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Local, legal moonshine distillery opens

By Jim Conrad
Published On: Oct 22 2012 05:07:53 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 22 2012 11:30:02 AM CDT

It's no secret that moonshine has been made in this region for hundreds of years, but that would be illegal moonshine being made.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

It's no secret that moonshine has been made in this region for hundreds of years, but that would be illegal moonshine being made.

A change in Tennessee law now allows for small craftsman distillers to make moonshine legally. The newest on the market is from Piney Flats.

An old corporate garage has been transformed into Sullivan County's first and only distillery. It's the home of Roberson's Tennessee Mellomoon, a pleasant name for 100-proof Tennessee moonshine.

It was a kitchen table moment for a group of friends with an idea. "We've got a lot of rich history in east Tennessee and moonshine is a big part of it. It really just kind of fell into place," said Byron Reece, one of the founders of the company.

"We talked about it for probably the previous year and we decided to sit down and have a formal meeting to get the LLC formed. We went from there," another founder and friend said.

It was a long way in meeting all of the requirements on the federal, state and local levels with lots of forms to fill out. "You fill out one, send it in. A month later you'd get another one, fill it out, send it in. All in all we probably have a stack of paperwork like that for each of us just to get legal," Reece says as he motions to a stack of paper.

So they had the license and now all that was needed was the recipe. You can find hundreds on the internet. "The one common theme with all the recipes was corn, sugar and occasionally rye. So it was pretty much an amalgamation of all those recipes," master distiller Neil Roberson says.

Developing just the right taste is not just making distilled alcohol. "It's not really a touch of this or a touch of that. It's more a turn of a valve, a tweak of a line, things like that that actually really help give it its craftsman quality," Roberson said.

Which has become the trend these days; not so much a national brand but something of a regional flavor. And there's no more regional flavor for east Tennessee than fine Tennessee sippin' shine.