Moonshine is part of the heritage in Kentucky and other parts of the south, and now, there's a distillery making "shine" in Lexington. It's also becoming a popular export with a lot of interest from customers hundreds of miles away. With interest from a national network, a reality show may even be in the works.
They fire up the burner, ferment the mixture of sugar cane, corn, and pure Rockcastle County spring water, and what comes out of the still is a time-honored tradition. "Moonshine is alcohol made in the woods illegally, sold illegally," Barrel House Distilling Company partner Frank Marino said, "What we're doing is making a legal version of that."
"It has reached the modern age, absolutely," fellow partner Jeff Wiseman added.
Wiseman and Marino are two of three partners in the company. Devil John Moonshine takes it's name from the legendary ancestor of one of the partners. The product's namesake is said to have fought in the Civil War, fathered 30 children, and made moonshine in Eastern Kentucky. "They'd put it in jugs, put it on the stump. It would magically disappear, and there'd be money left at that stump at a later time," Marino said.
Thanks to the internet, sales are no longer confined to a stump. Now New York City is the number one destination for Devil John's online sales. "I think it's great that people are recognizing it," Wiseman said, "It's given Appalachia and Kentucky a good name and people in New York something that they want from here."
Of course, that kind of expansion isn't easy. "There's background checks. There's a waiting period. You have to be in a certain zone to be able to distill. You have to be in an industrial zone," Marino explained, "If they asked Devil John to do that, he'd tell them all to go to Hell. He'd go to the bar, and he'd have some kids."
With a little more diplomacy, Kentucky moonshine is making its way into the 21st century.
Federal law prohibits individuals from making distilled liquor without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a still.
You can learn more about the laws governing moonshine and other distilled spirits here:
Find out more about the Barrel House Distilling Company here:
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