Local distillers host music-and-moonshine nights
When investment banker Wes Dearbaugh retired, he decided to take up a hobby that would help promote his daughter-in-law’s art and music. He didn’t know it would balloon into something much bigger. His distillery, Cedar Mountain Moonshine, now attracts eager visitors every weekend for “Music & Moonshine” gatherings.
How did an investment banker become “Papa Moonshine?”
This was supposed to be a hobby, but it just went crazy. My daughter-in-law, Sarah [Yarborough] Dearbaugh, started an art studio here a couple years ago. We started talking about starting a distillery to make legal moonshine [as an added attraction]. Well, it took nine months to get all of these permits. It’s very difficult to open up a distillery, I found out … but we got through with the process right in the middle of COVID.
Sarah is also really involved in the music scene in Transylvania County; she and her mother have taught dozens of kids up here how to play stringed instruments. So she began to organize these “Music & Moonshine” nights on Friday nights. We have a bluegrass band here, and we serve free moonshine tastings, and you can purchase beer or wine.
We couldn’t keep up making enough moonshine, so my son — who does all the distilling — has had to double the production. We built more stills.
So it was your son’s influence that got you into distilling?
My brother-in-law was the one who talked me into doing this. He was in the refinery business for 25-30 years, and he pointed out that refining is about the same as distilling. He works for Koch Industries as a chemical engineer, and his wife is a chemist, and he said, “I can teach you everything you want to know about distilling.”
Do you sell moonshine off the property?
No. Right now the permit that we have allows us to do tastings and allows you to purchase our moonshine right here, and right now, this is the only place you can purchase Cedar Mountain Moonshine. We have not yet started selling to the ABC stores … [but] that’s something we anticipate doing either towards the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
Your product comes in a lot of flavors …
We make seven flavors, all at 100 proof. Since our last name is Dearbaugh, we do a cinnamon moonshine that we call FireBaugh, a watermelon flavor called MelonShine, an apple flavor called AppleShine, a cinnamon-apple flavor that we call HardyApple — named for my brother-in-law whose last name is Hardy — a raspberry flavor, MountainBerry, and a local-honey flavor, HoneyMoon. We also came up with our own version of [the Italian liqueur] Limoncello, and we call it LemonHello!
And then my son said, “Dad, people are going to come here and want the real stuff — the white lightning.” So he started making it at 150 proof, which is about as high as you can legally go in North Carolina, and he came up with the name for it: Buck-Fiddy.
Cedar Mountain Moonshine, 10754 Greenville Hwy., Cedar Mountain. “Music and Moonshine” will continue on Friday, Oct. 29, 6-8pm, ending the event for the season. A newly expanded gallery and tasting room will be open by Thanksgiving. For more information, see cedarmountainmoonshine.com.