Upstate Distilleries are Crafting Some Mighty Fine Hooch

Moonshine. Hooch. White Lightening. Distilled spirits. No matter the term you use, the distillery business is hot these days- fueled by a loosening in South Carolina small-batch liquor laws and demand from consumers for craft distilled spirits.

         In 2009 legislation was introduced into South Carolina law to allow micro-distilleries to operate within the state.  When moonshine was outlawed in the 1800's, the primary reason was the government's inability to regulate and tax the product since it is made from readily available ingredients. Under the current law, State and Federal governments receive hefty taxes from every jar produced and sold.

         Add to that the trend in small-batch created spirits and you've got a booming business in peddling moonshine right here in the Upstate.

         The Dark Corner Distillery in downtown Greenville is a great place to not only taste and purchase moonshine but to also get a glimpse into the history of the famous Dark Corner of the Upstate. They have on display photos, artwork and several 17th and 18th century antiques from the Dark Corner region.

         Owners Joe Fenten (also a Dark Corner native) and Richard Wenger make moonshine "just like they did in the 1700's.  We use a copper pot, quality local ingredients and no electronics," says Fenton.  Since beginning in 2010, Dark Corner Distillery has added absinthe, gin and aged whiskeys.

         Dark Corner Distillery offers tastings, tours and a distiller training class where you can learn the "ins and outs of distillation" from the company's head distiller.

         In Piedmont, Six and Twenty distillery isn't about moonshine- it's about whiskey. The company currently produces three different whiskeys; a Six and Twenty Blue which is a five-year-old bourbon, Six and Twenty Old Money, a soft red winter wheat aged in new charred oak barrels and Six and Twenty Virgin Wheat Whiskey.

         According to the company's website "Six & Twenty Distillery produces whiskey that contains South Carolina grown, soft red winter wheat. The same type bakeries use to make pastries & sweet cakes. This gives our whiskey a soft, smooth, sweet, palatable taste."

         Six and Twenty conducts distillery tours on Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Call 864-263-8312 for an appointment.

         Rock Bottom Distiller's in Spartanburg touts itself as the first "legal moonshine distillery in Spartanburg County since prohibition." It was started in 2012 by two brothers, William and Steve Noblin, who wanted to make authentic Appalachian moonshine.

         The duo uses cracked corn and flaked barley in their moonshine products which consist of heirloom moonshine, their straight moonshine product, as well as fruit-flavored moonshines like apple pie, pineapple, strawberry and blueberry. Rock Bottom produces small batches and bottles everything at 90 proof in traditional mason jars.

         In Anderson, directly behind the Anderson County Courthouse, is Palmetto Moonshine, which was also started by two brothers, Trey and Bryan Boggs who say they are "moonshine connoisseurs." The brothers found many retired moonshiners in their own family tree who were willing to share their 100-200 year-old recipes to keep the tradition alive.

         Because of its unique location in a century-old brick warehouse, two reality shows have been filmed onsite-one for the Discovery Channel and another pilot film not yet released. Tours and tastings are given Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

         Copperhead Mountain Distillery in Travelers Rest, opened in March 2013 and might be one of the newest distilleries in the Upstate. It's already garnered a following with unique moonshine flavors that include Banana, Chocolate, Blueberry, Apple, and Peach. Flavored moonshines are 50 proof while "traditional" moonshines are 100 proof. They also make a spiced rum.

         Tastings and tours are free and Copperhead also offers distilling classes as well as homebrew supplies for beer and wine making.

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com