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Distillery gets green light on tastings

POSTED: December 5, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Michele Hester Dawson Community News/

Cheryl Wood, owner of the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, pours Chris Koch a sample of corn whiskey Friday produced at the distillery. The business became the first in the state to receive clearance to offer on-site tastings.

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Distillers on Friday got the final approval needed to begin offering samples of the first legal moonshine produced in Dawsonville.

"I'm so excited," said owner Cheryl Wood. "We're all really excited."

Wood said she received an e-mail from the state licensing board shortly before 3 p.m. Friday that gave Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery the green light to begin pouring the hand-crafted spirits for public tastings.

The distillery, which leases space inside the Dawsonville Municipal Complex and operates as Free Spirits Distillery LLC, is the first in the state to be cleared to offer samples after a tasting bill was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.

The measure, which was signed in by Gov. Nathan Deal in May, allows visitors to sample up to a half ounce of spirits per person, per day when touring a distillery.

Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan said he couldn't be more proud of the distillery's success.

"They are now the first distillery in the state to be able to offer tastings, and that's a big deal for them and a big deal for Dawsonville," he said.

The town has been featured in several national news programs since the distillery began producing its first batches of moonshine in October. That batch sold out quickly and the second is in the distribution phase.

"I've had calls from as far away as California about the distillery," he said. "They can't make it fast enough."

The group, for now, is using a 250-gallon copper still, along with two 415-gallon and one 1,050-gallon stainless steel mash tanks to produce the liquor.

Now working on the third batch of corn whiskey, there are also plans to add more equipment, bring on additional staff and brew special batches, like apple pie moonshine, for the holiday season.

"The corn whiskey is our flagship product, but we'll be coming out with different products as well," Wood said.

Grogan said he looks forward to the distillery's continued achievement, as both a local business and a tourist attraction that complements the city's unique moonshining heritage while also driving economic development.

"This is going to be a big plus for Dawsonville," he said. "Really, it already has been."



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