Short Mountain Distillery Starts 'Moonshine' Production
by Kim Gebbia
SHORT MOUNTAIN, Tenn. – It's been made deep in the hills of Tennessee since prohibition, but now moonshine is making a comeback as illicit bootleggers take their craft to new legal distilleries.
Short Mountain Distillery is a new moonshine headquarters in Cannon County that is opening after a referendum allowing distilleries in the dry county passed last year.
They recruited those that know the craft the best, the people who until recently were still secretly making moonshine in the hills of Tennessee.
"It's hard to get good moonshine and get it the right way," said moonshiner Rick Estes.
He's been making and bootlegging the alcohol in Cannon County since he was 8 or 9 years old.
He's joined by two other illegal moonshiners who shared their decade's old recipe.
"It's kind of like a good cook – a pinch of this and a dab of that," said Jimmy Simpson.
The recipe has never been written down until now.
Starting next month, for the very first time, that age old art of moonshining and the 100-year-old recipes are moving from out of the backwoods of Cannon County to the first legal distillery in Short Mountain.
All three moonshiners signed a contract Monday pledging to make their moonshine through the distillery, committing their craft to Short Mountain, and giving up the illegal trade for good.
"It's kind of a dream come true. I don't think that any of us ever realized we would be making moonshine legally," said Simpson.
They are using the same locally grown ingredients and the same method but this time, following the law.
"We know what we are doing. I might not talk very well, but I know how to make moonshine," said Estes.
"It's really something worth preserving," said Short Mountain founder, Billy Kaufman.
Kaufman built the distillery to save what he calls a dying art and a lost piece of the area's heritage.
"They might be lost in another 10 to 20 years and no one knows how to do these things again," said Kaufman.
Together the young entrepreneur and three weathered bootleggers are keeping the history of the Cannon County hills alive.
"It will be the exact same thing that they made and sold, and people drank 100 years ago," said Simpson.
The distillery will be open to the public on March 24th. Tours and tastings are free. Supporters say it will increase tourism and tax dollars in the area.