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These 'moonshiners' not worried about revenuers

High Ridge Spirits founder and brewmaster Jamie Ray puts together a still in Bullock County, Ala. Ray and four partners, including Bubba Hall of Dawson, have established Alabama’s first legal distillery since prohibition. (Special Photo)

High Ridge Spirits founder and brewmaster Jamie Ray puts together a still in Bullock County, Ala. Ray and four partners, including Bubba Hall of Dawson, have established Alabama’s first legal distillery since prohibition. (Special Photo)

UNION SPRINGS, Ala. — As any bootlegger worth his salt will attest, you can’t make good moonshine without good water … and the water is exceptionally good in this part of Alabama. However, Bubba Hall of Dawson and Jamie Ray won’t have to worry about revenuers — they are strictly on the up and up.

In late July, High Ridge Spirits became first legal whiskey distillery located in Alabama in more than 100 years.

“We received our license from the state and federal government and we’re ready to go,” said Jamie Ray, the founder and force behind High Ridge Spirits. “We chose Bullock County as its home because Bullock County water has been renowned for years as the purest, best water in Alabama. The best water is the key ingredient needed to make the best distilled spirits.”

High Ridge Spirits’ signature distilled spirit is moonshine. Because of its pure water, Bullock County has long been known around the state for having the best illegal moonshine. Building on this legacy, High Ridge Spirits’ initial release is Stills Crossroads Alabama ‘Shine. Hall says the whiskey is pot-distilled from a Bullock County recipe using rye malt mash. At 100 proof, he says it has a smooth taste with a subtle sweetness.

“People said we couldn’t do it,” Hall, one of five partners behind the new distillery, said. “But we proved them wrong. Craft whiskey distilling is a booming industry and it’s time that Alabama met the need for local, distilled spirits.”

Hall lived across the Georgia state in Dawson all of his life before moving to Alabama five years ago. A musician, he makes monthly treks back to Albany to play at Austin’s Fire Grill.

“I owe a big thanks to Austin Newman and Rod Holt for booking me so I can come back to Georgia and see all of my friends,” he said.

Hall, however, did not say if he will be offering up free samples of his product the next time he’s in town to play.

He added that other seasonal products will soon follow Stills Crossroads Alabama ‘Shine. High Ridge also makes small batches of rum and vodka, and has formed partnerships with local chefs to create signature flavors for restaurants and chefs.

“We couldn’t have done this without help from the State ABC Board,” Ray said. “Licensing a distillery hasn’t occurred in Alabama since Prohibition was enacted and it was a learning experience for us and the ABC Board. We truly appreciate their cooperation in helping us through this process.”

The Bullock County Development Authority was also helpful to this new industry, providing it a grant to assist in site preparation for the new business, thus encouraging the needed job growth in this area.

Hall says Stills Crossroads Alabama ‘Shine will be available in bars and liquor stores in Alabama starting this month. The product is not yet available in Georgia.