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The art of making moonshine lives on in the hills of the Blue Ridge

Posted on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 1:45 pm


Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of online travel stories based on a recent trip to Roanoke, Va. and the Blue Ridge Mountains area. An overview feature on what the area has to offer, will also be featured in the print travel section of the Osceola News-Gazette in the near future.


By Peter Covino

A&E Editor

Grandma thought it was downright sinful.

And Mother Olivia didn’t want any of it in her house, but lord knows, Grandpa and Daddy Walton certainly would imbibe in a drop of The Recipe now and then.

After years of watching TV’s The Waltons, I often wondered just how smooth the illegal moonshine made by the Baldwin sisters, following their long-departed daddy’s own Virginia Blue Ridge secret recipe, was.

It certainly put a big smile on the face of Grandpa Walton, and every unsuspecting passerby, who just loved the stuff being produced by that large copper contraption hidden elsewhere in the two elderly ladies home.

The heyday of illegal moonshine may be over, but it is enjoying a renaissance of sorts at the Franklin County Distilleries, a real “legal” corn whiskey moonshine, made in the traditional way that bootleggers did back in the day.

The Franklin County distillery is located right on Easy Street in Boones Mill, Va., in the heart of the Blue Ridge, and in the heart of the area known as “the Moonshine Capital of America.”

We will never know what The Recipe tasted like, but the corn whiskey coming from those traditional copper tanks at FCD would undoubtedly, even make Grandpa Walton smile again.


The FCD Tasting Room, at 25156 Highway 220 in Boones Mill, wasn’t officially open yet when a group of media visitors got to taste what has been brewing in those tanks just a few blocks away on Easy Street. The Tasting Room actually is just about ready for its public debut and is expected to open sometime this month.

Not so coincidentally, that busy highway outside The Tasting Room is the same highway the bootleggers used to use to get their product to the Northeast during the days of Prohibition. According to historians, 99 out of every 100 Franklin County residents were involved in the illegal liquor trade. See? History can be fun, if not down right intoxicating.

The Tasting Room should be a great place to sample the corn whiskey that has been a labor of love of Dr. Don Hodges, FCD owner, and everyone else involved in the making of legal moonshine.

They have a regular bar, that you can belly up to, and the place itself is rather roomy.

We got to try the corn whiskey, straight up out of the bottle, which is the way purists have enjoyed their moonshine for years, and it was definitely a smooth drink.

But it also mixes well and we got to try the whiskey several ways, with various fruits etc. and again, that smooth texture made this one easy drink to swallow.

The distillery lists several tasty sounding recipes on their website as well at  You are going to have to make that trip up to Virginia, at least for now, to try their corn whiskey, either at The Tasting Room, or by the bottle (FCD White Label), at Virginia liquor retailers. Hopefully it will be available soon outside of the state, if you are not visiting, or are not a Virginia resident.

If you are planning that Blue Ridge vacation this summer, there are other reasons to include the Boones Mill area to the list of things to do.

The area, a short drive from Roanoke, is undergoing a major economic boom. Our media tour included some other new businesses off of the highway including the Wooden Spoon Café (more about that in a dining edition of the Blue Ridge), the Inkular art gallery and Hammer & Forge Brewery, a microbrewery, just a few hops and a jump from the distillery.

There is so much to discover in the Blue Ridge, and with so many brewing companies in the area, beer is definitely one simple pleasure.


And they are doing it right at Hammer & Forge, a small batch brewery with a great selection of beers.

They listed ten beers on their menu during our brief stop, which included a flight tasting of some of the more popular brews.

They were all tasty, but I generally prefer a darker brew and their Brokk Baltic Porter had a nice full body, but also was surprisingly smooth. All the selections were good, but the porter was outstanding, as was Kellen’s Kitt, an Irish Red Ale.

Sold by the pint in addition to flights, they were priced nicely at $5 as well for the 16 ounce glass.

Congratulations to owner/head brewer Caleb Willamson, for an outstanding brew.