- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

KADOKA, S.D. (AP) - Nearly a century after federal agents searched for secret stills operated by moonshiners in the Badlands of western South Dakota, the state is helping a new - and now-legal - distillery open in the area.

The South Dakota Value Added Finance Authority has approved a $178,000 low-interest loan to Badlands Distillery in Kadoka, the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/1YOwLkB ) reported. The plant, which will specialize in flavored moonshines, will use locally grown grains and has a production goal of more than 9,600 bottles during the first year of operation.

The facility received its federal license in December. Its state license went into effect Friday.

“It feels good,” co-owner Mark Eschenbacher said, noting he and co-owner James Herber had been planning the distillery since 2011. “It’s been a long haul.”

Cheri Rath, executive director for the South Dakota Value Added Agriculture Development Center, said she worked with the facility’s owners for six to eight months on developing a plan for the business. She said the distillery will be the sixth licensed one in the state and the only one using grains grown by the owners.

Eschenbacher will plant 15 acres of heirloom white corn about 23 miles southwest of Kadoka. The owners, which include Eschenbacher’s wife, plan on approaching other farmers in the state to have them grow rye and barley for their products.

“We’ll begin using our own corn next fall, and we’re hopeful we can get farmers on board this spring, so that all the ingredients we use will originate in-state,” Eschenbacher said.

Eschenbacher said Herber traces his lineage to a group of brothers who operated illegal stills during the Prohibition years near what today is Badlands National Park.

“They were selling whiskey to the governor, to police chiefs statewide, and of course the feds didn’t like that,” he said. “Their agents were the ones who busted them.”

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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