The Full Story
In 2011 Joe Fenten, a native of Greenville County’s rugged and picturesque mountain region (known as “Dark Corner”), along with the help of his wife Roxy, launched Dark Corner Distillery – South Carolina’s first federally licensed whiskey distillery since before prohibition. From the very beginning it was Joe’s dream to combine his background in engineering and scientific process with his passion for Appalachian Mountain heritage to deliver a remarkable sensory experience in the form of spirituous liquor, unlink no other. Having traveled up and down the east coast as a contractor in nuclear power plants and as a field engineer in one of Diageo’s (world’s largest spirits producer) production facilities, he made it a point to wander into the backwoods’ townships, once settled by Scots-Irish pioneers in the late 1600’s, in search of the best homebrew white lightning south of the Mason Dixon. Inspired by the ingenuity and craft of bootleggers he met along the way, he setout to honor and shed light on an illusive, yet quintessential chapter in American history by producing the World’s Best Moonshine. Through hard work, determination and continuous improvement Joe reached his ultimate goal, and today he’s surrounded by a team of amazing individuals who take pride in carrying on the traditions of our forefathers who learned to produce the water of life from 3 simple ingredients – corn, yeast and water. From moonshine to the state’s very-first bourbon, absinthe and gin, Dark Corner Distillery is leading the craft spirits movement one spirit at a time.
Dark Corner Distillery is a craft micro distillery located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our focus is on producing small batches of The World’s Best Moonshine, aged whiskey, gin, absinthe and other distilled spirits while educating locals and tourists alike about our rich Appalachian heritage.
Their distillation system was designed by the founder of the distillery to favor quality and taste. They firmly believe that the use of time-honored methods and equipment plays a vital role in producing The World’s Best Moonshine and many other award-winning distilled spirits.
• Joe Fenten, Founder of Dark Corner Distillery
• Native of the rugged mountainous region of Northern Greenville county known for over 175 years as Dark Corner. Has lived in upstate of SC his whole life.
• Professionally licensed electrical engineer.
• Graduated from Clemson University in 2007.
o Wife: Roxy
o Daughter: Hazel
• South Carolina’s first licensed craft whiskey distillery since before prohibition.
• Famous for producing The World’s Best Moonshine, Whiskey Girl flavored whiskeys, Lewis Redmond Carolina Bourbon Whiskey, Stumphouse Wheat Whiskey, Jocassee Gin, Game Day Spirits (Tiger Fire and Cock Lighting), and Greenvillain Absinthe.
• Known for legally distilling state’s first-ever bourbon whiskey, gin and absinthe.
• We take pride in utilizing all natural ingredients in the production of our products including local, heirloom corn and hand-harvested botanicals (honeysuckle flowers and magnolia blossoms).
• With his wife’s help and support, they opened our doors in 2011 and haven’t looked back since. She managed the distillery and he continued working his day job up until a year ago. He “retired” from electrical engineering in 2015 to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams.
• The idea came about shortly after the passing of the South Carolina Micro Distillery law. He was working as a field engineer at one of Diageo’s bottling plants when the idea hit him to open a tasting room, bottle shop and distillery on Main Street in downtown Greenville.
• In late 2014 we partnered with Brass Ring Spirits Brands, a craft spirits company whose mission is to lead the movement in a new era of craft spirits. He came on board to manage distillery operations for our portfolio of brands. They’re growing our business on all fronts including a new centrally located retail store and bottle shop on Main Street, a new 15,000 square foot manufacturing facility and 21 states of distribution. Through a strategic alliance with the Cayman Spirits Company in Grand Cayman we recently broke ground on Hilton Head Distillery, a new rum distillery on the coast of South Carolina producing a full lines of rums and vodka.
• Their tasting room and bottle shop are located on Main Street in downtown Greenville in the oldest retail building in the city.
• They’ve recently moved their manufacturing operations offsite to an old 15,000sf airplane hangar, which was once home to a fleet of B-25 bombers around the time of World War II.
• To pay homage to Scots-Irish ancestors who settled the Appalachian hills over 200 years ago. They lived off the land and made good drinks from it too.
• From time-tested production techniques that predate prohibition to the use of local, fresh ingredients, our focus is on producing distilled spirits of remarkable flavor and superior quality.
• They’ve been awarded the “South Carolina Distillery of Year Award” twice by the NY International Spirits Competition.
• As engineers, chefs and beverage experts, we marry arts and science through fermentation and distillation.
Joe, what was your vision for Dark Corner Distillery?
We envision a world where every person of age has the opportunity to taste remarkable craft spirits.
Was it more of a hobby or did you head into it as a business opportunity, maybe it was a mix of both?
Definitely a business opportunity, but more of an adventure than a get rich quick scheme. I had never made Moonshine before. It wasn’t until I worked as a field engineer at Diageo I realized I wanted to open a distillery on Main Street in downtown Greenville. It was in the very beginning of the craft distillery boom. We pioneered the movement in South Carolina.
Joe, can you tell us what your day to day currently looks like?
• Meeting with team members, executive management, and key suppliers/accounts.
• Brainstorming about the future
• Strategic planning
• Product development
• Leading by example
• Problem solving
• Continuous improvement
• Reading industry related articles and following trends
• Travelling to our sister plant, Hilton Head Distillery
Do you guys believe now is the most exciting time for a whiskey lover?
• Yes, but also overwhelming with the market being saturated with new product offerings.
How are you standing out in this “craft niche” market.
• Not resting on our laurels.
• Focusing on continuous improvement and product quality.
• Listening to consumer interests to find new product niches.
• Applying our own unique twists to existing product categories.
• Allowing creative freedom within our team.
• Marketing and selling our own products instead of solely relying on distributors.
Joe, what were your first drams? Is there a story behind them?
• Surprisingly, I was a late bloomer to whiskey. I was a bartender throughout college and didn’t have my first beer until the day we opened the distillery, in which I celebrated with a Shocktop. I remember not caring for whiskey until I tasted my first sip of moonshine from a mason jar in the hills of the Appalachians. Only then did I realize my future love for her – the water of life.
What are your hopes for the distillery 5 years from now?
• Continue to grow our team hire and develop the very best talent.
• Expand our distribution footprint across the United States and even internationally.
• To be leading the movement in a new era of craft distillation, connecting consumers with world-class, artisan, spirits.
Describe your whiskey in 3 words:
Remarkably smooth enjoyment