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‘Moonshiners’ star can finally ‘go legal’ in Virginia

The star of Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” is finally able to have his whiskey made legally in Virginia, his home state.

Tim Smith, who lives in the small Pittsylvania County community of Climax, has teamed up with Belmont Farm Distillery in Culpeper to make his moonshine recipe. It will go on sale at the state’s liquor stores beginning July 1.

“Tim Smith has always wanted to go legal, and we finally got it done and are going to make Tim Smith Climax Moonshine right here in Virginia,” said Belmont Farm owner Chuck Miller.

His farm, located at 13490 Cedar Run Road, will celebrate with a meet-and-greet with Smith from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 5. There will be also be free barbecue, a bluegrass band and an air show featuring parachute jumpers.

“People can meet Tim, buy a bottle and have him sign it,” Miller said. “Lots of people want to meet and greet Tim.”

Miller became the first person in the country to win approval to make moonshine legally in 1987, and his operation has been featured on television and by other media. Smith invited him to be a guest speaker at his annual Moonshiner’s Jamboree, a celebration of moonshine’s history near Danville, about 15 years ago. They’ve been friends ever since.

“Chuck was somebody I looked up to because I always wanted to bring a legal moonshine to the market,” said Smith, whose family had been involved in moonshining. “He’s the first craft distiller. He started 26 years ago. He sort of broke the ice with the state and federal government.”

Miller already makes two types of his own whiskey at Belmont Farm: Kopper Kettle Virginia Whiskey and lines of plain and flavored Virginia Lightning whiskey. The apple pie version includes apple juice and a hint of cinnamon. The other flavor is cherry.

Smith has been visiting Belmont Farm to work with Miller on his Climax Moonshine and to have his television crew film the operation for episodes of the upcoming fourth season of “Moonshiners.” They will air in October.

Moonshine has been made in Virginia for centuries. Even George Washington used to make a version that included rye, corn and barley after his Scottish farm manager told him how profitable the venture could be.

Today, regulations on what has been—and in some places still is—an illegal operation are loosening. Smith said his moonshine is available legally in 13 states and he is about to do some test marketing in Pennsylvania.

He was able to work out deals to have his moonshine produced at Asheville Distillery in Asheville, N.C., and Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Ky., before he finally won approval to also have it made in Virginia.

“The partnership with Chuck is a perfect match,” he said. “I’m from Virginia and he’s been doing it and has a reputation for doing it right—and legally.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407