Two years in, this Jefferson County craft distillery is growing distribution and having fun.
written by TARA WINE-QUEEN
BACK IN 2016, WYLIE MCDADE AND BRIAN HALBERT BEGAN TO FORM A PLAN. The brothers-in-law were both nearing retirement and wanted to go into business together, but they were unsure what exactly they wanted to sell. Eventually, they realized the answer might lie in the drinks they shared every time they tossed ideas around, and Devil’s Due Distillery was conceived.
The men started studying distilling in earnest, reading everything they could get their hands on and building relationships with craft distilleries. “They were still working full time,” says Olivia McDade—Wylie McDade, her brother, in the Navy and Halbert in computer software—”but learning the industry on the side, visiting cooperages where barrels are made and other distillers to get their help.” Finally, in April 2021, she says, their efforts paid off with the opening of their distillery doors in Kearneysville. The business flourished and has grown into the bustling destination known today.
Along with her brother, McDade works ‘round the clock on advertising and merchandising. “We love merchandise like clothing and barware. A ‘boutique distillery’ is how we describe it,” she says. The distillery has an active social media presence, with beautifully curated photographs on Facebook and Instagram that show off everything from limited-edition mango moonshine to shirts with the company’s name proudly displayed below a banjo-plucking skeleton. The name itself is a nod to the brewing phrase “the devil’s cut,” which refers to the bit of distillate that is absorbed by the casks.
“Distribution is our main focus,” says McDade. “We’re in 45 or 50 liquor stores throughout the state, and here soon we plan to go to more states.” It can be a complicated process, with different laws and regulations from place to place, but the team is committed to growing, especially when it comes to getting their main spirits in new venues. “Straight bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, maple whiskey, and vodka are the four in distribution right now. Those are the products you see at your local bars, restaurants, and liquor stores that carry us.”
In addition to those, the distillery also does small batches of artisanal moonshines. “We do a lot of small-batch releases inhouse,” McDade says. “The smaller the barrel, the faster it ages, and 2023 is the year for a lot of our small batches—meaning a lot of our barrels are becoming ready. Expect a small-batch release about every two months.” These products are not in wider distribution and can be purchased only by visiting the distillery itself. “We only get 150 to 300 bottles out of a batch. If you want the limited, fun flavors and products, definitely take a trip out to us.”
Currently, the distillery is open Tuesday through Sunday for tastings and tours, the latter being a highlight for customers. Ken Walker, the head distiller, is in charge of tours. “He’s just amazing, very personable. He’ll treat you as if you’ve known each other for years,” McDade gushes. “Everybody comes in like, ‘Oh, I’ve done plenty of distillery tours.’ But they will come back out and say, ‘I’ve never received a tour like that—thank you.’ Ken goes in-depth, and he really knows what he’s talking about.”
In a happy turn of events, West Virginia licensure laws around serving drinks are in the process of changing this summer, and Devil’s Due plans to take advantage of the change by inviting food trucks to set up at the distillery. “We’re probably going to do food trucks two to three days out of the week—maybe Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—and then the remainder of the week run our normal tasting room, bottle pick-up purchases, tours, and stuff like that,” McDade says. They also hope to offer a more entertainment-focused experience on weekends, with live music to create a fun atmosphere for the community.
Looking toward the future, the Devil’s Due team hopes to expand by purchasing another three acres in addition to the three they own now. One of their first orders of business is to expand their parking lot to accommodate the kinds of events and crowds they envision. “We want entertainment for the community and for the visitors who come in,” McDade says, adding that she hopes to establish campfires with seating around the property and to install a cabana area. “We’re excited for the future.”
315 James Burr Boulevard, Kearneysville, @devilsduedistillery on FB