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Don Walton, Jr., Owner of Walton's Distillery

by Pat Fontana 

This isn’t your grandfather’s moonshine. Actually, it is, but now it’s legal and you’re invited to see how it’s made, feel the mash, and enjoy a taste of the spirits for yourself.

A copper still that was used years ago, in the woods in secret, sits on display at Walton’s Distillery in Jacksonville, where moonshine is once again produced by the Walton family. Visitors are invited to see the old still, as well as the newer working stills, and taste the product made from a recipe that has been in the family for several generations.

Don Walton, Jr., has “always been fascinated” by the distillery process, even as he pursued his studies to become a lawyer. Today he is actively involved in both careers and is excited to share his passion for making moonshine and whiskey, offering tours and tastings six days a week at Walton’s Distillery.

Sitting on the same land that was once the site of illegal stills, including one owned and run by Walton’s cousin, Norwood Rochelle, the legal distillery was launched to make corn whiskey. It was Rochelle who talked Walton into making moonshine and who helped with the setup and operations.

Walton says when you come to his distillery for a tour, you will “see the wheels in motion.” You can “feel the heat of the still, smell the mash, smell the alcohol coming out of the still.” You might have the opportunity to watch the yeast bubbling and to “put your hand over it and feel the heat.” Some visitors are even lucky enough to be able to touch the mash, to get a literal feel for what it takes to make whiskey and moonshine.

Take a Tour and Enjoy a Tasting

Walton’s tours are of a working distillery that is “very low tech.” The stills are homemade and Walton’s cousin’s original still, while no longer used for production, stands on display in the gift shop. That shop is as much a museum as a store, with several old prohibition-era stills, and, Walton says, “a lot of my dad’s stuff that belonged to my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents.”

Visiting the small distillery gives you “more exposure to the process.” Walton says that “you can get in our barrel house and feel the barrels, smell the different odors as you walk through the facility from the production side to the bourbon warehouse.” He adds that “when you leave our tour, you have more of a working knowledge” of whiskey and moonshine production.

Not surprisingly, the tastings at the end of each tour are popular as well. However, Walton says that visitors find that the “the most interesting part of the tour is seeing a still run.” He’s even had people mesmerized by the bottling and labeling process within the distillery.

Don Walton, Jr., and his team enjoy entertaining their visitors, emphasizing that “overwhelmingly, people have a good time here.”

All the whiskey and moonshine labels reflect Walton’s family history, as a lasting tribute to his ancestors. Cousin Rochelle’s moonshine is packaged as Junior Walton’s Authentic Carolina MoonshineTM, named after Walton’s grandfather. The distillery’s first product was E.M. Walton’s Corn WhiskeyTM, named after his great-grandfather.

Donald Walton, Jr., has been a practicing attorney for over 34 years. The distillery he launched in 2013 is “a fun business,” he says, adding “I’ve met a lot of interesting people.” He’s also outgrown his space and says construction has started on a new building that will be climate controlled so he and his distillery team can host Open Houses once again. Many people have also asked if they can have special events there and he is eager to open it up for retirement ceremonies, family reunions, weddings, and receptions.

Today, visitors delight in touring the distillery, learning more about moonshine, and seeing how the whiskey is made. Walton says visitors will leave “knowing what we do, being more enlightened regarding moonshine.” He adds confidently, “we make a good product.”

Walton’s Distillery is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm at 261 Ben Williams Rd in Jacksonville. Free tours and tastings run every 30 minutes until 4pm. For more info, call them at (910)-347-7770 or learn more here.

Pat Fontana is a local freelance writer. Photos by Onslow County Tourism.

visitors will leave knowing what we do, being more enlightened regarding moonshine. We make a good product.