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‘America’s Outlaw Drink’  featured at the Shine & Wine

SoVaNow.com / September 20, 2017
The 1930s were hard times for America, beset by the Great Depression and Prohibition, but hard times were nothing new to the people of Franklin County, the westernmost county of Southside Virginia.

One way these hardscrabble folks made money was through the production of moonshine, an illegal home-made spirit. According to a report commissioned by President Herbert Hoover in the early 1930s, it was believed that 99 people out of 100 in Franklin County were making moonshine or had some connection to the trade. None paid excise taxes to the federal government.

Among those who operated secret stills that turned corn mash into distilled liquor were three brothers: Howard, Forrest and Jack Bondurant. They and their still were one piece in a gigantic conspiracy to ship more than 1,000 gallons of illegal moonshine from the county each day in the early to mid-1930s.

Virginia legalized the production of moonshine in 2010 and Robert Bondurant — grandson of Jack — seized on the opportunity to return to the family business, but do it legally.

He said he chose Chase City as the site for his distillery because the well water he planned to use here most closely resembled the water found in Franklin County, where his forebears operated their still.

Using a family still (but not one from his grandfather) and working from the family recipe — as best as it could be remembered — Robert Bondurant set out to produce a distilled spirit that would appeal to a global market.

No longer is moonshine just for renegades and NASCAR fans (stock car racing grew out of prohibition-era bootlegging) — today’s moonshine is essentially an un-aged whiskey, traditionally clear with a hint of corn. It is perfect for sipping or using as a substitute in cocktails. There are different varieties of moonshine depending on the distillation process and number of times the spirit runs through the still.

Learn more about America’s outlaw beverage at this weekend’s Shine & Wine Festival in Chase City. The Shine & Wine runs from noon to 6 p.m. at the Mecklenburg Electric Pavilion at 11633 Hwy 92 W., Chase City.




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