MARION — After much work and effort, Copper Creek Distillery in Marion is producing liquor that is “hand crafted one drop at a time.”
Copper Creek Distillery will open for business during the Memorial Day weekend. Owners Greg Shuford and Randy Berry have worked for the past 14 months to create the first legal distillery in McDowell County since before Prohibition.
Shuford and Berry said their craft distillery will be the first one for a multi-county area in western North Carolina. That includes McDowell, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties.
The two men are the co-owners and the operators of Copper Creek Distillery. Both have backgrounds in the mountain tradition of making liquor.
Shuford said he heard stories about his grandfather hauling sugar for the moonshine stills in the mountains of North Carolina.
“That was a story I was told,” he said. “I can’t prove it. I heard about it from an older man who used to make shine. My grandfather’s brother used to make liquor.”
“We’ve both been around it, and we know people who has done it,” said Berry.
Berry suffered health problems a few years ago and was looking for something else to do with his time. He and Shuford are neighbors, and the two decided to try making liquor with a legal craft distillery.
During the past year, they worked to transform an empty storefront at what many locals still call the Front Porch, the row of shop buildings along U.S. 221 Business. They did all the renovation work for the interior and put in a bar and shelves for their products. They installed a still made in Canada and went to work making hand-crafted moonshine. So far, they have produced three flavors: apple and grape (80 proof) and straight regular moonshine called “Il-Lic-It,” which is 90 proof.
They also plan to make brandy and their special signature heirloom blend.
“Everything we make is from all-natural ingredients,” said Shuford, adding that the corn used in the mash comes from McDowell County.
“We try to do everything with local products,” he said.
They intend to add four other flavors of moonshine: apple pie, peach, chocolate and coffee. Those will be 60 proof.
Customers will be able to come in and get a free tasting and then select the products lined up on the shelves.
“We are a small batch craft distillery, and every bottle is numbered,” said Shuford.
The process of making liquor takes a lot of time, work and patience.
“It is a slow process,” said Berry. “It takes an hour and 15 minutes just to get the still heated up.”
Copper Creek Distillery will be open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and for select holidays such as the Fourth of July or Labor Day.
The craft beverage scene for Marion and McDowell County already consists of wineries, craft breweries and even a meadery. Now, a distillery can be added to the list.
“We have had a lot of good help from people in McDowell County, nothing but positive,” said Berry.
Both men said they want Copper Creek Distillery to emphasize quality over quantity.
“Small craft distilleries can produce a much better flavor, and that’s what we want to stay with,” said Shuford.
For more information, go to the the Copper Creek Distillery Facebook page.