Distillery to make South Carolina's first legal moonshine

Thu Jul 28, 2011 7:16pm EDT
 
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By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Two entrepreneurs are taking advantage of South Carolina's new micro-distillery laws to make traditional moonshine whiskey legally in the state for the first time.

The Dark Corner Distillery will open next month in Greenville, where engineer Joe Fenten and longtime home beer brewer Richard Wenger will produce and sell small batches of 100-proof moonshine from a custom-made copper still.

The distillery, housed in a 1925 building, will also include a tasting bar and a museum dedicated to the history of the Dark Corner, the local mountains that were once full of moonshiners, feud and mayhem, Fenten, 27, told Reuters.

The area was settled, along with the nearby Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Scots, Irish and Welsh who migrated down through the Appalachian mountain chain from Pennsylvania in the 1700s.

"They thought it was their inalienable, God-given right to make whiskey," said Fenten, a Dark Corner native. "It was a hard life. If you could make an extra 10 cents more for a gallon of whiskey than you could for a bushel of corn, then why not?"

Moonshine traditionally was the term used to describe illegally distilled corn whiskey often made covertly by the light of the moon. The product made at the new distillery will be un-aged corn whiskey, but will be taxed and regulated.

The area came to be called the Dark Corner in 1832 by South Carolina politicians seeking to nullify federal law and who cursed the people of the mountains as Unionists, said Dean Campbell, a Dark Corner native who is the distillery's official historian.

Whiskey taxes after the Civil War and then Prohibition in the 20th century made the place more lawless, Campbell said.   Continued...

 
<p>Unidentified moonshiners in the early spring of 1918 on Lister Road near Gowensville, South Carolina. REUTERS/Dean Campbell</p>