Wilkes County, also known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World,” was the leading producer of illegal liquor for decades. In 1965, Tom Wolfe’s article in Esquire —“The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!”—made the area nationally famous. Ever since prohibition, the law has been restrictive on distillers in North Carolina. But that doesn’t stop businesses in the Tar Heel State from selling their spirits.
House Bill 909, which went into effect in 2015, now allows distilleries to sell one bottle of spirituous liquor per customer per year. The state imposes a 30 percent excise tax on spirits. Compared to wine and beer, the greatest tax by far is on distilled spirits, with a rate of $13.50 per proof gallon.
Still & Barrel: Craft Spirits in the Old North State started with a few blogs posts on John Francis Trump’s website, which then appeared regularly on The Huffington Post.
In his book, Trump traces the history of manufacturing moonshine whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum in the state all the way to today’s boom from the artisan movement. According to Trump, “starting with a few distilleries just several years ago, more than 30 distilleries are now members of the N.C. Distillers Association and are tour stops on the state’s spirits trail.” He recalls touring seven distilleries during, what was probably, the hottest week of the year with Paul Jones of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Still & Barrel also serves as a guide so you can visit the 36 distilleries that are not just making moonshine. Their wares include rum—from sorghum and molasses— aged red-wheat organic whiskey and vodka infused with mysterious Tobago pepper.
The information about the distillers and their products is surrounded by history and compelling stories about people and their passion. Trump focuses on individual distillers and their stories, while also exploring the state of spirits locally produced using North Carolina agriculture and highlighting disparate ways to craft liquor, as well as the many varieties of liquor distillers are producing.
JOHN FRANCIS TRUMP is originally from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Trump received his Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communications from Point Park University in Pittsburgh and his Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction from Goucher College in Baltimore.
He is a veteran of the US Air Force who, for more than 30 years, worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Alabama, and North Carolina. In 2008, the NC Press Association awarded Trump first-place honors for editorial writing. In New, Bern he won a NC Press Association second-place award for humorous columns and led team coverage of Hurricane Floyd, which devastated the eastern part of the state.
“A long-time fan of whiskey, beer, and wine,” says Trump, “my interest in distilled spirits was piqued in 2015 when my wife and I embarked on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.”
Trump began writing about craft distilleries on his website halfwaysouth.com, which evolved into a regular blog focused on the subject. The blog was the impetus for his book Still & Barrel: Craft Spirits in the Old North State, which serves as a guide to exploring NC distilleries and the spirits they make. In Still & Barrel, Trump focuses on sharing the stories of the distillers along the craft spirits trail, and exploring what some families have been doing for decades.
Trump and his wife, Lisa Snedeker, live in Madison, NC. They have twin boys.
JOHN F. BLAIR, PUBLISHER, has been publishing books on the southeastern US since 1954. Based in Winston-Salem, NC, this independent, family-owned company specializes in history, travel, folklore, biography, and fiction.
Learn more at www.blairpub.com.
Trump’s signing in Asheville is Thursday, June 1 at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café at 7pm, 55 Haywood St, Asheville