A Local Distillery Making More Than Just Moonshine

History, friends, family and unforgettable memories abound at Sledge Distillery

Sledge Distillery is the vision of Mark and Susan Sledge and their lifelong friend Gary Cooper. Located on a 155-acre working ranch in Tolar, it opened to the public on November 18th, 2018. They offer over eight types of moonshine, including pecan, peach, cranberry, gin, bourbon and even a hatch pepper whiskey. In a few short years, Sledge has become a top getaway destination for DFW residents. Why? It’s not just the moonshine or the appealing way to spend a Saturday, but it's also about the story behind the business that’s rich in family history.

Mark Sledge couldn’t have foreseen how a fishing trip would change the trajectory of his life. But, on that fateful day on Lake Grandbury, his father Dub began to speak of his experience in World War II. He was stationed in the South Pacific, and to secure travel between the islands to watch fellow company members compete in basketball and baseball games, he made moonshine to trade. Having grown up watching his family make it, he had the skills, but he had to improvise, using 50-gallon drums and kitchen scraps. Dub didn’t speak about the war often or about making moonshine with his family on Fall Creek, so Mark had never heard the story, and he was instantly intrigued. 

When Dub passed away, Mark was looking through an old cedar chest and found it filled with war memorabilia. He found the moonshine recipe Dub had created, and with Gary, bought a still and started experimenting with it on his back porch. Over time, word spread amongst friends and community members as to the quality of the product, and so Mark, Susan and Gary decided to take it further. They aren’t a traditional distillery, though. Sledge operates with two 50-gallon and one 80-gallon copper still. They are present for every cut and distill by smell, touch and taste.  “What we’re doing is unique,” says Mark. “We aren’t trying to see how much we make, but how good we can make it.” 

Mark and Gary are always trying something new. They use seasonal ingredients and unusual flavors combos that might surprise you. “We have a variety because when people come out, no matter what they like, we want to have something for everybody,” says Mark. For example, their latest label is a fresh pear moonshine that’s been a real hit with customers. There are 20-22 people who help out on the property every Saturday, all of whom are friends and neighbors. They do it for fun, to be a part of something and to share Sledge with the world. Their motto “Come as Friends, Leave as Family” rings true. 

The distillery is a labor of love for Susan, Mark and Gary. “We do this because we want to. Everyone that works here has day jobs, and they volunteer their time on Saturdays because they want to be with the people they love. We want to live life to the fullest. We look at this as a hobby, and we love it when people come to hang out with us.” 

What does a Saturday (or, as Susan calls it, a hootenanny) at Sledge Distillery look like? You’ll spend the day visiting with farm animals, taking a tour of the distillery, playing lawn games, relaxing in a rocker on the porch, grabbing a bite from a food truck (soon they’ll be offering wood-fired pizza!), listening to live music, getting warm by a fire pit, spending time in an 1897 Santa Fe rail car. You can wander through the store and stock up on items like pickle-pickles, drunken cherries, apricot jam with bourbon, salsa with moonshine, candles and even infused cigars. This is also where you’ll be able to pick up bottles of your favorite moonshine to take with you. Besides all of these things to see and experience, another reason why people have begun coming to the ranch is the featured and special events. Think whiskey bottle painting, dance lessons, costume parties and much more.  “It’s a place for people to see things they might not normally see, a place to get away for a while,” says Mark. 

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