Local distiller comes home with gold
Kentucky Mountain Moonshine sent two entries to the SIP Awards, an international spirits competition in Irvine, California. Both entries were awarded gold.
By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Rumor has it that Estill County is well known for its illegal moonshine, even beyond its borders. One local distiller, however, is gaining a reputation with his legal “shine.”
Howard Arvin, owner of Kentucky Mountain Moonshine, bought a farm just outside of Ravenna a few years ago, which prompted him to give some serious thought to ways of making it productive.
In 2016, after jumping through all the legal hoops, he and his family decided to open a moonshine distillery, or a “still” on the farm.
The business had been open for a couple of years now, and Kentucky Mountain Moonshine is sold in six Kroger stores, several Liquor Barnes, and 50 other stores all around the Lexington and Richmond area.
Just recently, Arvin entered two of his products, an 80 proof clear moonshine and a 30 proof Smokey Cranberry Moonshine, in the international SIP competition in Irvine, California. The competition includes categories for bourbon, gin and moonshine.
After being sampled by 150 consumer tasters, both his products won gold.
The competition draws entries from all around the country, as well as places such as Japan, Canada and England.
Kentucky Mountain Moonshine also makes a popular 30 proof Smokey Apple Pie moonshine. The smokey flavor comes from the use of charred oak sticks, Arvin says, adding that he uses 100 percent juice and no artificial flavors in his shines.
Last year, the business began partnering with Old Kentucky Chocolates to make moonshine truffles, which Arvin describes as much different from the ones made with bourbon. He said a big part of the alcohol is burned off in the process of making the candy, so that it has a really mild flavor.
Arvin would like to one day be able to offer tours at his distillery and offer tastings, such as the bourbon distilleries do, but the county remains dry outside of Irvine. He says he thinks it would bring a lot of tourism dollars to the area, adding that the Bourbon Trail brought in a million visitors to the Bluegrass area last year.
All Kentucky Mountain Moonshine is made, bottled, and labeled at his facility in Estill County.
Arvin purchases most of the corn used to make the moonshine from Kavendale Farms in Danville. The corn is ground at the farm “to almost a powder,” which he explains is somewhat different from the way many moonshiners do it, because they use whole grain.
Another difference in his process is that the ground corn is used only once, creating a sweet mash. Some moonshiners re-use their grain several times, Arvin says.
The used sweet mash doesn’t go to waste, because Arvin and his employees then feed it to the calves on the farm. He laughs as he tells how his cattle come running when they see him coming on the tractor with a front end loader full of sweet mash.
Both Arvin and his wife Rachel are practicing dentists at the Veterans Hospital in Lexington, but he says he hopes to continue to grow the moonshine business “for his children to have something to fall back on.”
The Arvins have three children: John, Kristen and Trevor. Both John and Kristen are heavily involved in the business, while Trevor is still in college.
Arvin is the son of Beverly and Lydia Ann Arvin and grew up in the Crooked Creek area.