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In the Smoky Mountain Holler, just off the busy streets of Gatlinburg, Tenn., the booze is flowing. This "moonshine" - an un-aged corn whiskey - bears a historic value, in being Tennessee's first legal moonshine distillery.
Ole Smoky Moonshine opened in 2010 at a distillery that has been bubbling by the barrel. It has thrived, thanks to partners like Cory Cottongim, who wants visitors to remember the long history of whiskey being made in the hills.
And it's been helped by enthusiastic servers like Jordan Ward, dressing up in overalls as he passes out free samples to folks who are, of course, old enough to partake in such flavors as apple pie and with names like Ole Smoky White Lightnin' as well as Ole Smoky Grape Lightnin' and Ole Smoky Peach Lightnin'.
Outside, barrels of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine are on display in the "holler" on the streets of Gatlinburg, where you can sometimes find bluegrass bands playing.
Inside, the moonshine is made on site, and signs explain not only that process but also a history of how such concoctions come together with curved pipes and copper pots.
YOU CAN FIND MANY SITES across the mountains of the south that pay homage to such history.
Take a gander inside the Smoke Hole Caverns of West Virginia, near Petersburg, and you'll find a moonshine display plus tour guides that can even tell you how that moonshine was made.
Very close to Camp David, in the mountains of Maryland, look for Catoctin Mountain Park, with its short interpretive trail leading to the Blue Blazes Still. Here, near Thurmont, Md., moonshine makers cranked out 25,000 gallons of corn whiskey before this still was caught in a raid and closed in 1929.
In Virginia, you can also find a moonshine display just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, at Mabry Mill, as well as a moonshine still near the visitor center of Breaks Interstate Park at Breaks, Va., near the Kentucky border.
IN MANY PLACES, making moonshine - un-aged corn whiskey - is not illegal. You just have to pay the proper taxes, attain permits and follow rules.
Mountain Moonshine, a clear corn whiskey that is not aged, is made at Morgantown, W.Va., in a distillery launched by Payton Fireman in 1999.
In Tennessee, about two hours north of Gatlinburg, you'll find the East Tennessee Distillery of Piney Flats, Tenn, located in the old Paty Lumber headquarters building at 220 Piney Flats Road. The specialty of this recently constituted operation is Roberson's Tennessee Mellomoon, a 100-proof, straight-white whiskey. "This is moonshine," said Byron Reece, the distillery's marketing manager.
At Marion, Va., you’ll find another newly launched operation: Appalachian Mountain Spirits LLC, making “hand crafted mountain spirits” at what claims to be the first legal distillery in Virginia's Smyth County since the 1800s.
Scott Schumaker, the distiller and managing partner, passes out business cards that promote making moonshine as "the tradition of mountain folk." While initially based at 760 Walker Creek Road, Schumaker plans to relocate to what was once an Amish goods store on Marion’s Main Street, just across from the Lincoln Theatre. One brand made by Schumaker is called “War Horn Whisky” (yes, “whisky” without the ‘e’); it’s 80 proof brand with 40 percent alcohol by volume. Another brand, “Virginia Sweetwater Moonshine,” is a corn whiskey that is 85 proof.
Also in Virginia: Look for “Kopper Kettle Whiskey,” a home-grown beverage made using an old family recipe, as well as “Virginia Lightning” at Virginia Moonshine, Whiskey & Kopper Kettle. Both are products of the Belmont Farms of Virginia, 13490 Cedar Run Rd., in Culpeper Va., where the master distiller, Chuck Miller, relies on his grandfather’s once-illegal moonshine recipe for inspiration.
DOWN IN GEORGIA, you’ll find Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, a legal moonshine distillery located in the heart of Dawsonville - yet another place that, like Virginia’s Franklin County, calls itself “The Moonshine Capital of the World.” Here, the legal distillery sits under the same roof as the city hall and the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.
Go beyond the state line and hit the streets of Greenville, S.C., where you'll find the Dark Corner Distillery. At this urban distillery, one brand is called Butterscotch Shine while another is a corn whiskey labeled simply as MOONSHINE, and bearing a tagline of being "Hand-spirited in the Hills."
Dark Corner follows a lead set by Palmetto Moonshine, the first legal moonshine operation in South Carolina, with locations at Anderson and Pendleton.
North Carolina moonshine operation include Asheville-area operations like Howling Moon Distillery as well as Troy and Sons, which makes a moonshine with an 1840s North Carolina heirloom corn called “Crooked Creek Corn.”
IF YOU GO
Here are a few places where you can take a taste of legal moonshine in and around the mountains of the south:
Appalachian Mountain Spirits: Home of the Virginia Sweetwater Distillery, Marion, Va., 276-782-0932, mountain-whisky.com
Dark Corner Distillery, Greenville, S.C., 864-631-1144, darkcornerdistillery.com
Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, Dawsonville, Ga., 770-401-1211, dawsonvillemoonshinedistillery.com
East Tennessee Distillery, Piney Flats, Tenn., 423-391-0383. mellomoon.com
Howling Moon Distillery, Asheville, N.C., howlingmoonshine.com
Ole Smoky Moonshine, Gatlinburg, Tenn., 865-436-6995. olesmokymoonshine.com
Palmetto Moonshine, Pendleton, S.C., 864-222-3433, palmettomoonshine.com
Short Mountain Distillery, Woodbury, Tenn., 615-216-0830, shortmountaindistillery.com
Stillhouse Distillery at Belmont Farms of Virginia, Culpeper, Va., 540-825-3207, moonshine.com
Troy and Sons, Asheville, N.C., troyandsons.com
West Virginia Distilling Co., Morgantown, W.Va., mountainmoonshine.com