CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's days of being associated with moonshine are well past, but the State Police says there's still some illegal ventures out there -- although it's rare to stumble upon a still.
That's why, when Sgt. A.D. Nichols found a "pretty sophisticated" moonshine still while following up on an indoor-marijuana tip in early April, he was surprised.
"We got there and pulled back this tarp," he said, "and [the troopers] were all just looking at each other going, 'Really?' "
Nichols, who said there were 14 marijuana plants in the Belle residence, said the still was in plain sight, along with about 10 gallons of home-brewed 'shine.
The word moonshine -- any distilled spirit made in an unlicensed still -- is derived from early English smugglers and illegal Appalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey secretly by moonlight.
William Nugent, 67, who pleaded guilty to manufacturing distilled spirits, a misdemeanor, on Friday, said he brews the 'shine once a year, which yields between 10 and 15 gallons. He keeps a portion of it and gives much of it away as Christmas presents.
"That's what he says, at least," Nicholas said.
Nugent and his 25-year-old son, Christopher, both turned themselves in at magistrate court Friday and pleaded guilty. Christopher pleaded to possessing more than 15 grams of marijuana, also a misdemeanor.
Nugent allegedly has been cooking the 'shine at home for about 25 years, with a recipe that has been passed down over three generations.
Nichols said the still arrest was "short and sweet. I wasn't there for the still, it just fell in my lap.
"I've been here 12 years, and it's the first moonshine still I've encountered in the field. You know it's out there, but you don't ever know where it's coming from."
Part of that, Nichols said, is because many of the people who brew homemade 'shine are "old-timers. These aren't people that usually have run-ins with the law."
Nugent has three adult sons and Nichols is sure he is passing down the recipe to his kids.
"I mean, the marijuana plants were four feet from the still," Nichols said. "It's not like it was a secret he was brewing it."
In August, Senior Trooper L.W. Price was sent to an apartment on Big Tyler Road in Cross Lanes regarding a stolen gun complaint. While he was there, Price noticed there were two big carboys full of alcohol mash, a product made from corn, rye or wheat that is used to make bourbon or whiskey.
"They were corked off and I saw a lot of copper tubing," Price said. "We got to looking and found a whole bunch of stuff, so I went ahead and charged him."
Adam Walker, who was 20 at the time he was arrested and not legally allowed to drink the homemade moonshine he was allegedly brewing, was charged with felony unlawful operation of manufacturing distilled spirits.