East Coast Distilling Specializes in Jersey Shine Moonshine
Long before Prohibition, Jersey saw a brisk trade in illicit spirits. There was even a lady in the mix: Nancy the Moonshiner, who distilled applejack in a Warren County hillside in the 1880s to avoid taxation. Today’s distillery-friendly environment would likely come as a surprise to drinkers of that era.
One of New Jersey’s newest distilleries can be found in a World War II–era warehouse at the Millville Municipal Airport, where locals queue up for modern-day moonshine. East Coast Distilling, opened by head distiller Carl L. Coombs III and partner Paul A. Krug in July 2016, specializes in a neutral grain spirit dubbed Jersey Shine. Made from local corn, it’s dressed up with flavors including lemonade, strawberry, black cherry, cranberry and apple pie.
Intrigued by the chemistry of spirits, Coombs also takes inspiration from history. “Grassroots moonshine is at the foundation of so many things,” he explains. “Even NASCAR was built on shine.” Unlike the throat-burning liquor of legend, however, his is smooth enough to sip.
It’s also a family affair. Coombs’s grandmother runs the tasting room, serving samples and rapid-fire quips. His grandfather helps distill. “My grandparents raised me, so they’ve been part of this process from the very beginning,” Coombs explains. Maybe it’s also a calling—family lore suggests a past in “private” spirits.
This winter, Jersey Shine will release an amped-up, 100-proof White Lightning, so named because it’s essentially a non-barrel-aged whiskey. “People who are really into moonshine like a higher-proof punch,” Coombs says. Seasonal flavors are also in the works. —Jenn Hall
20 Peterson St., Millville