‘Moonshiners’ legal product on sale first at local ABC store

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fans of Discovery Channel’s hit show “Moonshiners” can now purchase Tim Smith’s Climax Moonshine in Salisbury.
Moonshiners star Tim Smith signed autographs and took pictures with fans Friday afternoon at the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Store on Jake Alexander Boulevard. That’s the first vendor in the state where the legal moonshine made by Smith is on sale. Each bottle is $34.95. The beverage can also be purchased in Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Climax Moonshine is currently available in the original flavor in North Carolina, but Grape Lightening and Peach Lightening flavors could be available as soon as February.
Climax Moonshine is manufactured at Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Ky.
While Smith plans to distribute the product throughout the nation, it takes time to make moonshine. Smith is gradually expanding sales as he has enough product.
It took seven months for the first shipment of Climax Moonshine to make it to North Carolina, and the next shipment won’t come until February.
They “can’t make it fast enough,” said TJ Smith, Tim Smith’s son.
Another reason for the limited quantities is a Nov. 22 fire at the Kentucky distillery destroyed 53,000 gallons of moonshine. Someone broke into the facility and set the fire. The attack is under investigation.
Producing legal moonshine isn’t a simple process. First, Smith applied for a patent from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Then, he applied for label, recipe and bottle patents and found a physical address to distill the moonshine. Smith also decided where he wanted to sell his product and found distributors and set up accounts with individual retailers.
“Then, I come back and sign bottles,” Smith joked.
Liquor laws vary from stat to state. North Carolina and Virginia have much tighter laws pertaining to distribution and marketing than South Carolina and other states.
Moonshiners is in its third season on Discovery Channel. The show has nearly 7 million fans in 48 countries and is filmed in seven states.
Janice Goodman and her mother, Tori Megliorino, came to the event at the ABC Store to meet Smith. “We watch the show every Tuesday night,” Goodman said.
Goodman’s husband is the warehouse manager for the Rowan/Kannapolis ABC Board, so the family particularly enjoyed watching Smith’s journey from illegal to legal manufacturing and distribution of moonshine.
Sheriff Kevin Auten also stopped by to meet the reality TV star.
Smith says the reality show is about sharing “the heritage of an illegal product.”
His wife, Shelby Smith, says it gives people who would never know anything about moonshine otherwise an opportunity to learn about the entire industry.
“I think it’s exciting,” she said. “It’s a learning experience.”
Moonshine is a clear alcoholic beverage produced by distilling corn meal, sugar, yeast and water. Unlike whiskey, moonshine is not aged after it is made, but goes to customers right away.
Unregulated production and sale of moonshine is illegal.
“They have to catch you in the act to arrest you,” Smith said. “I guess it’s about the rush of doing something without getting caught.”
Smith says 90 percent of the show is real. “It’s not scripted,” he said.
“We knew the show was going to be big, but we never knew it was going to be as big as it’s gotten,” Shelby Smith said.
Smith said he can’t go anywhere without being recognized, so sometimes being a reality TV show star can be “stressful.”
My family “doesn’t see me as much,” he added
Smith hails from Climax, Va., where he is the volunteer fire department chief.
He and Shelby were married in 1986 and their son, JT, is a junior firefighter and a member of Future Farmers of America at Gretna High School. Shelby is a school nutritionist and is active in her church and community.