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Shirley Morris and his 50-gallon “Revenoor” still
Shirley Morris and his 50-gallon “Revenoor” still at the Isaiah Morgan Distillery near Summersville. Photograph by Michael Keller.

Making It Legal

A Visit to the Isaiah Morgan Distillery in Summersville

By John Lilly

The word “moonshine” usually conjures up images of hidden stills and midnight runs. But a handful of ambitious whiskey makers in West Virginia have obtained licenses to make and sell distilled spirits in plain sight. According to the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, there are currently three legal moonshine operations in the state: Forks of Cheat Distillery in Morgantown, West Virginia Distilling Company in Granville (Monongalia County), and the Isaiah Morgan Distillery near Summersville. GOLDENSEAL payed a recent visit to Shirley Morris at his Isaiah Morgan operation, and we found him hard at work on a fresh batch of rye whiskey.

Tucked away in a cozy storeroom off the back porch of his Kirkwood Winery headquarters, located about two miles east of U.S. Route 19 in Nicholas County, Shirley Morris runs what he considers to be the smallest licensed distillery in the country. He and partner Rodney Facemire obtained the necessary license and began distilling here in 2002. Rodney had started Kirkwood Winery in about 1991, Shirley says, and the pair built up a considerable wine business over the years. Rodney mentioned the possibility of branching out into whiskey making several times, and Shirley finally agreed, if Rodney took care of all the paperwork. After Rodney passed away in 2005, Shirley decided to carry on in Rodney’s memory. “I don’t know whether we’ve ever made any money off it or not,” Shirley says. “It’s just something he wanted to do, and I’ve just kept up with it and tried to keep it going.”

The new distillery was named after Rodney’s young son, Isaiah Morgan Facemire, who, in turn, was named after two of his grandfathers.


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