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Carlos Lovell sits and waits as each 3 gallon pot fills; then he pours them, one by one, into the 200-gallon drum.
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Ivy Mountain Distillery was named for a mountain in North Georgia, ironically, one that never held a Lovell still.
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Carlene, Carlos's daughter and business partner, never thought she would go into the family business.
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In the barrel room, Carlos walks among 1,000 barrels currently aging.
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Mike Yearwood, distiller, grinds and dries thousands of pounds of corn for each run.
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Carlene and Carlos share the legacy of Carlos's father and mother, Virgil and Lillie Lovell. Virgil taught his son how to make moonshine the right way; whether or not Carlos listened was another story.
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There's not much left of the old homestead. No fox hound cages, no white house on the hill. Only remnants of the old barn and silos are still standing.
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Ivy Mountain Distillery uses all local ingredients with the exception of what can not be grown locally. White or yellow corn come from the fields in Habersham County.
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Fred, Carlos's younger brother, and Carlos know the fire power of what's brewing in their still.
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It was the only school in Batesville, Georgia in the mid-1930s: Providence School. Today, the original school has been demolished; all that remains is a renovated gym.
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At The Old Pal Neighborhood Bar in Athens, Georgia, patrons meet the legend and enjoy tasting his whiskey. But more than the taste, they love the story.
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Fred shares their Sour Mash Whiskey with patrons at The Old Pal. Surprisingly, they experience no burn as they had expected from a product conceived in the 1930s.
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It's a family affair with Carlos (left), Fred and Carlene. I'm (second from the left) just lucky enough to come along for the ride.
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Every batch is mixed the old fashioned way, with a sour mash stick. There are some things that need no improvement.
I am an author. As I say that, I pinch myself. Ouch! I’m not dreaming.
Three years ago, I tripped over an idea for a book. I was researching a travel article on distilleries in North Georgia, and who should I find, but the legend that my family had warned me about years earlier. To make a long story, very short – he knew my daddy. I knew his reputation. I fell in love with his story, partly because I had lived it. Well, minus the moonshine part.
Mountain people, as most of you know, are cut from the same cloth. They are hard-nosed, stalwart, bull-headed, family-believing, never deviating, making something-out-of-nothing kind of people. I like to think part of that lives in me. At least the good parts.
Carlos Lovell is now 87 years old. When we began this journey, he was spirited, so much so that I had a hard time keeping up with him; today, age and years have taken their toll and that spunk has retreated deep within his soul. At the beginning, his eagerness to show me his distillery at Ivy Mountain in Mount Airy, Georgia, was more like a five-year-old itching to show me his new puppy. It was obvious, this was a man in love with making whiskey. Today, day-to-day operations are in the hands of Mike Yearwood, Carlos’s second in command; visits from the old-timer are rare. The stories and memories we shared now require prompting, but that hearty laugh and raspy voice remind me that he is still in love with making whiskey. And whether he is in the building or not, his presence, as well as his daddy’s, is palpable.
Our weekly conversations, our truck rides into the mountains, my feeble attempt at understanding the whiskey making process live in my book, North Georgia Moonshine: A History of the Lovells and Other Liquor Makers published by Arcadia Publishers. I am proud to tell Carlos Lovell’s story as well as that of Junior Johnson and other Appalachian liquor makers, for I believe these stories must live on. As this generation gets older, their stories become harder to recover. It would be a travesty not to have these written down. I like to think I’ve done a little bit to preserve their legacy for future generations.
Seldom do dreams we’ve dreamed as a child sitting on our front porch, gazing at the stars, become a reality. I’m proud to say that my childhood dream of writing a book has come true. Of course, I had a little help from an old moonshiner who was in the business of making the impossible, possible.
Judy and Len Garrison are at home in Farmington, Georgia, just on the outskirts of Dawg country - better known as Athens. Len, an IT manager for a major Atlanta company, and Judy, an editor, author and travel writer, invite you to travel along with them as they explore the best of the South. Email them at email@example.com. Visit their website at Seeing Southern, and follow them on Twitter at @judyhgarrison, @seeing_southern, LIKE them on Facebook and on Instagram.