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Ridge Runner Distillery
by
Terry Sullivan

Ridge Runner DistillerySummary: Along historic US Rt 40 east of Uniontown, Pennsylvania lies battlefields and inns dating to George Washington’s times. Distilling was a long time activity in this region. Today, a new distillery links the past to the present.

Ridge Runner Distillery was named after the ridge runners that hid along the areas’ ridges. During the moonlit nighttime hours, these moonshiners were hidden from the watchful eyes of federal agents during Prohibition. The desire to distill a variety of products continued despite government efforts to stop the practice. Ridge Runner Distillery is a new idea by Christian W. Klay.

Christian’s parents, Sharon and John Klay, own and operate the Christian W. Klay Winery just across the street from the distillery. They named the winery after their son, but did not pressure him to take over the business. After college and some time in the tech industry, Christian returned home. He did not want to work in the vineyards or winery, but he was interested in distilling. After a year, the distillery is producing moonshine, flavored moonshines, rum and vodka. In the future they hope to use the pomace from the winery to produce grappa, and there is an interest in crafting a bourbon.

The Distillery

Ridge Runner DistillerySharon gave us a tour of the distillery. The distillery production area is seen from a window behind the tasting counter. On the day of our visit, a sugar mixture was fermenting in a stainless steel tank. It was actively bubbling and producing a sugary, molasses-like aroma. Christian will distill this mixture to produce rum. Also in the distillation room there were several small distillation stills. Propane is used to heat the contents of the still that causes the alcohol to vaporize, and once cooled to liquify and drip into a collection container.

Ridge Runner DistilleryProducts are obtained locally. Like the winery, the distillery is part of Farm to Table. It is important for the Klay family to use locally grown products in the production of distilled spirits. Sharon mentioned that she is going to plant a garden with flora that will be used as the botanicals for gin production. Once grape pomace from the winery is used to produce spirits, the Klay family will control grappa and brandy from vineyard to a final product.

Tasting Room

At one end of the tasting room the products are displayed along a wall. The tasting counter was made from an oak tree from the family property. There is plenty of space for several people to taste the distilled products served in small plastic vials.

Ridge Runner Distillery     Ridge Runner Distillery

Spirits

The Ridge Runner Distillery rum was a clear color and was 40% alcohol (80 proof). Heat was initially on the taste, then the rum became very smooth. Apple Pie Moonshine had an orange color. This infused moonshine was 25% alcohol (50 proof). There was a strong presence of cinnamon and cloves on the aroma. The taste is reminiscent of apple pie with both apples and spices on the taste. The Peach Pie Moonshine was a light yellow color and had a very peachy aroma and taste.

Visit and taste locally produced spirits at Ridge Runner Distillery. You can also visit the Christian W. Klay Winery across the street. The two tasting rooms, that you could walk to from one of the parking areas, are a destination in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Read the Wine Trail Traveler article about Christian W. Klay Winery, just across the street from the distillery.

Ridge Runner Distillery
417 Fayette Springs Road
Chalk Hill, Pennsylvania 15421

 

Article written June 2016.


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Copyright: Terry and Kathy Sullivan 2016