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Legal Moonshine Distillery in Georgia

Photographer: Erik S. Lesser


Virgil Lovell told his son Carlos at an early age, "If you make good liquor and put it barrels, it would be the same as money in the bank."


That was almost 70 years ago when, Carlos Lovell was 16 years old and his father taught him and his younger brother Fred how to make sour mash corn whiskey, or moonshine, in the mountains of northeastern Georgia. Moonshine and fast cars to avoid the tax man and local sheriff’s deputies has a long tradition in the area, which is credited as the birthplace of NASCAR automobile racing.


Now, after being out of the illegal moonshine business since 1960, Carlos, 85, and brother Fred, 83, are back to their old craft of making Georgia moonshine from corn, rye, wheat, corn and barley malt, and their own spring water; but now under the auspices of a state distillery license at the Ivy Mountain Distillery in Mt. Airy, Georgia.


"We’re making the best drinking liquor in the country," said Fred Lovell. The 95-proof clear moonshine is made in small batches of 120 gallons a day. Additionally, the pair is aging a portion of the sour mash whiskey in oak barrels at 86-proof. Ivy Mountain also makes apple and peach brandy when the fruit is in season.


"I never thought about retiring," said Carlos. "I like it, I like seeing that stuff pouring out of the still." Carlos convinced his daughter, Carlene Holder, to apply for the license and now, after investing some three million US dollars of their own money, bottles are hitting store shelves.