The Original Micro Distiller

Legal moonshine and Discovery channel star Tim Smith comes to Richmond.

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Moonshine, once the confined to illegal copper-pot stills and surreptitious distribution, is a surprising new trend.

Technically, moonshine is the colloquial term for unaged white whiskey. That’s the stuff that comes out of the still before it’s put into barrels to become bourbon, scotch or rye. Those last three spirits are made from a variety of grains, but moonshine is traditionally made from a corn mash.

However, when someone hands you a mason jar of white lightning in Floyd County, all bets are off. The only way to make sure you know what you’re getting is to buy a bottle legal moonshine, with the knowledge that guidelines have been followed and taxes paid. It’s a good way to avoid spirits contaminated with methanol and going blind. Or dying.

One Virginia man, for better or worse, has helped bring legal moonshine to the fore of pop culture. Tim Smith, owner of Climax Moonshine in Climax, Virginia, started his career distilling spirits illegally — he’s the third generation in the business — and stars in Discovery Channel’s popular reality show, “Moonshiners.” How popular is it? While airing, it often hits either the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in cable ratings for its time slot.

I think most people can imagine what the show is like. Take a moment.

There, we’re all on the same page.

Smith went legit in 2013 and now sells a 90-proof moonshine made from corn, barley and rye in a bottle adorned with a picture of his dog, Camo. His website states, “She has been Tim’s sidekick and ever present companion since his days in the backwoods of Virginia where she stood watch while he perfected his recipe for his world famous moonshine. As a reward for her loyalty you will see her face on every bottle.”

And Smith (Camo’s at home) is coming to a store near you on April 2 to sign bottles and perhaps share an anecdote or two from his exceptionally colorful past. Look for him at the ABC store at the Village at Swift Creek shopping center in Midlothian from 3-6 p.m.

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