Moonshine distillery opens in E. Tenn.

PINEY FLATS, Tenn. (AP) - A ninth distillery has opened in Tennessee since liquor laws changed in 2009 and began allowing the production of whiskey and other distilled spirits.

The East Tennessee Distillery, located in Piney Flats, is producing and selling Mellowmoon, a 100-proof white whiskey.

Gary Melvin, one of the owners, told the Johnson City Press (http://bit.ly/VId0Fx) that he and friends Byron Reece and Neil Roberson decided to try their hand at making moonshine because East Tennessee is so well known for producing a high-quality product.

"When people in the United States think of moonshine, they invariably think of East Tennessee first," he said.

Roberson, who has worked for Nuclear Fuel Services and Eastman Chemical Co., is the one who used his experience in the lab and with home-brewing to come up with a recipe. He says his research for just the right brew included looking at some recipes dating from the 1700s.

"There's a million different recipes out there, so you give and take from some of them, but it really is trial by error to get the right mix of ingredients and how we actually distill it," he said. "Everybody around here has got a recipe, and really they all involve the same type of fermentables: corn, rye, barley, sugar, corn syrup."

Even after they got the right recipe, they still had to meet stringent requirements before they could mass produce their product.

"It really took an act of faith because the way the laws and everything are set up, we had to have all the equipment in place and ready to go before we could apply for the permit at the federal level," Roberson said.

Of the nine distilleries that have opened since the law changed, about half produce moonshine.

The first legal moonshine distillery in the state was Ole Smoky Moonshine, which is located in Gatlinburg.

The East Tennessee Distillery is still a small operation, with just one product and one still, but Reece said they expect to expand.

"Our facility should show that we're pretty big thinkers. We've got 22 acres and roughly about 30,000 square feet here, so we're anticipating our product doing well," he said.

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Information from: Johnson City Press, http://www.johnsoncitypress.com