Two former coal miners with deep family roots in the moonshine industry opened this rustic little distillery to continue a long-standing family tradition. A couple of years ago, while still working in the mines, co-founders Dwayne Freeman and James Hager began talking about leaving the mines and entering the whiskey business.
Hager tells a bit of their story in this video.
Their mountain pedigree is golden. Freeman, born in southern West Virginia, is a fifth generation Hatfield; and Hager, born in eastern Kentucky, is a sixth generation McCoy.
While family members of generations past made moonshine the old-fashioned way — and even served time for it — Dwayne and James decided to take a different approach.
“We giggle about it all the time,” says Hager, who handles sales and marketing. ” If our grandfathers only knew that we were making moonshine legal.”
They adapted old family recipes to their shiny new distilling system with its 650 gallon still and 1,500 gallon fermenter. But that adaptation was a challenge.
“It’s different from the recipes from back in the day when they got a little 20 gallon still and a 55 gallon drum they do their mashing in,” Hager explains.
“When you go from 55 gallons to 1500 gallons worth of mash , you’ve got a little learning curve there.”
But after some trial and error, they got their moonshine process dialed in and opened for business in July 2014.
“Maybe the best flavor we have is our Paw Paw flavor,” said Hager as he described this somewhat obscure native fruit as a “hillbilly banana.”
Paw Paw is just one a many tasty flavored moonshines they produce in addition to a straight 90 proof corn whiskey. They make all of their own product — no neutral grain spirits used here — just good old-fashioned corn whiskey.
As much as they can, they purchase their raw ingredients locally, especially their corn. Appalachian Distillery is a family-oriented business with several family members working there.
The Distillery Store
Just inside the building entry is the distillery store. Chock full of shirts, hats, signs, other souvenirs and trinkets, you are sure to find something for every taste. But make no mistake about it — the real attraction is the moonshine. Free samples are offered, so you can taste it before you buy it.
Their pricing model is simple and straightforward. No matter what the product type, the prices are all the same.
- Quarts: $31.99
- Pints: $16.98
- 50ml: $2.25
The distillery’s location about a mile off the I-77 Ripley-Fairplain interchange makes getting there quite easy. This exit is located about 30 miles north of Charleston, WV, or about 45 miles south of Parkersburg, WV. Signs on the highway alert you to the proper exit and then guide you to the distillery door.
Address: 3875 Cedar Lakes Drive Ripley, WV 25271 Phone: (304)-372-7000
Tasting Room Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Website: Appalachian Distillery