Local Ingredients, Local Spirits

Photo courtesy of Ragged Branch

By Sam Kepple

Appalachia has a long-standing tradition of home-brewing and moonshine-making. Today, distilleries in the region are taking the initiative to craft creative products that pay tribute to their heritage with ingredients sourced from local growers.

In North Carolina, two such distilleries have a particularly unique approach. Eda Rhyne Distillery in Asheville produces three herbal spirits inspired by and fashioned from the flavors of regional plants and medicinals, such as wildflower and black walnuts. Eda Rhyne locally sources heirloom corn and grains, and botanicals used in their products are organically harvested and grown either by owner Rett Murphy or wild-harvested in the surrounding mountains.

Meanwhile in Wilkesboro, N.C., Copper Barrel Distillery makes moonshine in multiple flavors. Founder Buck Nance designed and created the first legal steam-injected distillation system, which Copper Barrel uses to produce their spirits. Copper Barrel also sources ingredients such as rye and corn from North Carolina farms and mills.

Ragged Branch Distillery in Charlottesville, Va., grows corn for their products on leased land at Pounding Branch Farm. They then add locally sourced wheat or rye to create their two Virginia straight bourbons. Hopping over to Jonesborough, Tenn., Tennessee Hills Distillery produces 13 spirits of a wide variety, from gin and vodka to all kinds of flavored rums. The motto of Tennessee Hills is “Embracing Heritage,” a sentiment that they express through exclusively using locally grown yellow dent corn and barley.

Moving further north to Ripley, W.Va., Appalachian Distillery produces sour mash moonshine, whiskey and bourbon in their 10,000-square-foot facility. Appalachian Distillery states that from corn stalk to bottle, their product is 100 percent made in West Virginia. The company prides itself on mashing, fermenting, distilling and bottling their products all on-site. In Maxwelton, W.Va., Smooth Ambler Spirits uses locally sourced grain to make their whiskeys.

Jumping over to Kentucky, the birthplace of bourbon, Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville, Ky., uses rye from a local farm to craft their Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. Kentucky Mist uses Appalachian fruits such as apples and wild blackberries to help craft and flavor their spirits. Based in Whitesburg, Ky., Kentucky Mist also sells its products in Lexington, Ky., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Tastings and tours are offered at each of these locations. To learn more about the distillery of your fancy, visit their website or give them a call!


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