their fabric.

“Moonshine has been in my family forever,” Bradford said. “It is part of our heritage.”

Distilleries are beginning to pop up across the state, much like microbreweries did in the 1980s and wineries in the 1990s.

Troy and Sons distillery is opening in Asheville soon as well. These two local operations will join ventures such as Piedmont Distillers, a Madison-based company that produces Catdaddy, the state’s first legal homegrown liquor, and Junior Johnson’s Moonshine, a nod to the early stock car racer associated with running moonshine, in addition to Southern Artisan Spirits in Kings Mountain.

Weaverville’s ABC store carries the two products from Piedmont Distillers.

Bradford said they currently have nine stores interested in their drink including local Western North Carolina stores as well as a store in Charleston, SC.

The growth is good, he said, but the level of production needed to stock the interested parties may outwork their 25-gallon still.

State law allows North Carolina distilleries to sell both within state and to out-of-state and out-of-country private or public agencies subject to the laws of those jurisdictions.

The Woodfin store stocks several local products as well. Jason Young, the town’s administrator, said he looks forward to seeing Copper Still’s creations.

“We’d love to add them to the inventory at the ABC store,” he said.

The American Distilling Institute, created in 2003, had 240 companies with distilled spirits licenses in the country in 2010 and predicts that number to grow to more than 400 by the end of 2015.