BROOKVILLE — Jennifer and Dave Black, owners of the Blackbird Distillery, own and operate one of Pennsylvania’s only distilleries that makes moonshine all by hand. Recently, at the Washington Cup Spirits Competition, they had their shine put to the test.
Anthony Black, who has returned home from college to help his mom and dad run the wildly successful business, described their two prize-winning liquors. “Out of 170 distilleries across the United States, we took third place for our hot cinnamon moonshine and our Blackbird’s moonshine on tasting,” Black said. “The hot cinnamon is similar to your fireball whiskey, except it has a smoother taste to it.” Black went on to describe the Blackbird’s moonshine, which is a straight corn liquor, often referred to as “white lightning”. Each bottle has a slightly different proof, but the bottle that won the award was at 115.5.
The Blackbird Distillery faced steep competition at the Washington Cup, which is only for American-made spirits and liqueurs. The judges sampled different varieties of rum, whiskey, gin, vodka and, of course, moonshine.
Even without the critical acclaim, customers know what they’re getting at the Blackbird Distillery is something special. “We are the only distillery, according to the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) in the United States that makes our shine start to finish by hand, legally,” Black explained. And he would know. Black and his father make all of the moonshine themselves. “I even hand dip every single bottle back there in a crock pot with gold wax,” he added.
The process includes mashing, fermenting and distilling the corn. Then the liquid moves on to bulk tanks where Black adds all natural flavors like root beer, chocolate strawberry and peach. One batch of moonshine can take as much as 12 days to make.
Another thing that sets the Blackbird Distillery liquor apart from the rest is the ingredients. Black’s father insists that using barley instead of wheat improves the taste. And while many moonshiners use cane sugar to sweeten their liquor, the Black’s use honey. Black admitted the honey seems to bring out a better flavor.
“It’s a lot of work,” Black admitted. “My family and I are down here every single day. If we aren’t making moonshine, we are talking to customers and helping out.” But the Blacks aren’t slowing down one bit. In fact, to meet the growing demand for quality hand-made moonshine, they have plans to expand the business.
“Close to Pittsburgh, there’s a store down there that this lady is opening up and she wants to sell our moonshine,” Black said. Another business owner in the Pittsburgh near the strip, who only sells Pennsylvania distilled spirits, is in negotiations to start selling Blackbird liquor in his store.
All the success since the Blackbird’s opening has exceeded expectations. “We had no idea how busy this was going to be,” Black said. “We thought it was going to be a few people stopping here and there but it’s been absolutely outstanding.”
Not only are the locals flocking to the Blackbird, but the business is drawing tourist from all over the world. “We have people in here from Florida and mostly from Ohio and New York,” Black explained. “But we’ve had people from Amsterdam, Australia, England, people from all over the place.”