When Joe and Janelle Marcotte sold their five-year-old trucking business in late 2016, the husband-and-wife team didn’t know what came next — just that they were tired of washing, fixing and maintaining trucks all day, every day.
So when a pub opened in the Marcottes’ town of Philomath, Oregon — some six miles west of Corvallis — inspiration struck. Patrons flocked to the space for locally produced beer, wine, cider and mead, and the couple saw an opportunity to join Oregon’s bustling craft beverages market.
The spirits market enticed Joe Marcotte, but he didn’t want to fight for crowded shelf space alongside larger, more established distilleries. Rather than gin, vodka or whiskey, he figured, why not produce flavored moonshine?
With that, Marcotte Distilling Co. was born and, in March 2018, the couple formally opened a storefront in Philomath.
The Maturation of Moonshine
Long before opening, Marcotte says he had been curious about the growing craft spirits market. “I knew I didn’t want to be out there competing with a hundred other companies to get my whiskey seen on a shelf,” he adds. Problem being, he’d never actually drank moonshine before settling on the spirit most commonly associated with Appalachian bathtub stalls. And to make matters worse, he confesses no one he knew even liked moonshine.
A research trip to Tennessee convinced the Marcottes they were on the right course. “They’re doing flavored moonshine back there like it’s going out of style, which makes me feel like, if we reintroduce the idea on the West Coast, we’ll be fine,” Marcotte says. “When we came home, we were like new people, ready to go.”
He admits the moonshine itself isn’t revolutionary, but extra distillation dilutes the taste of corn whiskey, making room for natural ingredients — like coffee, apple pie, pumpkin spice and strawberry lemonade — to shine through. And while Marcotte contracts with an outside producer, he hopes to distill and produce moonshine in-house in the coming months.
Touting a New-Age Twist
Marcotte Distilling opened to surprising success, selling more than 100 bottles in its first weekend. “Once we got people in the door and got people to taste it, it was a huge win,” Marcotte says. “It’s moonshine, but it’s not your grandma and grandpa’s moonshine. It’s a new-age twist on an old-school idea.”
The success hasn’t been without strife, either — liquor stores occasionally decline to carry the couple’s moonshine, well aware of beverage’s backwoods reputation, and attendees at food and beverage festivals remain skeptical.
But the Marcottes persevered and have quickly built a following in Philomath — so much so, they moved into a larger space last month, less than one year after opening their first brick-and-mortar. Marcotte Distilling has also launched a monthly cocktail sampler event in the new tasting room and recently started the Marcotte Mooners, a loyalty program modeled on wine clubs. And, naturally, new flavors are in the works.
As word spreads, Marcotte cops to feeling a sense of validation in choosing such an unusual beverage. “We were a little nervous, but the town has really accepted us,” he says. “And it’s been awesome.”