The Bloomery Plantation Distillery in Charles Town, West Virginia – just over the border from Loudoun County – is all about the unexpected, from its diminutive 1840s log cabin at the end of a dirt road to the cast of characters inside. But beyond the laughter and levity is a team devoted to producing handcrafted limoncello and cordials rivaling those from the old country.
Proprietor Linda Losey and husband Tom Kiefer originated their distillery concept after returning from a trip to Italy to celebrate the canonization of Kiefer’s great-great aunt. Losey had developed a thirst for limoncello – the Neapolitan lemon liquor made by steeping the zest of Santa Theresa lemons in pure grain alcohol – that the local stores just couldn’t quench.
So she bought a ramshackle cabin on Craig’sList, hired her ex-husband to cultivate 2,000 Caroline raspberry plants, purchased a greenhouse and hauled it back to the farm. Losey then filled it with her own Santa Teresa lemon trees and hung a shingle out by the road. Of course she did. Isn’t that what most people do when they’re craving a drink?
Free tastings and tours
Since its introduction in 2011, the Bloomery product line has been dubbed SweetShine and expanded to include raspberry lemon, hard lemonade, cremma lemma, chocolate raspberry, ginger, peach, black walnut, pumpkin pie and whatever else Losey and company can dream up and get approved by the local law. She strives to capture the essence of each flavor, still zesting organic lemons by hand to avoid the nasty pith that’s known to cause bitterness.
Folks gather round the bar by the woodstove on Fridays and Saturdays for complimentary tastings – free, that is, if you compliment the server. Offerings include designer cocktails, spiked coffees and boozy frozen concoctions with slightly wicked nicknames. Rob Losey is often on duty, wisecracking and doling out samples alongside his ex and her husband. Their motto might as well be carved above the bar: All you need is SweetShine.
Linda Losey leads tours of the property, pointing out that the log cabin is one of two remaining former slave quarters in Jefferson County and that the siding once belonged to an old canal boat. Stop at her greenhouse to warm up and get a glimpse of what might be the only lemon trees in the state – over 45 of them – along with Hawaiian ginger that packs a punch and offers subtle complexity.
The Bloomery’s limoncello, raspberry lemon and peach SweetShine will soon be sold in Virginia ABC stores by special order, but the trip to the little log cabin in the woods is priceless.
Bring a sense of humor to the Bloomery. There’s a good chance you’ll wind up wearing a lemon costume if they really like you.
If you go …
-The Bloomery is at 16357 Charles Town Road, Charles Town, W.Va., 25414
-Use GPS to become hopelessly lost in West Virginia, or ... Head west on Route 9 and take the first left over the state line.
-Driveway is 4 miles ahead on the right.
-Tasting room is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
-Live music begins at 6 p.m. and features local talent. Event calendar is found at http://www.bloomerysweetshine.com