New Straitsville Distillery Brings Moonshine to Market
You might not know much about New Straitsville, a small town in Perry County near the Hocking Hills area about 60 miles southeast of Columbus. But here is something that you should know about it: the town has been hosting the annual Moonshine Festival for 44 years and has been dubbed the “Moonshine Capital of the World”.
“More liquors came through this place during prohibition than anywhere else,” said Brian St. Clair, a Moonshine Festival organizer.
Renowned for its reputation, “moonshine”, which by its definition means “illicit liquor” was never put up to sale legally. However, with the passage of House Bill 499 in 2012, which legalized micro-distillery operations and sales in Ohio, New Straitsville is back in the game.
The Straitsville Special Distillery — located at 105 West Main Street — opened for business over Memorial Day Weekend this year, and is now serving their Straitsville Special Moonshine, using techniques that are over a century old.
The Moonshine is 90 proof and is sold for $27.50 per bottle with tax included. The distillery also sells a non-alcoholic Figgs Apple Pie Juice, made at a home business in Mansfield, which is sold for $7.50 per bottle and allows customers to mix their own drinks. Since opening, the business has received tremendous response with thousands of bottles sold.
“The words I hear from a lot of folks is that the drink is smooth,” said owner Doug Nutter, who grew up in New Straitsville. “The difference between us and Jack Daniels or anybody else is that they have a set of standards of quality control and we don’t. What makes moonshine good is that it’s always close but it’s never perfect.”
Nutter described their techniques as a “rough way of doing it”, using old-school coffee filters to get what he describes as a “perfectly clean” liquor.
“We don’t have checks and balances in moonshine,” Nutter said. “We’re just making a whiskey type of thing.”
However, it is the water and the history of the town that makes the moonshine so smooth and tasty. New Straitsville, originally a coal town, started to become the capital of moonshine after a labor protest back in 1884, when the mineworkers started a fire underground — which is still burning today. That served as a perfect cover for the illicit distilleries and created the underground spring. After the water travels through different clays and limestones, it comes out with a sweet flavor to it.
“Our spring water tastes completely different than city water,” Nutter said. “You can take my recipe and my procedures, but unless you have my water it will not taste like Straitsville.”
Straitsville Special Distillery is still waiting to get permits for more recipes to go on the shelves and their Straitsville Special Moonshine is currently only sold within the state of Ohio. Despite the limitations, one thing is for sure… for the first time in 44 years, the Moonshine Festival is finally serving moonshine.
More info about Straitsville Special Distillery can be found at: www.facebook.com/Straitsvillespecialmoonshine.
Photos by Sally Wenxin Xia.