CANAL FULTON, Ohio — Vinnie Carbone is a patient man.
He has to be as he watches the liquor he produces in his basement drip slowly into large glass containers. Carbone grins with every drop, quietly announcing "I make moonshine and I do it all from scratch."
Moonshiner Carbone works mostly alone in the basement of a Canal Fulton building where his wife works upstairs in an insurance agency office. However, he is not fearful of federal or state agents busting down his door and putting him in handcuffs. He is a licensed whiskey maker who sells the liquor he produces to about twenty state liquor stores throughout Northeast Ohio.
In a quiet historic corner of Stark County, Carbone mixes his corn with yeast, puts heat under it, and patiently watches alcohol come from the mixture, winding its way through a series of copper pipes until the alcohol drips into a large bottle.
When he makes rum, the mixture is molasses and yeast.
"I'm the only one in here processing liquor," said Carbone. "I'm grinding the grain, I'm mashing the grain, I'm bottling, I'm labeling," he said. Carbone, 38, used to work for Stark County as an industrial maintenance technician before he developed the idea of going into the moonshine business.
Although, the term 'moonshine' generally is placed on those who illegally distill liquor to avoid paying the government taxes on it, the term can be applied to anyone who makes liquor in small batches.
The term moonshine dates back to the days when those who made illegal liquor in attempts to skirt government taxes made their brews at night, using only the shine of the moon in hidden outdoor locations.
Carbone and his wife call their liquor "Apparition." It is a reference to apparitions -- or ghosts -- they contend inhabit their Canal Spirits Craft Distillery, which operates in the heart of Canal Fulton, a community of about 5,500 people.
It is within 50 feet of the Ohio Erie Canal, which played a big part in commerce during the 19th Century.
While Carbone spoke of the process of making whiskey or rum, the four 26-gallon stills continued to produce liquor which drip ... drip ... drips into large glass bottles under the copper tubing. Once the bottles are filled, Carbone pours the alcohol into smaller bottles for sale.
It is a slow process tending the grain mixture, watching the alcohol be drawn from it. "I'm a patient man," laughed Carbone.
But he may be laughing all the way to the bank. Although neither of the Carbones spoke of the money they made, they did say there was enough demand for their Apparition moonshine to keep them busy, daily running the operation. Apparition is Vince Carbone's full-time job.
The distillery is housed in the basement of a quaint building which houses the insurance agency where Erin Carbone works. In the basement, one floor below the insurance agency, the distillery sends its smells upstairs among the insurance company workers.
What the Carbones do not sell through licensed state liquor agencies in Ohio, they are licensed to sell by the glass in their basement which doubles as a small bar. The basement bar is easily found because of the large sign which reads "Whiskey" on the side of their building on South Canal Street. There is a large arrow pointing the way to the only door to the bar where Carbone, on a busy day, may run from the stills in the corner to the wooden bar a few feet away.
Throughout the operation in the small distillery is the sweet smell of apples blackberries, or blueberries, which the Corbones use to flavor their whiskey. Because the liquor is not aged in barrels, there is no brown color to the whiskey.
It is clear as water.
Thus, moonshine took another nickname of "White Lightning." Carbone's liquor comes down the copper piping at about 150 proof, but he waters it down to a more palatable 85 proof.
He is philosophical about the apparent increased customer interest in moonshine. Carbone said there are 50 distillers in Ohio, all who work together and offer their thoughts on their products to Ohio legislators. He said just as more people want to know who actually makes the foods and goods they buy, they also want to know about "the guy who makes my liquor."
When he was asked about the reaction of people who learn that he is a moonshiner, "Well, you know ...," he says with a big laugh. Carbone never finished his sentence, but he said more with simply a gleam in his eye.
Apparition sells for about $25 a bottle.