Appalachian Heritage Distillery

This spirits maker is carrying on a family tradition.

(Photo by Tyler Irving)

By the time Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers reach the tiny mountain town of Damascus, they’ve trekked nearly 500 miles. Time for a drink. 

Appalachian Heritage Distillery (AHD) is a watering hole for hikers and locals alike. “The sidewalk right in front of our patio is the AT, so it’s hard for hikers to miss us,” says Tyler Irving, AHD’s general manager. 

The distillery traces back to early 20th-century Appalachia, where Grandpa Bud Justus’ hobby of crafting spirits turned into the family business, drawing customers from Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Owner Tim Nichols opened AHD in Bristol, Tennessee, and his son, T.C., took over when they moved across state lines to Damascus in 2018. These third- and fourth-generation distillers are still involved in all aspects of operation.

(Photo by Tyler Irving)

Nowadays, head distiller Kevin Forrester oversees the production of AHD’s four specialties: gin, bourbon, rye, and an award-winning vodka, made with corn and a blend of red grapes, before it’s distilled eight times and charcoal filtered for ultra purity and a clean finish.

The distillery’s tasting room is an intimate respite from the trail, nestled in among the looming mountains. “We’ve got cozy Chesterfield sofas, dim Edison bulbs, and old paintings—a real speakeasy vibe,” says Irving. “It’s the perfect atmosphere for a single acoustic guitar to pick away as guests chat. There’s a great group of locals that come to us as their go-to liquor store instead of making the drive to Abingdon, and they keep coming back for their favorite cocktails.” AHDDamascus.com


This article originally appeared in the Best of Virginia 2023 issue.

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