Burke County Has A Rich History Of Moonshine

Burke County, NC
October 2023

Burke County has a long history of Moonshine that dates back to when the first settlers started arriving here from Europe. These settlers primarily made liquor for personal use to clean wounds, clean around the house or to drink to keep warm in the winter. When the Gold Rush hit Burke County in the 1820, the population started to grow with gold miners and local people started selling it to profit off their new neighbors. This continued for the next 100 years as they realized they could sell corn liquor for 5 times the amount the same corn would sell for in its original state. This revenue stream helped keep the rural mountain families in Burke County fed and clothed for years. It wasn’t until prohibition in the 1920’s that they started hiding their stills in the woods to keep making the precious liquid that supported their families. Until recently, moonshine (or untaxed liquor) has been frowned upon but as history comes to light and pop culture has started glorifying moonshiners, it has become more available and accessible to the general public, even if it is now taxed.

South Mountain Distilling Company in Burke County was started by husband and wife combo Don and Dawn Smith, who both have long lines of moonshiners in their family. They started the distillery as a hobby to bring back some of their family recipes to share with the community and now it has turned into a profitable business selling over 15 types of moonshine in over 30 states. They give tours whenever they are open and are happy to tell you family stories and let you sample their award winning spirits. Next time you find yourself in Burke County, stop by South Mountain Distilling Company in Rutherford College, NC and taste for yourself.

The Burke County Tourism Development Authority is located in Morganton, North Carolina, and serves the tourism interests of Burke County, NC.  Morganton is hailed as, “The Trailhead of Western North Carolina”, centrally located in Burke County. Our Visitor’s Center is full of information about unique attractions and activities in the area. Stop by and visit us! or visit www.discoverburkecounty.com

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