MARTINSURG, W.Va. — With just a little 10-gallon still, Glen and Tara Price started Black Draft Distillery just two short years ago, and they never thought it would be what it is today.
With a revamped barn, equipped with a new bar, porch seating and a soon-to-be mercantile shop, Tara said the pair is gearing up for the fall and holiday season.
According to Tara, the fall season is the perfect time to come enjoy the weather and warm up with a moonshine tasting. The distillery gives tours Fridays and Saturdays – some exceptions – and by appointment only.
“One of the things that we like to do when folks come down – because a lot of it started with just friends and family seeing what we were doing – is that when you come to tour you actually get a little bit of history, but also a lot of production,” Tara said. “During Fridays and Saturdays when we are open, you will get to see mashing, stilling and you’ll get to see what is fermenting. So when folks come they get to feel like they get a first-hand look of the art of whiskey making.”
In addition to touring and learning about the process of making moonshine, visitors get to sample each of Black Draft’s products and bottles of the spirits are sold on-site.
“We started out with the intentions of making moonshine and through the process of learning how to make a really great moonshine – unaged corn whiskey – we gravitated about a year ago into making aged spirits. So bourbon is where we are spending all of our expansion and our energy,” Tara said.
And supply must quickly meet demand.
“Our moonshine market is still continuing to grow as more folks are getting to know us, but bourbon is an investment of time and patience and letting nature do what it needs to do,” she added.
The distillery has kept true to using locally grown ingredients, which the pair said is to not only make a better product, but to also support local merchants.
“One of the things that was very important to us in the very beginning is is the fact that we were using local sourced products. We wanted our moonshine and our products to be of this region,” Tara said. “Our corn is non-GMO, it’s grown eight miles from us on Lyle Tabb’s farm in Kearneysville. We lease about 35 acres from them just to keep up with the production that we are doing currently right now, and we blend our moonshine down with Berkeley Springs water. So when you’re tasting our moonshine the best thing I can say to describe it is, ‘when you are tasting it, you are going to taste corn liquor made right here in this region.'”
White lightning, white julep and coffee moonshine – which is made with coffee from Black Dog Coffee Company located in Shenandoah Junction – are the distillery’s three current flavors. Tara said she and Glen wanted to stay true to making real moonshine with the best flavors possible.
“We didn’t want to be one of those moonshines that makes many flavors. There are many out there on the shelf that do. And to be honest with you, we have found that our straight white lighting had so much palatability when you drink it that it was good on its own. And we knew we could make it even better by introducing it into cocktails,” Tara said.
Tara said trying new cocktail recipes and sharing them with their customers is her favorite part of the job.
“That’s what I do. I take our moonshine and I use those farm fresh ingredients that I get in season and I make whatever cocktails I can with it,” Tara said.
According to Tara, a lot of customers ask for flavors such as apple pie moonshine, but she knew she didn’t want to put anything on the market that wasn’t fresh.
“I don’t drink ‘apple pie’ except for this time of year. Why? Because I live in the Shenandoah Valley where I am around orchards. I only want fresh cider. I can make you the best ‘apple pie’ recipe from a cocktail from our moonshine, but I don’t want to just put it on the shelf because I want you to have that versatility to use whatever is in season,” Tara said.
With fall quickly approaching, Tara said she is getting ready to make a batch of a cider sangria to share with customers who tour the venue. She said she makes the fall inspired drink with Orr’s Orchards cider, sweet West Virginia wine, their moonshine, apples, pears and cinnamon.
Looking into the future, the couple hopes to introduce more varieties of whiskey into their portfolio, one of those being a rye whiskey. The pair also hopes to just keep up the momentum their distillery is gaining.
“We really just want to perfect what we are doing down here,” Glen said. “We are getting a really good system in, maybe hire a person or two to kind of help us out and streamline things. We really feel like we are now just starting to come into our own with things.”
Tara and Glen said aside from increasing production, another priority they have is to put the themselves and the distillery out there and interact with the community more.
“Not a lot of people know we are here. We put our products on the shelves in stores and people see that,” Glen said. “But we want to get out there and tell people that they can come see real whiskey being made right here in their backyard. Come down and see us, we want you too. We are old-school. We don’t hide anything. We aren’t secretive with anything, because we want you to come and see what we do and this is part of West Virginia history, part of all our of heritages, this is how we got here.”
Currently the distillery’s tours are by appointment only – typically Fridays and Saturdays. Tara said they have expanded their services to cater for small parties and events.
For more information call 540-686-0100, or email [email protected].
Black Draft Distillery is located at 1140 Kelly Island Road, in Martinsburg. The distillery’s website is blackdraftdistillery.com.
Staff writer Katiann Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182 or at www.twitter.com/kmarshallJN.