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Friday, May 22, 2020 9 mins read
Friday, May 22, 2020 9 mins read
Seven generations of moonshining history find their way into mason jars by way of North Carolina’s Howling Moon Distillery
“My family has been in this region making moonshine since the late-1700s and early-1800s,” Cody Bradford says proudly.
For seven generations, moonshining has been a part of Cody’s family legacy.
Since 2010, Cody has been putting that legacy into every mason jar of moonshine from Howling Moon Distillery. Where he serves as the founder, owner and CEO.
It’s been more than 200 years since Cody’s family found their way to North Carolina and settled in the Blue Ridge Mountain area. They quickly noticed that all of their neighbors were up to something at night, under the glow of the moon.
They were moonshining.
Soon, Cody’s ancestors threw their hats in the ring and started making ‘shine too.
Cody notes that he has a degree in history from UNCA and explains that the Appalachian Mountains “have been a strong hold for moonshiners since the Whiskey Rebellion in the late 1700s.”
“I live on the same land my family settled over 200 years ago,” he beams. Along with his two sons, he hikes and explores the mountains. The same mountains his family came to so long ago.
Howling Moon Distillery calls those same mountains home.
Inspiration for the distillery was the easy part.
A physical piece of the family’s moonshining legacy still exists. A 150-year-old recipe.
But Cody needed a name.
Cody fondly remembered stories that his mother would share. “She told me about her, my father and their friends riding horses and camping.” Cody continues, “They drank moonshine and howled at the moon.”
With a smile, Cody thought, “Howling Moon works.”
For the last decade, Cody has been putting his family culture and North Carolina’s storied history of moonshining into every drop Howling Moon has distilled.
And with that 150-year-old recipe, they’re distilling moonshines that would make members of the Whiskey Rebellion positively howl with satisfaction.
One part family tradition, one part regional history
Howling Moon Distillery had a 150-year head start on its moonshining competition.
When you have a century and a half worth of tradition written down in your pocket, and you’re distilling against the picturesque surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains, moonshine becomes second nature.
Threaded through every step of Howling Moon’s distillation process is that history and tradition.
Beginning with a proven heirloom recipe, Howling Moon adds a splash of North Carolina moonshining history into the mix.
“Our corn is grown local,” Cody explains. But this corn is stamped with North Carolinian heritage.
Family friend, Larry Davis, helps pick corn that will be distilled into delicious moonshine.
Cody elaborated on the distinct corn, “It’s grown by the same people that grew corn for Popcorn Sutton when he was alive and making moonshine illegally.”
In case you were wondering, Popcorn Sutton was an Appalachian moonshiner and bootlegger from the 1960s until his death in 2009; a local legend with a career that spanned decades.
Howling Moon’s stills also have ties to Cody’s moonshining lineage.
“We use handmade moonshine stills that are modeled after old, illegal stills from our family,” Cody revealed. He notes that even one of the condensers they use once belonged to his great-great-grandfather.
Cody wants to make one thing perfectly clear.
“Real moonshine is a unique product, unlike any other.”
Howling Moon is not “just another moonshine company making neutral grain spirits and calling it moonshine.”
Cody notes that Howling Moon’s moonshine is so authentic, it’s actually “classified as a distilled spirit specialty.”
Howling Moon Distillery always gives you an authentic experience.
From the people to the corn, the still to the jar. This is pure North Carolina.
A ‘shine for every phase of the moon
Laying in the grass on a warm summer night and stargazing under the glowing moon is an indescribable joy.
But Howling Moon has a couple of ways to make that joy even better.
Mason jars filled with delicious ‘shine.
Each of Howling Moon’s craft moonshines are brimming with tradition.
It’s the story that brings you in. But it’s that unforgettable taste that keeps you coming back for more.
Asked to pick a favorite, Cody answers in two parts. His favorite cocktail is their “Apple Pie mixed with apple cider and some cloves added.”
But his favorite to drink straight is their award-winning Mountain Moonshine.
Howling Moon’s Mountain Moonshine is their signature craft moonshine. Straight off the 150-year-old page and into your glass. Just one drink of Mountain Moonshine, and you’ll know that this is what moonshine is supposed to taste like.
Howling Moon Distillery’s Apple Pie Moonshine, Mountain Moonshine, and Peach Moonshine.
Howling Moon’s flavored moonshine all start from a base of their Mountain Moonshine. Fresh local fruits and spices are steeped in the moonshine until it adopts their natural color and flavors.
When the fruits and spices are filtered out, all you’re left with is one delicious jarful of tradition.
A sip of Strawberry Moonshine tastes like you plucked the strawberries right off the bush yourself.
Drinking anything made from a recipe that’s a century and a half old will make you feel like family. But Howling Moon’s Apple Pie Moonshine takes it to a new level. Made with real cinnamon and fresh local apples, every sip feels like you're sitting in the Bradford kitchen, just waiting for the pie to come out of the oven.
No matter what the night sky looks like, Howling Moon Distillery has something to enjoy while watching the heavens.
Blue Ridge Mountains, bottled by Howling Moon Distillery
Cody’s family has been in North Carolina for centuries. It’s where he went to college. It’s where he’s raising his children.
“We got a lot of support from our local government and citizens,” Cody says, “From help getting permits approved, to word of mouth advertising.”
The community surrounding Howling Moon Distillery has fully embraced the distillery.
Cody speaks with pride about the community, saying, “We still have a large grass roots following that keeps us going.”
“Sharing our history and hearing from people” is one of the most rewarding aspects of owning a distillery for Cody.
The sun set over Howling Moon Distillery’s idyllic distilling scenery.
Moonshine and bootlegging are deeply bred with the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains. So the community knows their stuff.
As a member of that knowledgeable community, Cody takes great delight in hearing from people who “know real moonshine and are shocked there is a real one on the shelf.”
Moonshine enthusiasts aside, Cody is just as happy pouring a glass for someone enjoying moonshine for the very first time.
It’s like welcoming them to the family.
Pour Cody Bradford’s family tradition over ice
“Most people don’t realize that most spirits are owned by a few companies,” Cody explains. Bringing uniqueness to a standard market is where he sees the value and importance of independent distilleries.
“Make sure you can set yourself apart.”
According to Cody, that’s an utter necessity when it comes to making it as an independent distillery.
Cody explains that it’s “how authentic we are” that sets them apart from the pack.
Howling Moon Distillery has been featured on the Webby-nominated “Food Tripping with Molly” program.
“We’re passing on and saving a part of our culture and history,” Cody says passionately.
Cody does that with a priceless family heirloom in one hand, and a fistfull of fresh North Carolina ingredients in the other.
There’s an added bonus in it for Cody, though.
He and Howling Moon Distillery are “breaking through the bad stereotypes surrounding moonshine and moonshiners,” replacing them with mason jars packed full of history, flavor and tradition.