WILKES COUNTY, N.C. — Ed Gambill, CEO of Gambill Creek Distillers, says his family has been making whisky in Wilkes County since they came to the county in 1775.
“From that time on, some members of the family have been making whisky, and some members of the family have been putting people in jail for making whisky,” said Gambill.
Gambill says members of his family were caught making the liquor illegally after prohibition began in North Carolina, which was before prohibition was enacted federally.
“It was something people did to make a living for their family. It wasn’t done just to break the law,” he said.
Now, decades later, Gambill says he will be opening the first legal whiskey distillery in Wilkes County since prohibition ended (Gambill spells it whisky, instead of whiskey, spellings which he says are derived from a discrepancy between the Irish and Scots as to how whiskey should be made).
“It’s been something we’ve been thinking about in my family for a long time, and finally, I decided it was time to do something,” said Gambill.
Gambill says he’s already received his temporary permit from the state. They are currently in the process of constructing a still, which will be set up in an undisclosed location in Wilkes County.
Gambill says the product they will be making is a white whisky, not moonshine.
“In the beginning, moonshine got its name because folks were making whiskey under the light of the moon,” he said.
According to him, moonshine is made with sugar, whereas his white whisky will be made with grain.
“It has the flavor profile that whiskeys long ago had,” said Gambill. “Something you enjoy drinking and you don’t feel like you’re going to get a headache the next morning from drinking it.”
Gambill has not released the name of the whiskey. He is still awaiting final permit approval, as well as label approval from the state.
He hopes to have everything finished by the Shine to Wine Festival, which is scheduled to be in North Wilkesboro on September 20th. He plans to sell the whisky in the state, as well as nationwide. However, if all permits are not approved by the time of the festival, he plans to sell only in North Carolina until they are completed.
In a few years, he hopes that the distillery will be big enough to hire people to make the whisky in Wilkes County.