EDGEFIELD — Southern lore is full of stories about moonshine, and those tales fascinated Cal Bowie and David Long when they were growing up. What they heard about the illegal production of liquor in backwoods stills sounded exciting.
The battles between bootleggers and revenuers were colorful, and the fast car chases were thrilling.
“Both of our families made moonshine for a while, but that was years ago, way back during Prohibition,” Long said.
Late last year, Bowie and Long started creating their own version of corn whiskey, but they're not breaking the law. Their new business, Carolina Moon Distillery, is located on Courthouse Square in Edgefield.
Several years ago, South Carolina's General Assembly passed legislation that allowed micro-distilleries to be established at licensed premises. Carolina Moon's founding followed the launches of similar ventures in Anderson, Greenville and other cities and towns in the Palmetto State.
“After two and a half years of jumping through government hoops, we've finally been able to do it,” Bowie said.
Bowie runs a poultry hatchery in Monetta, and Long sells paper and packaging products. They teamed with Maryland resident Bill Hatch, who is Bowie's cousin, to start Carolina Moon. The two stills in the back of their store can produce about 20 gallons of moonshine a week.
“Because it's corn whiskey, it (the taste) is very strong,” Bowie said. “Anybody who has ever tasted it knows that it's got a distinct flavor.”
Hanging on a wall in Carolina Moon is a framed quote from a judge, who once described Edgefield hooch as “mean enough to make a rabbit spit in a bulldog's face.”
On the two Saturdays that Carolina Moon was open in December, its liquor proved to be very popular.
“Those were our soft opening dates, and we kind of planned for it to be a trial run,” Long said. “But it ended up being full bore, and we sold out of our product completely. We needed a couple of weeks after that to fill up the shelves again.”
Carolina Moon is scheduled to be open for the first time in January this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Those will be our hours every Saturday going forward,” Long said. “If demand warrants it, we'll look at being open on weekdays, too.”
Carolina Moon sells its moonshine in 750-milliter Mason jars, which cost $30 apiece. It also has a tasting bar where customers can sample flavored moonshine.
“We have apple pie, margarita, bloody mary and 'Moontini,' which is our version of a martini,” Long said.
“But, for now, we can only sell our base product, clear corn whiskey. We can't have the flavored products on our shelves until we get government approval for each label.”
Later this year, Bowie and Long plan to introduce a new rum product called Blockade Runner.
“The rum will be made out of blackstrap molasses and sugar cane, and we'll make it here,” Long said. “We're hoping that it is going to fly off of the shelves.”
Carolina Moon also sells a variety of crafts, including pottery and jewelry, as well as books, T-shirts and hats.
“We have a gift shop, obviously, but to be legal to the government it has to be a completely separate business,” Bowie said.
Carolina Moon's partners eventually want to market their liquor to restaurants and stores through a distributor.
“We feel like the foot traffic in Edgefield, which is a small South Carolina town, can keep our business open,” Bowie said. “But to make a profit, we're going to have to get involved in distribution.”
Patience will be the key moving forward.
“We knew we would start out small and then take little steps,” Long said. “We didn't want to plunge a bunch of money into this and then find out that the demand wasn't there.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES David Long, left, and Cal Bowie make moonshine at their recently opened Carolina Moon Distillery in Edgefield. They are partners with Bill Hatch of Maryland in the business.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES David Long, left, and Cal Bowie stand outside of their recently opened Carolina Moon Distillery in Edgefield.×
STAFF PHOTO DEDE BILES Cal Bowie, left, and David Long of Carolina Moon Distillery in Edgefield load barrels of spent mash onto a truck.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Cal Bowie, left, and David Long make moonshine at their recently opened Carolina Moon Distillery in Edgefield. They are partners with Bill Hatch of Maryland in the business.×