For decades, grandfathers passed down the secrets of bootlegging whiskey to their sons and grandsons. Today, that knowledge continues to spread. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in northwest Georgia, sits the Dalton Moonshine Distillery.
Charles Raymond Butler Sr. doesn’t remember how old he was when he started distilling moonshine in the woods of East Tennessee. He doesn’t even remember how he learned; it was always part of his family business, back to his grandfather.
“There were mouths to feed, and you could make a whole lot more money making moonshine than selling corn or jelly,” says Butler, or Raymond, as he is known.
Not much has changed in the 74-year-old’s life since. He still makes moonshine with that same recipe with his own son and grandson. Preachers and off-duty law enforcement officers are still some of his best customers.
Nowadays though, he doesn’t worry about getting arrested. The Butlers have moved their operation to Dalton, and they pay taxes on their 111-proof “corn whiskey.”
While the exact recipe is secret, Butler’s family has always used malted wheat, as opposed to yeast, with a bit of sunflower seeds.
Why? “I don’t like to get up with a headache. And yeast will give you that headache,” says Raymond as he sips from a large bottle of clear liquid prominently labeled “This is not water.” “My dad always said good whiskey is so clear you can read a newspaper through it,” he says.
Ensuring the family tradition, a tradition of quality whiskey, continues, before a bottle of Raymond's Reserve makes it to a shelf in his home state of Georgia or behind a bar somewhere in the great state of Texas, each batch is still personally inspected and approved by Raymond Butler.