Southern U.S. distillery to legally sell moonshine

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Fri Jul 29, 2011 12:46pm EDT

Unidentified moonshiners are pictured near Glassy Mountain Township in the Dark Corner of South Carolina, in this photograph taken in the mid-1920s and released on July 28, 2011. REUTERS/Courtesy of Dean Campbell

Unidentified moonshiners are pictured near Glassy Mountain Township in the Dark Corner of South Carolina, in this photograph taken in the mid-1920s and released on July 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Courtesy of Dean Campbell

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

The Dark Corner Distillery will open next month in Greenville, where engineer Joe Fenten, 27, 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 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.

News accounts in the 1920s called the Dark Corner "a little Chicago" because of federal agents' raids on stills, killings, and gun and knife fights that broke out after church, he said.

Illegal moonshine is still being made there, Campbell said. In June, sheriff's deputies busted a still in Landrum, South Carolina, and confiscated 2,000 gallons of illegal white liquor along with $150,000 in cash.

State lawmakers in 2009 altered existing liquor laws in a way that lessened the financial burden on small distilleries, paving the way for the Dark Corner Distillery to set up shop.

Despite the drink's reputation, legal moonshine makers also have popped up in other states, including Oregon, Wisconsin, Montana, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, New York and North Carolina.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)

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Comments (5)
bobw111 wrote:
And of course there is “Everclear” and several other brands that also purport to be “legal Moonshine.”

Jul 29, 2011 2:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
cconsaul wrote:
There is an entirely different side to this that may not have been considered. It is extremely difficult to get a corn crop to market, and the distributors who controlled the prices would deliberately keep them very low. Moonshine was very easy to transport however, had as much as a one thousand percent markup, and could be sold more or less directly to consumers and business establishments. From a purely survivalist point of view, which return would you like for the fruit of your labors,especially if you lived in the hills of Virginia or the hills of anywhere that did not even have reliable roads?

Jul 29, 2011 10:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
cain2147 wrote:
@ NativeDav..Seems as if you can’t Read/Understand even if the Article was printed in BOLD Letters!! What the article is saying is that…… The Dark Corner Distillery is in the process of selling a Once Illegal “Moonshine” the Legal Way. Using the Same Process as Moonshiners once Used!! So in terms it is MOONSHINE!! Second…Ole Smoky Moonshine is based in Gatlinburg Tennesse. The Article specifically states First Legal Moonshine to be Sold in South Carolina!! READ BEFORE YOU POST NONSENSE!!!

Jul 30, 2011 2:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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