Where did the term moonshine come from and why?
- MOONSHINE is a term often used to describe stronger-than-usual alcoholic drinks and can be traced back to the Prohibition era of the 1930s. Drinks labelled as ‘Moonshine‘ are often still mimicked and served in the southern states, while the word has often been closely associated with the world of NASCAR. But what is moonshine and is it dangerous?
- 1 Does moonshine get stronger as it ages?
- 2 How strong is real moonshine?
- 3 When was moonshining at its peak?
- 4 What percentage was moonshine?
- 5 Does opened moonshine go bad?
- 6 What is the best fruit to put in moonshine?
- 7 What proof is moonshine if it burns blue?
- 8 How strong is 80 proof moonshine?
- 9 How can you tell if moonshine is poisonous?
- 10 What proof is moonshine usually?
- 11 What is the strongest alcohol?
- 12 How did bootleggers get alcohol?
- 13 What is the highest proof moonshine you can buy?
- 14 Is Everclear stronger than moonshine?
- 15 How much is a gallon of moonshine worth?
- 16 How Moonshine Works
- 17 Tim Smith Moonshine – History of Shine
- 18 Moonshiners, Bootleggers, and Rumrunners
- 19 How is Moonshine Made?
- 20 1920’s Moonshine days
- 21 Moonshine
- 22 How Moonshine Bootlegging Gave Rise to NASCAR
- 23 Local History: Franklin County – The Moonshine Capital
- 24 The Fine Art of Moonshine – The History of Moonshining
Does moonshine get stronger as it ages?
While moonshine doesn’t go bad, there is no true benefit in storing this tasty drink. The flavor or characteristics of your moonshine won’t improve over time because the spirits aren’t exposed to wood that can alter its taste. It will taste exactly the same way after many years of storage.
How strong is real moonshine?
Moonshine is usually distilled to 40% ABV, and seldom above 66% based on 48 samples. For example a conventional pot stills commonly produce 40% ABV, and top out between 60-80% ABV after multiple distillations. However, ethanol can be dried to 95% ABV by heating 3A molecular sieves such as 3A zeolite.
When was moonshining at its peak?
The history of moonshine is long and interesting, beginning in the 18th century, rising to its peak popularity in the 1920s, and continuing up until the present day.
What percentage was moonshine?
During prohibition, unregulated moonshine wasn’t only dangerously high in alcohol content (at about 75 percent ABV ); it was also cut with a number of unsafe ingredients to make the drink pack more of a wallop, including bleach, rubbing alcohol, manure, and even paint thinner (via How Stuff Works).
Does opened moonshine go bad?
The sealed and packed bottles can be stored in the freezer and last for approximately two years. Once opened, even though stored in the refrigerator, they can safely last for only two months at a time. Storing moonshine in the refrigerator helps in retaining the freshness and vitality of the drink.
What is the best fruit to put in moonshine?
But you can subdue its potent taste by flavoring it with almost any fruit, including watermelon, peach, strawberry, raspberry, apple, lime or lemon. Just remember to add your fruit of choice while making the moonshine in order to avoid reducing the alcohol content.
What proof is moonshine if it burns blue?
At 128 proof, it’s clear, clean and exactly what moonshine should be. Purity and perfection are the name of the game when it comes to Ole Smoky®Blue Flame Moonshine.
How strong is 80 proof moonshine?
So a spirit that is labelled “80 Proof” is 40% alcohol. “Proof” is a historical measure of the amount of alcohol (ethanol) in a alcoholic product, and is equivalent (in the U.S.) to double the percentage by volume. So a spirit that is labelled “80 Proof” is 40% alcohol.
How can you tell if moonshine is poisonous?
How to Test for Purity. Folklore tells us one way to test the purity of moonshine is to pour some in a metal spoon and set it on fire. 6 If it burns with a blue flame it is safe, but if it burns with a yellow or red flame, it contains lead, prompting the old saying, “Lead burns red and makes you dead.”
What proof is moonshine usually?
What Proof is Moonshine Usually? With a reputation for being notoriously potent, moonshine is known for having a strong “kick” to it. When it comes to what proof moonshine is, the figure usually hovers around 150 proof, which is about 75 percent alcohol. This number can vary and depends on a lot of different factors.
What is the strongest alcohol?
Here are 14 of the strongest liquors in the world.
- Spirytus Vodka. Proof: 192 (96% alcohol by volume)
- Everclear 190. Proof: 190 (95% alcohol by volume)
- Golden Grain 190.
- Bruichladdich X4 Quadrupled Whiskey.
- Hapsburg Absinthe X.C.
- Pincer Shanghai Strength.
- Balkan 176 Vodka.
- Sunset Very Strong Rum.
How did bootleggers get alcohol?
It is believed that the term bootlegging originated during the American Civil War, when soldiers would sneak liquor into army camps by concealing pint bottles within their boots or beneath their trouser legs.
What is the highest proof moonshine you can buy?
What Is The Highest Proof Moonshine. The highest proof moonshine you can make using distillation will be 191 proof (95.5% ABV).
Is Everclear stronger than moonshine?
Moonshine is only truly spirits that are made illicitly. Everclear is simply a high proof spirit that is commercially made. Of course, as it is often labelled as moonshine or used in lieu of moonshine in many popular moonshine recipes, many want to try Everclear. With 95% alcohol content, Everclear is very potent.
How much is a gallon of moonshine worth?
It costs around $8 per gallon for the sugar and wheat to make the moonshine. The selling price is around $25 a gallon if sold in bulk, or $40 for retail price.
How Moonshine Works
There needs to be a compelling reason for going through all of the bother of manufacturing moonshine in the first place. Several factors contributed to this, but they all boil down to one thing: government control of the alcoholic beverage industry. Moonshining was practiced very early in the history of the United States. A short time after the Revolution, the United States found itself in the difficult position of having to pay for the costs of fighting a protracted war. The answer was to impose a federal tax on alcoholic beverages and spirits.
As a result, they decided to just continue creating their own whisky while fully disregarding the government tax.
It was possible for farmers to survive a difficult year by distilling their maize into lucrative whiskey, and the additional revenue made a tough frontier living practically tolerable.
When federal agents (known as ” Revenuers “) came around to collect the tax, they were assaulted, and some were tarred and feathered, according to the report.
- President George Washington convened an assembly of militiamen under federal authority at the request of the president.
- In the case of the Whisky Rebellion, it was the first significant test of federal power for the newly formed federal government.
- Because excise duties on alcoholic beverages did not disappear, moonshiners continued to have an incentive to operate outside the law.
- As the government attempted to collect the excise tax in order to support the Civil War, the intensity of these fights increased in the 1860s.
- The moonshiners’ tactics became increasingly desperate and vicious as time went on, frightening residents who might be able to provide information about the locations of stills and attacking IRS inspectors and their families.
- As the United States entered the twentieth century, the temperance movement, which aimed to prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages, gained momentum.
- In 1920, Prohibition became law in the United States.
All of a sudden, there was no legal alcoholic beverage accessible.
Moonshiners were unable to keep up with demand, resulting in the production of cheaper, sugar-based moonshine as well as watered-down moonshine as a result.
Asspeakeasies became built in every city as organized crime flourished – these secret saloons were equipped with concealed doors, passwords, and escape routes in the event that the “Feds” arrived there to perform a raid.
Although moonshine remained to be a concern for federal authorities throughout the 1960s and 1970s, today’s courts handle only a small number of cases involving unlawful alcoholic beverages.
As a result, while several counties in the southern and midwestern United States remained “dry” (i.e., alcohol-free) for decades following the end of national Prohibition, even those localized liquor laws have mostly been abolished.
One of the primary reasons for the existence of moonshining is the desire to defy the authority of the federal government.
Tim Smith Moonshine – History of Shine
Moonshine is a general term that refers to any type of alcoholic beverage that is produced in secret in order to evade excessive taxes or prohibitions on alcoholic beverages. The word “moonshine” was coined in the United Kingdom. When it was first coined, the term “moonshining” referred to any action that was carried out in the dark of the night by the light of the moon. Moonshine is made from a few simple ingredients: maize meal, sugar, yeast, and water. The formula for whiskey is quite similar to that of rum.
When you buy a bottle of whiskey off the shelf at your local liquor shop, it has been matured for years in charred oak barrels, which gives it its amber color and mellow flavor profile.
Due to the fact that it is bottled and sold directly from the still, it is clear and has a stronger kick.
This moonshine will have a tinted look as a result of the fruit that has been used in its preparation.
Moonshiners, Bootleggers, and Rumrunners
Operators of illegal whiskey stills conducted their operations at night in order to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities; as a result, they were dubbed “Moonshiners” by the public. Bootleggers were the individuals that Moonshiners used to convey their illicit alcoholic beverages to their customers. The word “bootlegger” stems from colonial times when smugglers traveled on horseback with their alcoholic beverages disguised in their tall riding boots, thus the name. During the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, bootleggers exchanged their horses for automobiles.
NASCAR was created as a result of this obsession with automobiles and speed.
Rumrunners are essentially the same as bootleggers, with the exception that they transport their contraband via the water, employing swift vessels with disguised cargo hold compartments.
How is Moonshine Made?
Fermentation and distillation are the two processes that are used in the production of alcohol. Yeast fermentation is a chemical event that takes place when sugar is broken down by the yeast. One of the byproducts of this process is alcohol. Evaporating the alcohol at 172 degrees Celsius and collecting the steam before condensing it back into liquid form is the process of distillation. The Distillation Process for Moonshine: Step-by-Step Instructions:
- Corn meal is made by grinding it up. Most commercial hog feed is composed of maize, and it is inexpensive and easy to obtain without drawing too much notice. Corn meal is steeped in hot water in the still before being infused with other ingredients to make whiskey. Sugar is occasionally added, although traditional moonshiners use malt to convert the starch in the maize meal into sugar, which is a process that takes time. It is next necessary to add the yeast, which kick-starts the fermentation process. This combination, known as mash, is well churned before being cooked in the still for a certain period of time. When making bourbon, copper is often used for the still and all metal piping since it transmits heat effectively and does not contaminate the alcohol. A heat source is utilized to get the mash temperature up to around 172 degrees Fahrenheit. Stills have been heated using wood, coal, and even steam in the past, but today’s stills are generally heated with propane gas
- At this point, the alcohol is completely evaporated. As the pressure in the still develops, the alcohol steam is driven via the cap arm, which is a pipe that comes out of the top of the still
- The steam then travels into the thump keg, which is just a barrel into which the steam is forced to the bottom as the pressure in the still builds. In honor of the thumping sound generated by the steam being driven under the level of alcohol in the barrel, the thump keg was given this name. At this stage, the proof of the alcohol steam is doubled
- The steam continues into the worm, which is a coiled piece of pipe that spirals along the interior of the worm box
- And the steam continues into the worm. Water is poured into the top of the worm box from a nearby water source and then expelled through the bottom of the crate or barrel, which is known as a worm chamber. This keeps the worm immersed in cold water that is continually moving, which helps to condense the alcohol vapour into liquid. When the worm’s end is reached, the alcohol drains into a pail or container. A proving barrel is then used to equalize the quantity of alcohol in the moonshine and mix it to get the correct proof. The clear liquid that results from this process is ready to be packaged or jarred and sold.
1920’s Moonshine days
This occurred in the early spring of 1920, after World War I had ended, and the 18th Amendment (prohibition of the manufacturing, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages) had taken effect on January 10th of the same year. Dad Joe A. Studer and his wife Margaret (Dowling) Studer relocated to a farm 2 1/2 miles south of the Mayhew Lake church and store, where they raised their family. The Sartell Brothers of Sartell, Minnesota, were the owners of the property. It had previously been utilized by the Sartell Brothers to house horses employed in the operation of their logging and saw mill businesses before Joe A.
- In total, the farm was 280 acres, which included a magnificent white two-story home, a massive red barn, around 100 acres of tillable land, vast pastures and meadows, and a creek that ran through them.
- The Sartell brothers decided to provide their father with a Fordson tractor and a Kovar springtooth harrow in order to bring the property back in shape for planting.
- Both Robert and Joseph commented that it had been a very rainy spring and summer, which had resulted in crop failure in their respective fields.
- “With such a large family, dad had to do something to keep the wolf away from the entrance,” Robert recounted.
- Dad traveled to Avon in order to witness the procedure (still, etc.) When he returned, he had the moonshine-making instructions and recipe in his possession.
- Andy Engle, father’s brother-in-law, created the copper still (who worked at Ladners Hardware Store which was located on the corner of 6th Avenue South and St.
- Cloud.) Dad required assistance with the procedure, but his oldest son, James, expressed a reluctance to take part in the project.
The moonshine formula was believed to have been employed previously by a big distiller that has since gone out of business.
Using a clean wood 50-gallon vinegar barrel, the ingredients were placed in the barrel and filled halfway with warm water.
The liquid from the mash was filtered into the cooking still, which was a pure copper wash boiler with a copper dome soldered onto the top.
A copper goose neck was used to attach copper tubing that was coiled into an oak 50-gallon barrel (the tubing protruded from the bottom of the barrel), and the barrel was maintained full of cold water at all times.
Three times, sugar, yeast, and water may be added to the remaining rye, prunes, and other ingredients in the barrel to complete the process.
Orange and lemon juice were used to flavor and color the cake, which was then reduced to a light syrup by simmering for many hours.
Dad and Robert made up camp in the pasture along the Mayhew Creek, surrounded by undergrowth.
Robert stated that the procedure went quite well (things were going pretty fast).
It was required to relocate the operation from time to time, constantly following the creek’s path.
Because the mash barrels were full with mash and fermenting, a cart and a team were required to transport them because they were quite heavy.
They covered the wheels in burlap sacks to dampen the noise and connected the but chains together with bailing wire to keep them from rattling.
Wintertime operations were carried out in the basement of the home, and as Joseph explained, “there was no need to be concerned about the feds raiding because there were no snow plows in those days, and individuals who owned a car placed the car up on blocks in a shed.” During the winter, horses and sleds were used for transportation.
- Dad came to the conclusion that he needed to make a change.
- George agreed to allow us to open up shop there, which provided cover for the operation.
- Dan Krieg was the sheriff of Benton County and a close friend of my father’s.
- Dan Krieg would then warn his father to move quickly and cover up the operation’s details.
- On one occasion, they discovered that Dad was in possession of more moonshine than was necessary for personal consumption, and he was fined a couple hundred dollars.
- We were approaching dusk, and our dog began barking and snarling at them.
- ‘We kids shouted them some choice names, and then we ran with some of the feds behind us, so we raced for an iron pile behind a shed, and boy did we giggle when they went into it, and boy did they swear, and then they left the property,’ Robert recounts.
When the federal agents were searching the residence, Joseph told them of another raid.
She managed to outfox them by playing the piano the entire time.
In a warm location, a 20-gallon charred oak keg was used to age the whiskey for one year.
The barn was brimming with hay, and the warmth from the animals provided an ideal environment for maturing.
He took some full kegs and wrapped them in burlap sacks, covered them with canvas, and then filled them with horse dung to age the whiskey faster.
This whiskey was just as delicious (or perhaps better, according to some) than one-year-old matured whiskey.
They made a map in order to locate their way back to the jugs.
They had a good recipe, but they didn’t maintain their equipment clean, or anything else like that.
Dad always produced high-quality moonshine, which resulted in a high number of return clients.
They included Benton County Commissioner Galenault, County Sheriff Dan Krieg, St.
Cloud, Chas Bellmont, Bill Hohn, and Policeman “Spuds,” all of Sauk Rapids, as well as a large number of store owners and bootleggers from the Twin Cities and the surrounding areas.
When Aunt Mayme got anxious about our operation, a good thing came to a screeching end.
We purchased it at a deep discount and resold it (hum, retail) for a lengthy period of time.
When the 18th Amendment was repealed, Dad was overjoyed, as was everyone else.
If you were found, you would face a huge fine or, even worse, time in Leavenworth Prison, as numerous farmers from this region have already experienced.
The historic Studer still was donated to the Benton County Historical Society on April 29, 1988, by Joseph M.
The Benton County Historical Society is located at 218 1 Street North, Box 245, Sauk Rapids, MN 56379.
For more information, visit their website. Joseph A. Studer was the subject of a story written about him by his sons Robert J. and Joseph M. Studer. These family sagas were compiled into one book. After that, Richard E. Studer rewrote the script. Gina Studer-Hunt was in charge of the editing.
In North Carolina, moonshine, a type of illicit, untaxed whiskey made by the “light of the moon,” has been a part of folklore and culture for hundreds of years. North Carolinians have been involved in the production of unbonded whiskey for centuries, from the eastern swamps and pocosins to the state’s remote mountain coves. Unbonded whiskey has been known by various names, including mountain dew, blockade, white liquor, white lightning, corn liquor, popskull, stumphole whiskey, forty-rod, and shine, among others.
An entire lexicon developed around the practice of moonshining as time proceeded.
By the early twentieth century, a bootlegger was officially the seller of illegal alcoholic beverages, a moonshiner was technically the manufacturer of illicit alcoholic beverages, and those who delivered the product were referred to as “runners” or “blockaders.” However, these responsibilities frequently overlapped, with moonshiners delivering their own products and runners selling some of their own as well.
Revenuers were law enforcement officers who attempted to apprehend moonshiners and confiscate their equipment.
Before the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, bootleggers traveled on regular routes, much like milkmen, carrying whiskey in saddlebags and hot water bottles to residents of their respective neighborhoods.
However, it was the solitary stills of the rural South that gave birth to the life and mythology most associated with moonshine, which arose out of areas such as Dawson County, Ga.; Cocke County, Tenn.; Franklin County, Va.; and Wilkes County, N.C.—once known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” A decent automobile was essential to any successful moonshine business, aside from producing a high-quality product.
- Bootleggers made modifications to their automobiles in order to maximize smuggling room and driving performance as much as possible.
- Box-like traps beneath the seats and a fake back seat with a built-in door may be added to the 1929 Chevrolet touring vehicles to make them more functional.
- In other cases, mechanics even transformed their gasoline tanks into “shine tanks,” in which they concealed up to 35 gallons of whiskey in a phony tank while the actual fuel tank was concealed beneath the floorboards.
- For many years, moonshining was a hugely successful business.
- Moonshiners might lose every third car and cargo and still make a profit, according to some estimates.
- Frequently, the agents themselves drove automobiles that they had seized from bootleggers.
- Two-by-six boards with many huge nails buried in them would be thrown into a road in front of a moonshine automobile, shredding the tires and causing the driver to come to a complete halt.
Although Amos Owens, a native of Cherry Mountain and the famous originator of the enormously renowned “Cherry Bounce,” is widely considered to be the most notorious moonshiner in the state, he is said to have maintained his gentlemanly demeanor.
As soon as they refused, he gave them some Cherry Bounce, which they enthusiastically consumed.
Owens made no move to flee and instead sat calmly, waiting for the agents to restore their faculties of reasoning.
Owens was back on Cherry Mountain the next day, brewing whiskey and entertaining guests who had traveled from far and wide to see him there.
In the bootleggers’ garages of North Carolina, especially on the routes between North Wilkesboro and Charlotte, the sport of auto racing began to take root.
When local Saturday night race events were over, several of the winning entrants were discovered to be transporting illicit liquor the next morning.
During the late 1910s, Moonshine Kate achieved widespread popularity in Georgia with songs like as “The Drinker’s Child,” setting the stage for the development of a thriving business of bootlegger songsters.
In the literature on moonshine, there is a significant body of work that is certain to grow in the twenty-first century as the actual practice of moonshining is displaced by trafficking in other contraband and bootlegging is pushed back into the realms of romantic nostalgia.
In fact, even as late as the early 2000s, Stokes Countywhite liquor has gained popularity in the non-backwoods, apparently sophisticated Research Triangle area of central North Carolina, where it was formerly illegal.
Moonshine: A Life in Pursuit of White Liquor is a book written by Alec Wilkinson (1985).
“North Carolina Moonshine: A Survey of Moonshine Culture 1900-1930,” published in 1997, is a survey of moonshine culture in North Carolina.
Image credit: Moonshiner’s cave, unknown year and location in North Carolina. N 81 10 40 is a negative from the General Negative Collection at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Available beginning on July 9, 2012).
How Moonshine Bootlegging Gave Rise to NASCAR
Piranka/iStock Former distillers gathered in secret sites in rural sections of the southern United States to produce homemade spirits for sale beneath the radar and away from alcohol taxes and prohibition. This was even before Prohibition was repealed. The beverages were prepared under the light of the moon in the hopes that no one would see the smoke rising from the stills and thereby bust the operation—a technique that gave the liquor the nickname “moonshine” for its association with the moon.
- Farmers and immigrants throughout the southern United States began producing their own batches of products to sell for additional money, free of tax, in order to combat the impacts of great poverty in the area.
- In Kentucky, there is still an original moonshine still on exhibit.
- On the outside, the automobiles seemed “stock,” or ordinary enough to avoid drawing notice.
- In order to prevent the jars carrying the booze from shattering while traveling down rocky mountain roads, the trucks were equipped with heavy-duty shocks and springs.
- Furthermore, high-powered engines provided the automobiles with an advantage in terms of speed, allowing them to avoid any cops or tax officers who may have been on the road.
This group of drivers became well-known for their high-speed reckless driving, inventing maneuvers like the bootleg turn, in which the drivers would quickly turn the car around in a controlled skid, either to avoid pursuing officers or to play a game of chicken with them, driving head-on at full speed until the pursuer suddenly changed course.
- Because of the end of Prohibition, the market for bootlegged booze began to dwindle, and the runners found themselves with souped-up automobiles but still bereft of work—despite the fact that they continued to participate in organized races.
- The first official race was held two months after the first practice run.
- Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works North Carolina Moonshine, published by Arcadia Publishing in January, is a book on the Tar Heel State’s part in the history of firewater.
- Secret garages are mentioned in the book, including one tucked away in a wooded area near the North Carolina-Virginia state boundary that was established in the 1930s and focused on moonshine automobiles.
and Barbara Nichols Mulder argue that “this shop was handled for more than 35 years by a cunning, huge, and crafty technician named Jelly Belly, who serviced moonshine runners from far and wide with powerful automobiles that were practically untouchable.” In contemporary times, the garage is long gone, but archaeologists and anthropologists may still discover relics of moonshine operations hidden away in little nooks alongside rivers and in caves throughout Appalachia and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
- They can be difficult to locate, and it can be practically impossible to identify whether the debris is in fact an antique still or simply a mound of garbage and scrap metal in certain cases.
- Dawsonville, Georgia hosts the Mountain Moonshine Festival.
- A number of legendary NASCAR drivers visit this event to meet and greet their fans, and the organizers have assembled one of the country’s greatest collections of actual moonshine-hauling vehicles.
- The entire event is in support of Kare for Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of local children.
- This Georgia distillery was founded by a real moonshining family from the surrounding region.
- Visitors will not be able to purchase the spirit on site, but they will be able to take a tour and sample it.
- /SinisterMedia/iStock Millions of gallons of moonshine were transported from the mountains to the city of Atlanta by bootleggers in Dawson County, Georgia, during prohibition.
- Hikers travelling to the county’s Amicalola Falls, a spectacular cascading 729-foot cascade, may view the wreckage of a 1940s bootlegger truck that slid off the road and down a 200-foot hill, slamming into a stand of poplar trees, which is now a nature preserve and museum.
- In order to see the crash, take the main route to the falls and look up and to the right approximately halfway down the trail.
- Hickory Nut Gorge in North Carolina FotoMonkee/iStock Inside this fissure cave in Hickory Nut Gorge, the crew at Chimney Rock State Park has built up a duplicate still and whiskey business, named Moonshiner’s Cave, to commemorate the park’s founding.
- A cave identical to this one, which is supposed to contain the remains of a genuine still, may be located near Moonshiner’s Arch in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.
Hikers may also stop at another moonshiner’s shelter, this one in Arkansas’ Devil’s Den State Park, which is a stone structure carved into a rock overhang by distillers in the early 1900s. AlcoholCarsProhibition Sports Travel Videos That Should Be Watched
Local History: Franklin County – The Moonshine Capital
The era of illicit moonshine production is long gone. Are they, or aren’t they? If you travel to Franklin County, you will be visiting “the moonshine capital of the world” as well as “the wettest county on the planet.” Virginia now allows for the production of distilled spirits, although this requires the acquisition of a license and the payment of taxes. Follow along and learn a little something about bootlegging’shine as we go across the highlands and valleys of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Distilleries in Franklin County, including Twin Creeks Distillery, the Blue Ridge Institute Museum, and the Franklin County Historical Society
Legal Now and Legal Then
Like a broken relationship, the legalization of alcoholic beverages has been on and off for a long time. Actually, distillation is more about tax avoidance than it is about being against the law. According to the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, “The United States collected an excise tax on alcoholic beverages from 1791 to 1802, and then again from 1813 to 1817.” The tax on alcoholic beverages was collected from 1791 to 1802 and again from 1813 to 1817. During the following 45 years, alcohol was exempt from taxation, but in the midst of the Civil War, Congress approved yet another whisky tax.” In that period (1861-1865), the liquor tax reached $2 per gallon, which was “up to 12 times the real cost of producing a gallon of whiskey,” according to historians.
There were 77 licensed distilleries in Franklin County alone in 1893-94.”
But Then, Prohibition
Virginia became the first state to prohibit alcohol three years before the 18th Amendment made nationwide prohibition a reality. That occurred on November 1, 1916. The attempt to curb crime while also protecting the family flopped miserably. Instead, unlawful drinking and the production of illegal alcoholic beverages soared. It has been believed that binge drinking originated during the prohibition era, and chemicals like as creosote and embalming fluid were known to have been put into some batches to enhance the color and strength of the alcohol during that time period.
When you combine that with an increase in crime, it became clear that repeal was coming.
A new department was established in Virginia in March 1934, known as the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
The Great Moonshine Conspiracy of 1935
During Prohibition, it is said that more sugar was supplied to Boones Mill, Virginia, than was delivered to New York City. So, what’s the deal? As a result, sugar is an essential element in the production of hooch. Firewater. White Lightning is a kind of lightning that appears white. Moonshine. Red flags drew revenuers to southwest Virginia, and sugar was eventually purchased by genuine enterprises such as bakeries to serve as a cover for the true activities in the area. Indeed, a significant section of the Franklin County population was engaged with moonshine, even if they were not active in the distillation or distribution of the liquor.
- By the 1930s, Franklin County had become so entwined with the moonshine industry that the county was thrust into the national limelight.
- It was a protracted trial, both in terms of time and number of defendants.
- Twenty of the accused were found guilty out of a total of 23.
- In its defense, the government claimed that officials had received “protection money” from still operators, and that Commonwealth’s Attorney Charles Carter Lee was the one who sparked the investigation.
- Hopkins, Lee was unfairly targeted since he was only obeying orders that came straight from Virginia Governor John Garland Pollard at the time of the incident.
- The scope of bootlegging in Franklin County was revealed by the testimony of 176 witnesses during the 1935 trial, which was held at the county courthouse.
- It was estimated that authorities in Floyd County alone destroyed 3,909 stills, made 1,669 arrests, and seized more than 716 automobiles containing a total of 130.717 gallons of alcohol during Prohibition, according to the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum.
- Since then, there have been several large, prominent busts, the most recent of which happened in 2001.
“Operation Lightning Strike” was responsible for the destruction of two Franklin County stills. During a seven-year period in the 1990s, one of them had generated more than 213,780 gallons of product. The owner-operator of the business was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison.
The Bondurant Boys
The Bondurant Boys, who were depicted in the film “Lawless,” in which Shia LaBeouf portrays Jack Bondurant, were “rumrunners” in Franklin County during the 1930s. The television series “Lawless” is based on the bookThe Wettest County in the Worldby Matt Bondurant, who is the grandson of Jack Bondurant. When asked about his grandpa, the younger Bondurant characterizes him as “an intimidating guy” in a 2012Newsweek piece, adding that he once took stock of a pair of brass knuckles that hung on the wall of his grandfather’s storage room, which he later discovered.
Two of the three were shot, although none of them was seriously injured.
In response to Jack’s interrogation, “he just raised his shirt to reveal the gunshot hole.”
Today’s Franklin County Moonshine
The Bondurant Boys, who were shown in the film “Lawless,” in which Shia LaBeouf portrays Jack Bondurant, were “rumrunners” in Franklin County during the 1930s, according to the film. A portion of “Lawless” is based on the bookThe Wettest County in the Worldby Matt Bondurant, who is the grandson of Jack Bondurant. “Grandpa Jack” Bondurant, according to his grandson, was “an intimidating guy” when the younger Bondurant described him in a 2012 Newsweek piece. He also remembered taking stock of a pair of brass knuckles that hung on the wall of his grandfather’s storage room.
Only one person was killed out of the three that were shot.
When Jack was interrogated, he “just raised his shirt to reveal the gunshot hole,” according to the authorities.
Author:Casey L. Higgins
The Bondurant Boys, as shown in the film “Lawless,” in which Shia LaBeouf portrays Jack Bondurant, were “rumrunners” in Franklin County during the 1930s. “Lawless” is based on the bookThe Wettest County in the World, written by Matt Bondurant, Jack Bondurant’s grandson. When asked about his grandpa, the younger Bondurant characterizes him as “an intimidating guy” in a 2012Newsweek piece, adding that he once took stock of a pair of brass knuckles that hung on the wall of his grandfather’s storage room.
Two of the three were shot, though none of them were seriously injured. The shooting of his grandpa, according to Matt Bondurant, was unknown to the family until his father saw a newspaper story about it. When Jack was interrogated, he “merely raised his shirt to reveal the gunshot hole.”
The Fine Art of Moonshine – The History of Moonshining
It was a simpler time, before railways were established, or before the coal industry and tourists began to alter the environment in significant ways. Independence, vitality, and self-sufficiency were the hallmarks of one’s existence at the time. It was during this time period that the clandestine whiskey industry developed to be a significant source of income for Appalachian mountain people, which explains why it flourished for so long. Men were prepared to put their welfare and even their lives in danger in order to build a still and go through the time-consuming process of distilling whiskey.
- Back in the day, there were numerous different kinds of moonshine whiskey produced: corn, rye, wheat, seed cane, and sugar liquor, with corn being the most often consumed.
- The moonshiners were those who produced little more than a few gallons of whiskey per year and distributed it to trusted friends and family members in exchange for a small fee.
- Modern medicine began to gain root, and corn whiskey, which had previously been an essential element in many folk medicines, was suddenly no longer required to be used.
- Gluttony soon set in, and moonshiners learned how to treble their output and earnings by scrimping on supplies and speeding up the process thanks to big city mindset.
- As the original moonshiners passed away and there was no one to take their place, moonshining became extinct, much like the dinosaurs were extinct before them.
In The Beginning… The History of Moonshining
It is believed that moonshine originated in the Appalachian Mountains of Western Pennsylvania in the 1700s when Scotsmen arrived in the area to settle. Moonshine is known by several other names, including corn squeezins, white lightnin’, ruckus juice, and thump whiskey. They took with them their know-how in still-building, and many Appalachian moonshiners trace their ancestry back to these pioneers. It has been a covert craft since the Revolutionary War when our government began attempting to get what they regarded to be their fair share of home-brewed booze.
Moonshine and the Long Arm of the Law
Despite repeated attempts at external constraint, moonshiners maintained their image as tough survival who lived their lives according to their own rules and regulations. During the Civil War, grain required for the production of corn squeezins was barred from being used for anything other than nourishment, and home distilling was outlawed; nevertheless, this prohibition was difficult to implement. Following the American Civil War, a government tax was imposed on home distilleries. Nevertheless, in order to tax a still, the government must first identify who really owns one, which means they once again ran up against a brick wall and the tax was practically disregarded.
- Some moonshiners got vicious and shared information on one another in order to win a market share from their competitors.
- A decade-long fight ensued, with neither side ever able to entirely eliminate the other from the battlefield.
- This was something they were not going to let the “revenuers” and their volunteers, referred to as “revenue dogs,” to take away from them or tax them out of existence.
- Then came the roaring twenties and Prohibition, during which the government believed it could keep the moon from shining; once again, they were proven incorrect.
- Often, the whiskey produced in the backwoods was delivered to bootleggers in the major cities, allowing the moonshiners to increase their earnings even further.
- As a result of the repeal of Prohibition, local sheriffs were left in charge of arresting moonshiners, placing them in the unpleasant situation of having to arrest people they had known their whole lives.
- In the end, the whiskey was simply poured away, the sugar that was used to produce it was donated to a school or hospital, and the copper from the still was sold to raise money for charity.
The farmer immediately returned to production and began over from the beginning. Friendly ties between law enforcement and blockaders were common; when a sheriff replied to a moonshiner, “I hear you’re farmin’ in the woods,” it was code for telling the farmer to watch his step.
Changing Times in the History of Moonshine
Being a moonshiner got increasingly dangerous and difficult as time went on. Sugar’s price tripled in the 1950s, and because sugar is a major component in some types of alcohol, several distilleries were forced to shut down their operations. The Blue Ridge Parkway was first constructed as a tourist route in the 1930s. Despite the fact that it was used to transport whiskey to Washington, DC, a significant amount of land was required for its construction, and it was extensively guarded. The whiskey trade was significantly reduced as a result of this.
The majority of them would prefer to have a steady job and receive a regular income rather than engage in the difficult and nasty task of moonshining and risk the four-year jail sentence that comes with it.
Although it is no longer regarded the “moonshining capital of the world,” Wilkes County, North Carolina, where much of the initial moon shining took place, is still known as such.
“Pure Corn”: The Moonshine Recipe
There are as many different moonshine recipes as there are different names for the liquor, but the recipe that follows is quite close to the original. In order to get started, you’ll need between nine and nine and one-half bushels of white corn; do not use hybrid or yellow corn in this recipe. Set aside one and a half bushels of the corn to sprout; once the corn has sprouted, it is referred to as malted corn. The day before the malt is ready, crush the remaining eight bushels of maize into a fine powder; this is referred to as mash in this context.
As soon as the mash and malt are ready, place them in your barrels and combine them with water according to your formula, allowing everything to work together until beer is produced.
Moonshine is created when this combination is boiled in a still for a period of time.
This is a simplified version of a much more sophisticated process that is both time-consuming and unpleasant, but you get the general concept.
If You Want Good Whiskey…
Copper should always be used to construct your still since it conducts heat more evenly, the beer will not adhere to it as much, and there is less risk of metal poisoning. Using stills composed of iron and tin may cause the beer to burn, resulting in an off flavor in the end product. If you want to get a larger output from your malt, avoid adding potash and crushed up potatoes. Potash is deadly, yet unscrupulous moonshiners of the past utilized it to make their alcoholic beverages; there’s that greed problem rearing its ugly head again.
When the contents of the still are run through the entire procedure once, this is referred to as a run. Quality should always take precedence over quantity. Make use of the best water you can obtain and make every effort to keep everything in your business as clean as possible.
The Basic Moonshine Still
A variety of moonshine still designs were available, and the design chosen depended on the man and the materials he had on hand. The cap, which is normally a fifty-gallon barrel, is the most important component. The cap is the top third of the still and rests on top of it; it is detachable to allow the still to be refilled after a run. The cap is made of stainless steel. The still itself is a large barrel with a capacity of up to five hundred gallons, which is quite a lot. This is where the heat is generated and where the wood is fed into the fire.
The heat is pulled into and around the bottom section of the still, and then it is expelled by the chimney.
The finest material for the furnace is natural stone with red clay chinking that will solidify over time as a result of the repeated burnings.
These are the fundamental components of a still, with any number of pipes, barrels, and boxes added as each individual saw fit.
Hiding the Still
Back in the day, both the method and the moonshine of the hill people were highly regarded, and blockaders went to considerable pains to conceal their stills. Using a tree that had fallen over a gully and building the still behind it, with additional branches for shelter, was a popular approach. Alternatively, if a moonshiner was fortunate enough to come across an ancient cave, he could seal off the entrance and set up his stillin’ business within. Other methods included finding a vast laurel bush, cutting a chamber out of the middle, and constructing the still within.
- In some cases, they positioned their operations in a dry cove where there was no stream and piped in water from a wet cove higher up, taking care to run the piping underground throughout the entire process.
- Another option was to dig out an underground room large enough to stand in, conceal it with vegetation, and install a trap door with a vent pipe in the ceiling to allow for ventilation.
- Some would run pipes so that the smoke would come out underwater, while others would burn the smoke by piping it out the side of the furnace on the still and recirculating it back into the firebox to keep it hidden from the still.
- Great effort was taken to mask sounds that could be heard for kilometers around in the woods, such as the pounding of a hammer striking metal, for example.
- Hogs were attracted to the maize mash that was used to make whiskey, and precautions had to be taken to prevent them from discovering the distillery and falling into the mash boxes.
The most typical method of locating a still was through the use of an informant. Someone with a grudge or a vendetta against a moonshiner may simply become friends with him and then give him in to the next revenuer who happened to be nosing around.
Moonshining has had to be one of the most intriguing activities that anyone has ever done in their life time. As equally gorgeous and grungy as it is, it certainly attracted people’s attention and may continue to interest them. Those who engage in the practice of stillin’ face severe repercussions, and the task is often considered to be difficult, hot, and nasty. Many of the recipes called for at least 75 pounds of white maize meal, 300 pounds of sugar, a pound of yeast, and 300 gallons of water, all of which were difficult to come by in the hills back then.
However, today’s moonshining, if it is still practiced at all, is a long cry from the beautiful art that it was once considered to be back in the day.
courtesy of Brooks Eliot Wiggington Faculty publication from the Appalachian State University Department of Anthropology, “It’s All Legal Until You Get Caught: Moonshining in the Southern Appalachians,” written by Jason Sumich in 2007.
“Easy Homestead Moonshine,” written by Anthony Okrongly and published on Homestead.org.