MARION, Va. - Downtown Marion should expect an increase in tourist business, as one retail store got the green light to sell its whiskey and moonshine.
The key for visitors - it's the first legal moonshine distillery in southwest Virginia since 2007.
Dana Shumaker and her husband Scott have waited a long time to stock the shelves of their business, Appalachian Mountain Spirits Mercantile. "We sold 20 bottles since we've started, and we just got the license on Tuesday," Dana says.
The couple started distilling several years ago at their stillhouse in Smyth County. Demand grew, and the two, eager to market their whiskey, opened Appalachian Mountain Spirits in Marion in 2012.
But Virginia wouldn't let them sell for 16 months - until last week when the state finally licensed the "stand-alone" venue. "I think I cried. I couldn't believe it," Scott says.
News 5 found out that in Virginia, specific spirits can't be tasted or purchased outside state-run distillery stores. "The areas that are most successful with [the distillery business] are areas that have the most conducive laws to a business like this. Virginia is not one of those states," Scott says.
But now the store is federally licensed as one of six businesses in the state that can offer tastings and off-premises sales. "They finally saw that this is a good market to be in and to support craft distilling," Scott says.
In this case, the couple sells their award-winning War Horn Whiskey and Virginia Sweetwater Moonshine. "Most of what you see on the market today is not real moonshine. It's a commercialized version of alcohol that comes from pharmaceutical plants. Our moonshine is all hand-made," Scott says.
Scott calls his moonshine "the real deal," corn whiskey made right on site and on their property in Smyth County.
The license is a move that should improve tourism and economy of the town.
Scott told News 5 the store needs to adapt with new hours and staff for the tastings that will be offered for customers. But he says the business has been ready for this since opening, and they can't wait to start selling.
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