Here @ Home continues Virginia Spirits Month with Law’s Choice

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 3:54 PM EDT
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(WDBJ) - A spirit that was once hidden in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is now celebrated throughout the region.

Moonshine has strong ties to Franklin County where locals boast about being from the Moonshine Capital of the World.

Generations of families built their own stills and perfected their recipes and that includes Henry Lee Law.

Here @ Home met Law in the archives of the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College where he and his son were sifting through patterns.

“Most people look at this and think, ‘What is that?’ But I know what it is. I know exactly what it is,” Law said.

The shapes all represent different parts of a still and were originally created by a well-known copper still maker in the area, Lincoln Gusler.

“I think it’s just cool to look at all the different ways to build this type of stuff. I think it is very interesting to learn every aspect of the whole trade you could say,” Austin Law said.

The Laws plan to use the templates to make their own still. But don’t worry, they’re paying their dues.

Several local ABC stores carry their liquor, Law’s Choice. But it wasn’t too long ago they were making bootleg sales off their bottles.

“When we were rocking and rolling we were making like 12 to 15 thousand gallons a month,” Henry Lee Law said. “Month after month, year after year. The feds would come in, conspiracies, money laundering, racketeering charges. They hit us with all of it.”

Law saw the challenges of the craft firsthand with his grandfather and father both moonshiners as well.

“Uncles, Brothers, Cousins, you name it, they have all been to jail making liquor. But it was honorable. And it was something we didn’t mind, something we weren’t ashamed of. And still to this day it is something we are not ashamed of. It was honorable business,” Law said.

It’s that honor and tradition the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum celebrates.

“The folks in this area they were struggling they were farmers trying to make a living. So it really did help them. If they had extra apples they could make the apple brandy. It helped them make ends meet for their families,” Blue Ridge Institute and Museum Director Bethany Worley said.

The once illicit activity is now a point of pride for Franklin County which the museum wants to capture in both its exhibits and conversations.

“Not only do we have important pieces of cultural heritage history. the people that we have in our community that can come here, they’re relearning their own histories,” Museum Archivist Ariel Dalton said.

Because the stills, templates and memories aren’t just collections of the past.

“It just doesn’t get any better. Now my son has an old ham handed down to next generation, he’d be bet it’d be the fourth generation of moonshiners at Franklin County,” Henry Lee Law said.

The traditions are opportunities to grow and carry on the legacy of the Blue Ridge Mountains.