The still in the hills

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OH6The old stone still that started it all 

There may not be gold in them hills, but at Ozark Hills Moonshine, there sure is history.

Carol Romano and her husband, Vito, weren’t expecting to find history or whiskey when they bought a few hundred acres in the Christian County countryside back in 1998. They simply saw the land as a nice place to retire from their former life in Las Vegas.

A bit of brush hogging, however, altered their plans of rest and relaxation. “There’s a holler, as they call it around here, (and) it was so grown up that we couldn’t even get through with our four wheeler,” says Carol. But buried treasure was lurking beneath the overgrown grass. “(My husband) cleared it off and he found this old, stone still.”

The still, as it turned out, dated from the end of the Civil War. The find piqued the couple’s interest: They began to learn the art of distilling alcohol as a hobby. It wasn’t long, however, before that interest grew into Ozark Hills Moonshine, which officially began operation in 2013.

Getting started

Carol Romano, also known as Grandma Moonshine, began the business in 2013

Ozark Hills hails itself as being “the first legal moonshiners in Christian County,” but it took a bit of effort — despite an absence of revenuers — to earn that designation.

“The government is very picky on how far you are from a church,” says Carol, who notes that liquor businesses have to at least be 500 feet or more away from such institutions — and must note their exact distance when registering as a distilled spirits plan. “We even had trouble putting a sign up in Chadwick because of the church.”

Another issue came about after the company had opened. “Eight miles from Chadwick, private property, 340 feet from road,” says Carol, citing details about the distillery’s location. “We didn’t think about we have to be (zoned) commercial.” But indeed they did. That fact that was pointed out after an article in the local newspaper highlighted the new business — and a Planning and Zoning commissioner read about it. “We had to go in to Planning and Zoning, a little late, but they accepted it,” says Carol.