North Carolina history is full of tales about clandestine copper stills, bootleggers evading revenuers and Mason jars of illegal shine.
That legacy can be seen in todays liquor stores, where more and more legal North Carolina-made spirits stock the shelves.
North Carolina now has nine liquor distilleries with another on the horizon. More than half began selling their products in state-run stores within the past nine months. Tar Heels can now enjoy a cocktail made with rum by Muddy River Distillery in Belmont or vodka by Top of the Hill Distillery in Chapel Hill, which started bottling last week.
Its part of a national trend. Three years ago, there were about 150 microdistilleries across the country; today, there are more than 400.
That North Carolina has seen similar growth doesnt surprise Bill Owens, president of the American Distilling Institute, a trade organization founded a decade ago.
A lot of people (in North Carolina) have distilling DNA in their blood, Owens said.
While bootlegging liquor making it without government permits and without paying taxes has always been illegal, Joe Michalek was the first in North Carolina to take advantage of the legal way to make moonshine in 2005. His Piedmont Distillers in Madison is North Carolinas largest, selling more than 10,000 cases in the state over the past year.
Michalek smartly tapped into the connection between bootlegging and NASCAR by getting former driver Junior Johnson to add his name to a line of moonshine. Johnson used to race through Wilkes County running bootleg liquor for his daddy a family history shared by several new distillers.
Jeremy Norris of Broadslab Distillery has a part of his granddaddys busted-up still hanging on the wall of his distillery outside Benson in southern Johnston County. Cody Bradford, who makes Howling Moon moonshine in Asheville, is using a condenser that his great-granddaddy used to make corn whiskey.
My family has been in this business for generations, said Bradford, whose white moonshine recipe comes from renowned banjo player Raymond Fairchild of the Maggie Valley Boys.
Others see the states growing distilling business and bootlegging heritage as a draw for tourists. Chris Hollifield, who is continuing a family tradition by making Carriage House apple brandy in Lenoir, said: I think North Carolina is going to be the next Bardstown in Kentucky.
Instead of the bourbon capital of the world, North Carolina could be the moonshine (and brandy and vodka and gin and rum) capital of the world.
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