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The Story of
South Mountain Distillery


The South Mountains are a  mountain range in western North Carolina. They are an isolated remnant of the much larger Appalachian Mountains to the west, and are separated from the Appalachians by the Catawba River valley. The South Mountains of North Carolina have been our family's home since the mid 1700's. In 1828 Gold was discovered in the South Mountains of North Carolina and this was part of the first GOLD RUSH in the United States. With the finding of gold and a lot of hard labor to get the gold my ancestors found an better and easier way to get some of that gold and this came in the form of making Whiskey, Fruit Brandies, and "Moonshine". Ever since the  days of the gold rush our family has been keeping this heritage alive.


The water of the South Mountains, is something special. In 1855 a State Chemist W. H. Taylor of Virginia tested the water from Connelly Springs. In his analysis, Mr. Taylor found the water to have a high content of BI-Carbonate of iron. In his opinion the water would be beneficial in healing a large number of diseases.  Soon the news of the mineral springs spread and visitors began to visit Connelly Springs to drink the wonderful, healing water. Some arrived by horse and wagon and carted the water away in five-gallon demijohns. Other’s arrived by train from far away destinations.​


Ben "Poppy" Hudson, Don Smith's, great grandfather. Father of 11 children is where Don gets his heritage from. He raised his family in the heart of the South Mountains in a small community called "Golden Valley". With little resources people had to find ways to provide for their families and distilling spirits was what he choose to do.

One story that was passed down is that his grandmother "Beesie Hudson Smith" and her brother "Clyde Hudson"  followed  behind Poppy to his still site wanting to help and learn their fathers ways. Not until "Poppy" was at his still site did he find out that they had followed him. With being so far back in the mountains he had no choice but to take on two new partners at least for that night. When my grandmother got to be the age of 18  she got married to Garland Smith. Now Garland fit right in with her family making mountain spirits. In 1955 Garland and Clyde, Bessie's brother, where  getting ready to make a batch as they had already done several times before. Little did they know that the revenuers were on to them.

Now the story I was told was that Garland was at the still site making the mash and Clyde went to the truck to finish getting the 100 lb. bags of sugar. One revenuer got Clyde and the others went to the site and arrested my grandfather. My farther James "Jack" Smith was limited to helping his father when he was a child and when he graduated high school he joined the Navy and moved away for several years. In 1979 they moved back to the South Mountains and this is were I come in to the picture.

Don Smith
Owner and CEO


As a youngster, I remember going to family outings and hearing the stories about my family members making brandy, moonshine  and whiskey. Hearing about the close calls  and not so close calls they had with the revenuers. As I got older there was something in side of me that drew me to my great uncles Clyde and Carl Hudson. I liked what they did and how they did it. I remember going by my great uncle Clyde's and watching, listening  and learning the trade of making Brandy and Moonshine. Now 25 years later it is my turn to take the reins to carry on my family heritage and bring you special spirits from the South Mountains of North Carolina.

David "Doc" Friedenberg


David Friedenberg 1949-2018

David adopted the Smith family in 1998 when Don's father Jim was at a local bar. They got to talking and Jim asked him if he would like a job at Antioch Speedway announcing the races. Well with David's background in the entertainment industry he agreed. The first day that he worked something accidentally went wrong with the PA system and Doc was fired for about an hour. David and Don became best friends working on different projects through the years. They gold mined together, promoted live concert events at the speedway for Jim and Danny, built businesses together from the ground up, including South Mountain Distilling Company, became moonshiners together. David got the name "Doc" from being a medic in Vietnam and Korea and the name stuck. While Don and Doc were on a trip to Missouri, picking up the still, Don decided to call him The Doctor of Moonshine, because of his knowledge of figuring out some of the obstacles that they had to work through over the years. With out David "Doc" Friedenberg's help South Mountain Distilling Company wouldn't be the same, if at all.  

In October 2017 Doc started losing weight and doctors told him that it was rheumatoid arthritis. Doc continued to work help pushing through his pain. After Christmas 2017, Doc could not stand the pain that he was in. I encouraged him to seek medical help weekly. June 27th he called me and asked me to take him the Veterans ER in Asheville. I thought great we will get to the bottom of what is going on with his health. Well, we found out that he was in stage 4 with cancer and that professionals gave him 4 to 6 months.  On July 31st 2018, David "Doc" Friedenberg passed. He is now in Heaven playing music with the Lord and "making some of the best damn liquor money can buy". Rest in Peace

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