Bondurant Brothers Distillery
Summary: For some, the introduction to the Bondurant Brothers was the 2012 drama movie "Lawless." The movie explores how three brothers: Jack, Forrest and Howard Bondurant crafted moonshine during the height of Prohibition. Now, the third generation of Jack Bondurant is legally making moonshine about 100 miles east of where his grandfather and great-uncles survived the Great Depression by making and selling moonshine. Today the Bondurant Brothers Distillery motto is, “Some moonshine is legendary and some is made by legends, ours is both!” Visitors to the Bondurant Brothers Distillery have the option of tasting the spirits straight or asking for a cocktail.
We met Robert Bondurant, grandson of Jack Bondurant, at his new distillery in Chase City, Virginia. Robert acknowledges that his grandfather and great-uncles were legends in Franklin County, Virginia. The movie Lawless depicts the activities of three of the nine Bondurant children during the Great Depression. The movie was based on another family member, Matt Bondurant’s novel, The Wettest County in the World. Robert explained that there were nine Bondurant children, six boys and three girls. Not all were involved in the moonshine business. Now three generations later, Robert is emulating his ancestors and making the legendary moonshine, but this time, legally.
The outside of the distillery is nondescript. It does not look like a distillery until you enter the tasting room and peer through the large windows into the production area. In a way, this is reminiscent of Robert’s grandfather’s and uncles’s distillery hidden in the mountains of Franklin County.
Although the distillery is in Chase City, Mecklenburg County and about a 100 miles away from where the Bondurant family made moonshine, there is a Franklin County connection. The top of the steam, jacket pot still was manufactured in Franklin County and bears a plaque with the name Franklin County on a brass outline of the county. Why did Robert Bondurant locate the distillery in Mecklenburg County? Robert said, “Because the spring water in Chase City is phenomenal.” Robert likes the water here. In the distilling world, a great source of water is needed to produce great spirits.
Robert always had the idea of building a distillery. He explained, “Back in the day, they (family) made a product that people wanted.” Robert wants to stay true to the simplicity that his family used in making corn whiskey. His recipe is simple. Robert uses white corn, his own malted barley, sugar and Fleischmann’s yeast. Robert is very careful with the distilling process of removing the heads and tails and isolating the hearts. When he had access to equipment that would heat the mash, he decided to stay true to his family’s history and continue to produce whisky using cold mash, the way his grandfather had in the early 1930s.
The Bondurant Brothers tasting room opened in early 2017. There is a wooden tasting counter that can accommodate a few people at a time. Behind the tasting counter, windows allow distilled spirits enthusiasts a glimpse into the production area. Opposite the tasting counter there are shelves of moonshine and clothing with the Bondurant Brothers logo. Browse a few framed photos and a newspaper article that provides details of illegal moonshine operations that were destroyed by ATF officials in 1972.
At the time of our visit, only the Moonshine was available. Robert explained that although he will serve a tasting of the moonshine straight, he also makes cocktails. The Moonshine was clear with a corn aroma and taste. It was very smooth with a bit of heat on the finish. There was a long sweet aftertaste.
Robert then made a cocktail. Jack’s Favorite was named after his grandfather. To a glass of ice, Robert added moonshine and Sundrop soda. The cocktail was delicious. Kathy had a Blood Moon. This cocktail consisted of Moonshine, cranberry juice, ginger ale and ice. It too was delicious and refreshing. Robert mentioned that at a distilling festival, most of the distilleries were serving their products straight. He was making cocktails. He had a long line of people waiting to try the cocktails.
When planning to visit Bondurant Brothers Distillery, try to arrive for a tour. Tours include: learning the history of the Bondurants during Prohibition, a discussion of the moonshine making process and meeting Robert, the grandson of Jack Bondurant from the well-known movie Lawless.
Bondurant Brothers Distillery
9 East 3rd Street,
Chase City, Virginia 23924
GPS: N36º 47.996’ W78º 27.668’
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