“We’ve got work to do to get ready but we’re getting there,” said Jeannette Miller Tuesday as she worked her way through Belmont Distillery’s museum and main lobby. “These rocking chairs will go on the porch…and I’ve got to paint.” In another room, employees were busy assembling boxes.
And back in the heart of the operation where the still is literally perking away husband Chuck Miller and fast friend Tim Smith are laughing, joking and also helping prepare for opening season which is the first Saturday in April.
“We’ve been up since 4:30 a.m….on a run to Richmond,” smiled Smith who is renowned for his fame as a television star and his product Climax Moonshine – named after his hometown.
Sitting on a desk next to Climax Moonshine is his second creation Climax Fire Chief 32.
“I am the fire chief in Climax,” said Smith noting that a portion of the sales goes to help the fire department. “It’s good…has a hint of cinnamon in it.”
Miller, sporting his familiar hat, flannel shirt and moustache, and Smith had just returned from Richmond where they’d made a delivery to the ABC distributor.
“It’s all legal now,” they both laugh reminiscing about Robert Mitchum’s Thunder Road. On June 13, 2013, Smith went legal with his moonshine operation. He now produces and distributes his Climax Moonshine nationwide all from this location in Culpeper. “It goes to 42 states,” he said.
For Chuck and Jeannette, they’ve been doing what they do for more than 30 years and have no intention stopping. Belmont Distillery heralds as the first craft distillery of American Whiskey in the United States. Their large copper pot makes whiskey the way it has been done for decades.
Their products including Virginia Lightening Corn Whiskey and Kopper Kettle Virginia Whiskey and Vodka come in subtle flavors including Spiced Rum and Apple Pie.
Family owned and operated, at Belmont Distillery they grow their own corn, harvest it, store it and grind it in preparation for an old recipe.
The Millers met Smith at a Moonshine Jamboree in 1999 and the rest is history and a good one at that.
In the works for the future is expansion and the addition of another still.
Chuck Miller is optimistic about the creation of a Virginia Whiskey Trail. “We’re having our first meeting next week,” said Miller of a gathering in Lovettsvillet where a number of Virginia whiskey makers will meet to discuss the logistics.
“Why not add whiskey,” said Jeannette, “there are wine trails and beer trails.”
The friendship between these three is obvious and keen. They love what they do, they love their product and they love sharing it. It’s as rich as the Virginia countryside and steeped in heritage.
“Try a little in your coffee,” smiled Miller.
Belmont Farm, today, consists of 195 acres of estate grown corn, wheat and barley, which is used to produce our fine whiskey. Also, produced on the farm is hay for the cattle and horses.