In past generations, moonshiners set up shop in the Ozark Mountains, cooking batches of corn-based mash, which eventually became whiskey. They tried to stay one step ahead of the law.
These days, you can still find a moonshiner, but it’s all legal. AgDay’s National Reporter Tyne Morgan takes us to southern Missouri, where the corn is cookin’, and introduces us to a professional moonshiner who is still perfecting his skills while helping to revive a tradition rooted deep in the Ozarks.
Off the beaten path, nestled between overgrown oak trees in the Ozarks of Missouri, sits a business building its own roots.
Jim Blansit owns Copper Run Distillery. His canvas: a still where he’s trying to perfect an art that’s been around for years.
"To make alcohol is easy," Blansit said. "To make it taste good is where the art really takes over."
Blansit makes corn whiskey. Vodka, whiskey, you name it. He makes it all. But the crowd favorite is a type that’s had many names over the years—most commonly, moonshine.
"The hydrometer measures the alcohol," Blansit said as he pointed to the meter. "You can see it's at 80%."
In just three years, business has been booming and people continue to venture back for more. In the beginning, however, some people had their doubts.
"My poor parents," said Blansit while trying to hold back his laughter. "When I told them I was going to build a distillery in the backyard...I'm so fortunate they were very supportive. But I know a lot of people were scratching their heads thinking, 'Is this real? Can this really be happening?' And it was a risk, just like with any small business. And it's worked out really well for us."
Making alcohol is nothing new to Blansit. He brewed beer professionally for 10 years, then decided to take that profession one step further and make whiskey. It’s a craft that depends on your sense of taste and smell to get the flavor just right.
"The art is deciding the difference between the heads and the tails that contribute to the heart for the flavor and the aroma," Blansit explained.
He says his recipe is simple—80% corn and 20% wheat, both of which are supplied by local farmers.