Produced legally or not, distilling liquor can be traced back through prohibition to the days of America’s founding fathers. Made under the cloak of darkness and by the light of the moon, moonshine’s cultural persistence and popularity has given rise to an industry of legal distilleries in recent years. A former legendary moonshine hotbed, Johnston County has a colorful and storied history of the savory, sweet, once-illegal booze.
Off Highway 50 in Benson, sits a 120-acre farm, rooted in several generations of bootlegging, that’s now home to Broadslab Distillery. Broadslab’s owner, Jeremy Norris, has been tapping into his family’s history and the region’s notoriety to create one of our state’s first moonshine-centric distilleries.
Jeremy grew up hearing “the” stories. He says, “When we were working in the fields and stuff growing up, my granddaddy, Leonard A. Wood, used to tell me he had a ‘doctor's’ degree in bootlegging… he told me he went to the still with his brothers when he was 5-years-old and would help them tote water. He got his own still when he was 13.”
In 2011, Jeremy started distilling at Broadslab and this year, he opened a tasting room and tours to the public. “A lot of people say ‘Well, how did you learn to make moonshine, did you go to school or something?’ I started making wine when I was like 12 or 13-years-old … but didn’t want to get in trouble, so I didn’t tell anybody,” says Jeremy. “I started out right across the road, where wild scuppernongs grow at the edge of the woods. Then, when I got in high school, [I] started messing around with distilling. So, I knew a lot about it.”
Broadslab is the meeting of two passions. Jeremy says, “I was always interested in farming and making liquor. For me, it kind of goes hand in hand … It’s an agricultural process, the way I look at it.”
Right on the farm, Jeremy grows, mills and malts his own corn and distills it in a 500-gallon, solid copper pot. “My grandaddy used to say, ‘There’s two kinds of liquor: one to sell and one to drink.”The Carolina White Liquor is handcrafted using Jeremy’s grandfather’s small batch recipe to create an unusually smooth, drinkable yet undeniably corn-based shine.
In addition to the Carolina White Liquor, Broadslab produces The Reserve, an oaked corn whiskey; Appleshine, a liquor, infused with organic spice and mixed with 100% apple juice; Carolina Coast Spiced Rum, an oak-aged, spiced-infused rum; and Carolina Coast Silver Rum, distilled from sugar and sugar molasses.
Savory enough to drink straight, moonshine can be intimidating to first time sippers but is an unexpectedly tasty and creative base for cocktails. So, this holiday season, serve up a unique cocktail with Bit & Grain’s Broadslab Cocktail List.
1919 MODEL TEA
1.5oz Broadslab Moonshine
1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
4oz Fresh Brewed Sweet Tea
Serve over cubed ice
Garnish with lemon wedge
THE KILL DEVIL
1.5 oz Carolina Coast Silver Rum
3 oz chilled prosecco or champagne
1.5 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
Garnish with grapefruit wedge
DARK & STORMY
1.5 oz Carolina Coast Spiced Rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
3 oz chilled Ginger Beer
Served over a heaping of crushed ice
Garnished with a lime wedge
2 oz Appleshine
4 oz cranberry
Garnish rim with caramel rim, dipped in sugar & cinnamon
2 oz Broadslab Reserve
4 oz eggnog
Garnish with fresh ground cinnamon