Paw Paw moonshine flows at Appalachian Distillery

ApDist-04Paw Paw Moonshine? I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it, let alone tried it. Well that all changed for me with a visit to Appalachian Distillery located at Ripley, West Virginia.

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.

Dwayne Freeman
Dwayne Freeman, co-founder and head distiller at Appalachian Distilling in Ripley, West Virginia.

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.

Still and distillation column
Still and distillation column at Appalachian Distillery in Ripley, WV                                                             .

“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.

Tasting room offers free samples.
In the tasting room you receive free-of-charge little tiny samples of any of the moonshines you would like to try. The sample sizes are more than adequate to aid your decision on which bottle (or two) to take home with you. Some of the tasting room staff are also family members.       .

“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.

Fresh 175 proof corn whiskey coming out of the still. This will be diluted to 90 proof or less before being bottled.
Fresh 175 proof corn whiskey coming out of the still. This will be diluted to 90 proof or less before being bottled.

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.

John McCormick
Family member John McCormick serves as tour guide. He does a great job explaining the whiskey making process to the visitors, most of whom have never been in a small distillery.

The Distillery Store

IMG_4506IMG_4470Just 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.

Flavored moonshine
Flavored moonshine made by Appalachian Distillery in Ripley, WV

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

Distillery Location

direction signageThe 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

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