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More than moonshine: Appalachian spirits embrace local culture

Appalachia is known for one hard liquor: moonshine.

It is a high-proof, unaged whiskey typically made from corn mash and originally distilled illegally.

Moonshining in Appalachia is a tradition that has been passed down for generations. The first moonshiners in Appalachia were likely Scotch-Irish settlers who brought their distilling methods with them. It is a way of life for many people in the region that played a significant role in the area's history.

The illegal distillation of alcohol has played a role in Appalachian culture for centuries because it provided a livelihood for many to make ends meet due to the region's isolation and rugged terrain that made it difficult for authorities to track down and stop the activity.

Moonshining has significantly impacted Appalachia and has been the subject of many stories and songs that helped to shape the region's identity.

However, Appalachia is home to a number of distilleries now producing everything from brandy and bourbon to vodka and gin. While these spirits may not be traditionally associated with the region, many high-quality beverages make a name for themselves in this part of the country - often using locally sourced ingredients native to the region, such as honey, berries and herbs.

Appalachia has a rich history of producing high-quality spirit beverages. The region's distilleries continue to innovate and create new and unique flavors that reflect the area's unique culture and heritage.

Smooth Ambler Spirits

West Virginia

In the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, Smooth Ambler is a craft distiller of artisan whiskies.

"At Smooth Ambler, tradition isn't a recipe we follow. Our company is literal proof of solid Appalachian know-how. That's when the hard-working, creative, and resourceful folks of West Virginia come together to make something beautiful (and damn good) that no one else thought possible," according to its website.

Smooth Ambler produces a range of spirits, including bourbon, rye whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum. The distillery sources its grains and other ingredients from local farms and suppliers whenever possible and uses traditional distilling techniques to create unique and flavorful spirits.

One of the most popular products from Smooth Ambler is its Old Scout bourbon, which is a small-batch, single-barrel bourbon aged for at least eight years. The distillery also produces a range of other bourbons, including a wheated bourbon and a high-rye bourbon, as well as a variety of limited-edition releases.

Eda Rhyne Distillery

North Carolina

Eda Rhyne Distillery is a craft distillery located in Asheville, North Carolina, and produces a variety of spirits, including gin, whiskey, and brandy. The distillery sources its grains and other ingredients from local farmers and suppliers and uses traditional distilling methods to create unique and flavorful spirits.

One of the most popular products from Eda Rhyne is its Asheville Gin, which is a small-batch gin made with 12 botanicals, including locally sourced juniper berries, coriander, and citrus peel. The distillery also produces a range of whiskeys, including a bourbon-style whiskey and a rye whiskey, as well as a variety of brandies.

The distillery is committed to sustainability and has implemented several eco-friendly practices in its production processes, such as using locally sourced renewable energy and recycling its spent grains as animal feed.

Woodford Reserve Distillery


Woodford Reserve Distillery is a renowned bourbon distillery located in Versailles, Kentucky, and produces small-batch bourbon using traditional distilling methods, including copper pot stills and sour mash fermentation. The distillery is known for its attention to detail and focus on the entire bourbon-making process, from selecting the grains to aging the whiskey in charred oak barrels.

Woodford Reserve has received numerous awards and accolades for its bourbon, including being named the "World's Best Bourbon" at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2016. The distillery's products are now available in over 50 countries worldwide, and the brand has become synonymous with high-quality, small-batch bourbon.

The distillery is a National Historic Landmark — according to Woodford Reserve, the "art of making fine bourbon first took place on the site" in 1812.

Wigle Whiskey


Wigle Whiskey is a craft distillery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, known for producing high-quality, organic spirits using locally sourced ingredients. The distillery is named after Philip Wigle, a key figure in the Whiskey Rebellion, a protest against a tax on whiskey in the late 18th century.

Wigle Whiskey produces a range of spirits, including bourbon, rye whiskey, wheat whiskey, and gin. They use a variety of grains, including organic rye, wheat, and corn, which are milled on-site and then mashed, fermented, and distilled using traditional methods. The spirits are aged in charred oak barrels to give them distinctive flavors.

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