You can stand in the center of the main drag in New Straitsville, Ohio and see just about the entire town. And I do mean the center of the street. There’s not much traffic through this stretch of what was once rural coal mining country, so there are long stretches when you can all but lay down on the broken yellow line mid-block without fear of passing tire rubber.
That isolation made New Straitsville prime Moonshine territory during the height of Prohibition. The local miners were willing customers, and the feds found it next to impossible to chase down illegal stills with the locals protecting the bootleggers at every turn.
Of course, we live in a post 21st Amendment world (…Look it up…), and legal craft distilleries dot the American landscape. These days, the Ohio moonshine tradition lives on at the Straitsville Special Moonshine Distillery, right smack dab in the middle of town. It’s a humble set-up with one still cooking a traditional recipe of straight, non-aged corn mash whiskey. Traditionally, Moonshine can also cook from rye, but the locals grow more corn in these parts.
The resulting brew is surprisingly smooth and malty with bit of late burn on the palette. But, it’s a far cry from the blinding shock of White Lightening the drinker might expect. The locals swear the secret to the Moonshine’s identity is the local water. Streams filtered through the unique geological mix of limestone and anthracite are unusually clean, and the New Straitsville distillers truck the water into town in a large tank anchored to the flatbed of a pickup.
Inside the distillery and store, the still is a larger and perhaps cleaner version of the same setup previous Straitsville residents used in their illegal stills, and the modern version of the distillery can produce about two cases per day — bottled (or jarred) by hand.
The easiest way to snag a jar of Straitsville Special is to visit the tiny town. But, that’s a bit a hike from the nearest major city of Columbus, Ohio resident can find the legal shine in stores across the state, and its distillers hope to begin marketing nationally in the next year or so.
In addition to its straight Moonshine, the longtime favorite flavor of Apple Pie is also en route from Straitsville. And, it’s only a matter of time before some of the distillery’s fresh corn liquor goes into a charred barrel to age a coupe years into a bourbon.
To celebrate its bootlegging pass — and to embrace the now legal product cooked locally — the community throws a region wide party every year. The New Straitsville Moonshine Festival unfolds every Memorial Day, luring corn whiskey enthusiasts from as far as Canada.
You can virtually visit the Straitsville Special Moonshine Distillery yourself via the images below: