Sometime before 1800 Michael Zerkel (Zirkle) established a distillery at his residence near Forestville Virginia. A resident of the area since his arrival in 1755, Zerkel’s decision to distill alcohol was typical. Most farmers of the era produced spirits to help supplement their income.
Michael Zerkel’s distillery proved to be very profitable At the sale of his estate on November 28, 1811 the inventory included 60 bushels of corn, 90 bushes or rye, 200 bushels of wheat, five bushels of dried apples, three barrels of cider, and three barrels of brandy, about 80 gallons of alcohol in total.
At that time, the distillery business passed to Michael’s son Jonathan and then to his grandson Michael J. Zerckel who bought out the rest of his family. He operated the still for many years. A still bill produced by him gives us a recipe for one of the whiskeys he would have produced:
“January 28 1838 Shenandoah County
Virginia Holemans Creek for to still Rye &
Corn first Make you Est take 6 quarts
Boiling Water and than But 2 or 3 galling
Cole watter in you Tup and than 12 galling
watter and than one Bushel Corn meal
and Stior it Ride will and than let stan one
half hour and than take 24 galling and
stur it will and than spret chop over it so
that the thumpt cant gid out and let it
stan til you can live you hand in and than
fil you tup up with coled watter and than
But You Est in it That all what Be Longs to
it for to Mash M.J. Zerckel”
By 1897 this Zirkle distillery had passed into the hands of Peter Estep and Solie P.H. Zirkle. On November of that year it burned but was rebuilt. It closed sometime around 1900.