Paducah Distilled Spirits – also known as the Moonshine Company – is producing the legendary clear white whiskey in the heart of the Paducah’s downtown.
Distiller Billy Bivens said alcohol was a big part of the city’s economy from the 1800s until Prohibition. “From 1920 until 2014, there was no alcohol made in Paducah, until we started again,” he said. “So we’re the first legal distillery in the city of Paducah since 1920.”
Moonshine, Bivens explained, is clear, white whiskey. “It’s a name that was given to whiskey years and years ago because it was made lots of times predominantly at night,” he said. “It was made by the light of the moon or on a light night.”
Denise Story, owner and manager of the Moonshine Company, said the basic recipe is corn, of any kind, or a mixture of corn and other grains. Bivens explained the distilling process. “You have to purify your water, you’ve have to grind your corn,” he said.
Grinding releases the sugars from the corn. “We add barley to knock the edge off of it,” Story said.
Bivens said the higher the proof, the more burn you get. Bivens said the highest proof they sell is 102 proof, the Lewis and Clark.
Fermentation takes four to six days. “After a few days all the grain that has floated on the top has settled to the bottom. We talk about it being cleared up,” Story said. “When it clears up you would siphon off the water – just the liquid part. You don’t want grain in the still.”
The liquid is heated in the still. At that point, explained facilitator/coordinator Cyrus Story, “the way in which you’re able to separate the moonshine from the water is by taking advantage of the boiling points between the two, between alcohol and water.”
The alcohol is burned off and that vapor runs through tubing and is cooled again, becoming whiskey.
“I think that’s what fascinates a lot of people. It’s really a very simple thing,” said Denise Story.
The Moonshine Company offers flavored fruit moonshines, including strawberry, lemon and peach varieties. They don’t use concentrates, but real fruits. “That’s what we take pride in, using fresh products, local products,” said Cyrus Story.
The Moonshine Company sells whiskey over the counter and offers free samples. They don’t sell shots or mixed drinks.
The company offers free guided tours of its on-site museum, which includes several vintage stills. “We’ve got them set up like they would be set up except we don’t have a laurel thicket to hide them in or a tree to hide them under,” joked Bivens.
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2119, which originally aired on May 26, 2016. Watch the full episode.