SMYTH COUNTY, Va. - It seems moonshining has become popular again especially here in our region, except these are legal stills producing a legal product that's available at your local liquor stores.
As the market for the old mountain whiskey grows, so do the number of producers. We found one that's found an interesting way to introduce their product to the public.
It's quite literally a still on the hill where they run off more than just a gallon or two -- it's the home of the Virginia Sweetwater Distillery, a part of the Appalachian Mountain Spirits Company.
Gone are the open fires and cooper pots, replaced with stainless steel and a more scientific approach to making moonshine. "It took a lot of tweaking here and tweaking there, finding that if we add just another component, while it seems like a small amount it can make a big difference on the richness of the flavor at the backside," distiler Ross Lishen says.
At that backside, among their brands are the Virginia Sweetwater Moonshine and War Horn Whiskey. "That's our base whiskey and we have one that yet to be on the market that we will be bringing on call, Revelations. But those are aged spirits that are in the whiskey family versus the Virginia Sweetwater, which is a moonshine," Lishen said.
Besides being in the Virginia ABC stores, the distillery is marketing a different way in downtown Marion: right along Main Street with a storefront. "[It's to] help draw an awareness from the tourist trade that hey, we're here and this is a big part of the heritage in this part of the state of Virginia," he said.
But now it's all done legally with a watchful eye of the government. "There's not a lot of games played when it comes to whiskey or distilled spirits. They really hold the line and we have records we have to keep and maintain. We keep a strong track of what we're doing and the government knows what we're doing," Lishen said.
Not at all like Grandpa's old still on the hill.
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