Lexington, SC – Josh Lindler is a native of Lexington County who grew up near Gilbert, west of the town Lexington. Lindler, a country boy at heart, loves four-wheel-drive trucks, the great outdoors, and drinking a little corn whiskey as a way to relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
It was Lindler’s love of good whiskey that led him to a hobby which is now turned into a part-time vocation. Lindler and his wife Jessica are the owners and operators of the JAKAL distillery, a micro-distillery located in Lexington.
When you meet Josh Lindler you’re immediately drawn to his open and friendly personality. He is exactly what you’d expect from a country boy. His hair is cropped short, his face has a ruddy complexion that hints of the many hours that he’s spent outdoors, and he is just as comfortable in a pair of old overalls and a t-shirt as any New York businessman might be in a custom tailored suit. He has a slight twinkle in his eye and always appears to have a little grin on his face.
A number of years ago Lindler enjoyed drinking corn whiskey, best known as moonshine, with his friends. Moonshine has enjoyed a resurgence as of late after the popular Discover Channel TV show called Moonshiners became a hit several years ago.
Moonshine has been a tradition since the founding of our country more than 240 years ago. It is a protest drink, a rebellion against the government’s control and taxing of distilled spirits, and a great way to transform an overabundance of corn into something that could be stored and enjoyed. Bootleggers usually made the illegal whiskey hidden in the woods, using the light of the moon to illuminate the process, thus earning the stiff, hard punching drink its name, moonshine.
The problem for Lindler was he could rarely find any moonshine that he considered of good quality and taste. According to Lindler, the problem with most corn whiskey that’s made by hobbyist distillers to share with their family and friends is its too harsh, often scorched, which sours the flavor; or is bitter and has an off-putting aftertaste. Other distillers cut their whiskey with too much water to lower the proof and that makes it weak. All of these are reasons that people might consider a batch of moonshine to be bad.
As is the case with most country boys, Lindler’s curiosity and determination led him to experiment with making his own whiskey. Through trial and error, he eventually developed a recipe that includes spring water, corn, sugar, yeast, and barley as well as other natural ingredients. He admits he had to throw out a number of bad batches and start again from scratch as he learned, before finally settling on what’s considered Josh’s recipe for moonshine whiskey.
After perfecting his recipe, Lindler began to make and share whiskey at home with his friends and family. Eventually, as more people began to enjoy his whiskey, they wanted to buy some and the demand for it grew more and more. Lindler then had to expand his homebrew operation to meet their desire for the drink.
Lindler bought a stainless steel, 55-gallon soda syrup drum and put together a nice sized still. He set that still up in the woods and built a chicken coop around it to disguise it from the prying eyes of kids, pets, the neighbors, and especially the law.
He fed the chickens the old grains that had been used in the mashing process. This added to the allure of the illegal product that seemed to make its demand even higher. People just like the fact that they weren’t supposed to possess or drink it.
Eventually Lindler was selling and giving away approximately 15 to 20 gallons of his high quality homebrew a week. As the demand for his liquor got higher, the risk that he was taking also increased.
In 2009, South Carolina’s laws changed to allow micro-distilleries to exist. Lindler’s wife Jessica, a paralegal with a local attorney, understood that the changes would allow her husband to do what he enjoyed so much without jeopardizing their family. She felt like her husband’s hobby would eventually lead to his arrest and that could be devastating, especially for the Lindler’s three young children, ages nine, six, and three.
A year or so ago Lindler leased a space in some small office/warehouse buildings not far from Lexington High School and started the JAKAL distillery. JAKAL is an acronym of the first letter of each of the family member’s names and the little distillery is almost like the Lindler’s fourth child; something precious he and his wife have had since birth and are now raising.
Lindler sold his four-wheeler, something he had no time for anymore because of moonshining, and invested in a 200-gallon copper pot still. That was custom made by Confederate stills in Alabama.
In the front of his distillery he set up a small tasting room that he decorated with an old bar and some furnishings he got from a gun store. His father-in- law assisted with his carpentry skills and other friends and family donated fixtures that added to the decor. Some stuff he just picked up on E-Bay, Amazon, or at yard sales. After a while it all sort of came together.
Since going legit, Lindler has slowly expanded his product line to appeal to a broader customer base. Besides his own recipe for moonshine, he has a straight corn whiskey and several flavors of rum that he distills at JAKAL a few hundred gallons at a time.
Lindler still works a full-time job near the Columbia airport with a company that makes parts that are used in the manufacturing of BMW cars. He works the overnight shift to give himself more time to dedicate to developing and distilling his top-shelf spirits.
His storefront at the distillery is open every Saturday and people of legal age can come in and taste and enjoy his spirits. He also sets up at festivals and fairs, giving away taste in hopes that people will enjoy his craft.
Currently, state law only allows him to sell his spirits in 750 ml bottles. People of legal drinking age can buy three bottles per person per day in his store front at the distillery. He also sells through a small local distributor that has his products in package stores across the Midlands and around the state.
Currently at JAKAL, Lindler distills his original moonshine, a corn whiskey that is 100% corn based, and his most popular apple pie variety of that whiskey. He also has small batch rums that include straight, pecan pie, watermelon, and hot cinnamon varieties. He is working through the process of having his strawberry whiskey approved by government regulatory agencies at this time. Once that’s completed, it will be added to his product line.
Like his straight whiskeys, all of his flavor additives are all natural. When you taste the Apple Pie, you can literally taste the butter, the fresh apples, and the cinnamon.
Lindler also sells aging-in-a-bottle plugs that are natural oak, charred, and ready to be placed in a bottle of whiskey. This allows you to age his whiskies and rums to make your own brown spirits if you prefer something akin to bourbons like Jack Daniels, Evan Williams, Makers Mark, or Jim Beam.
Lindler says that currently he is making enough to pay the rent and keep the lights on at the small distillery. Besides the previously mentioned marketing at festivals and fairs, he is also partnered up with local, mostly country music singers and groups to get the word out about his drinks. He also has teamed up with a number of good causes as his way of helping others around him, the old neighbor helping neighbors idea; his way of contributing to good causes while marketing his high quality drink.
It’s very clear that making a great whiskey is much more important to Lindler than making a lot of money.
Sure, one day he’d like to be able to quit his job and support his family from the JAKAL spirits he makes and sells. Until he reaches that point, making good whiskey and enjoying it with his family, friends, and all the new people he meets is a labor of love.
You can find out more about JAKAL distillery by going to their website at www.jakaldistillery.com. You will find Lindler in the store front most Saturdays at 106 Fabrister Lane, Suite C, Lexington, SC. You can also contact Josh Lindler to arrange a distillery tour or to find out where you can buy or taste his distillates at (803) 518-6646.