Categories Moonshine

Why Is It Called Moonshine? (Solved)

The term “moonshine” comes from the fact that illegal spirits were made under the light of the moon. In every part of America, early moonshiners worked their stills at night to avoid detection from authorities. Taxing liquors and spirits was an effective way to generate revenue for the government.

Why is moonshine illegal to distill at home?

  • Moonshine can become tainted with toxic liquids, especially methanol, the form of alcohol reputed to cause blindness and death. Making moonshine also poses obvious risks of fire or explosion. Laws against moonshine may place those who wish to make their own line of commercial brandy or other spirit in a tricky situation.


Why is moonshine illegal?

So why is moonshine still illegal? Because the liquor is worth more to the government than beer or wine. Uncle Sam takes an excise tax of $2.14 for each 750-milliliter bottle of 80-proof spirits, compared with 21 cents for a bottle of wine (of 14 percent alcohol or less) and 5 cents for a can of beer.

What was moonshine originally called?

Moonshine historically referred to ” clear, unaged whiskey”, once made with barley in Scotland and Ireland or corn mash in the United States, though sugar became just as common in illicit liquor during the last century.

What does the name moonshine mean?

Usually containing very high content of alcohol, moonshine is whisky that is distilled illegally at home. The name moonshine originated from the way it was distilled during the night “Using the moon light”.

Where did moonshine originate from?

The term moonshine has been around since the late 15th century, but it was first used to refer to liquor in the 18th century in England. The American roots of the practice (and of modern American whiskey production in general) have their origins in frontier life in Pennsylvania and other grain-producing states.

Why is moonshine called white lightning?

White lightning, a white whiskey made surreptitiously and illegally, was once produced in great quantities in South Carolina. It got its name from its color and the kick it delivers when consumed.

Is moonshine illegal in America?

The production of moonshine — or really any spirit — without a license is prohibited by the U.S. government and is very much illegal. Clear whiskey in the style of moonshine might be for sale, but technically speaking, moonshine is moonshine because it’s produced illicitly.

Is moonshine bad for?

Illegal moonshine remains dangerous because it is mostly brewed in makeshift stills. It can be dangerous on two levels, both during the distilling process and when consuming it.

Is Everclear moonshine?

Both Everclear and Moonshine are unaged spirits; however, Everclear is made from grain and Moonshine from corn. Moonshine is a general term used to describe illegally produced corn whiskey. In summary, Everclear is intended to be water and pure ethanol with no flavor contribution.

What is the strongest alcohol?

Here are 14 of the strongest liquors in the world.

  1. Spirytus Vodka. Proof: 192 (96% alcohol by volume)
  2. Everclear 190. Proof: 190 (95% alcohol by volume)
  3. Golden Grain 190.
  4. Bruichladdich X4 Quadrupled Whiskey.
  5. Hapsburg Absinthe X.C.
  6. Pincer Shanghai Strength.
  7. Balkan 176 Vodka.
  8. Sunset Very Strong Rum.

Is moonshine illegal in UK?

Home brewing of beer and wine is legal in the UK, but distilling of spirits is illegal without a licence.

What popular drink name used to be slang for moonshine?

“Mountain Dew” was originally Southern and/or Scots/Irish slang for moonshine (i.e., homemade whiskey). Using it as the name for the soda was originally suggested by Carl E. Retzke at an Owens-Illinois Inc. meeting in Toledo, Ohio, and was first trademarked by Ally and Barney Hartman in the 1940s.

Do moonshiners still exist?

Moonshine production today comes in many forms. There are still plenty of backwoods blackpot stills throughout the South, the traditional home of illegal liquor production. The operations he sees today are larger and more professional, with more people involved and larger stills, he says.

Why is moonshine so strong?

When made properly, it is simply very strong alcohol with a very hard taste, or “kick,” because it hasn’t been aged. It is usually very potent, as high as 150 proof, which is about 75 percent alcohol.

Is moonshine an American?

Most certainly, moonshine is not an American invention. Moonshine is most accurately defined as a “distilled spirit made illegally.” Like any liquor, moonshine is made by first producing a fermented beverage (a beer or wine).

Who is the most famous moonshiner?

1. Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton. Of course, we wouldn’t be talking moonshine without the man, the myth, the legend, Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton. The most recognized modern moonshiner, good old hillbilly Popcorn Sutton was born in Maggie Valley, North Carolina in 1949.

Moonshine, which is often created from maize, is a kind of whiskey that has not been matured. You would question, though, why it isn’t called maize whiskey or grain whiskey instead. How did the term “moonshine” come to be, which is today a well-known brand of alcoholic beverage? The solution to this question is centered on the unlawful state that is related with the question. In most cases, it has a high concentration of alcohol. Moonshine is whiskey that has been illegally made at a residence.

The term “moonshine” comes from the fact that it was distilled throughout the night “under the light of the moon.”

British Beginnings

The term “moonshining” originated in Britain, where the word “moonshine” was often employed. Originally, this verb referred to any action that took place throughout the night, but when it entered the United States, the meaning of the word changed.

Hard times

  1. Moonshiners began manufacturing their alcoholic beverages illegally at the time that the United States put a high tax on high-distilled spirits produced by its residents in order to pay the Civil War.
  2. The whiskey was not created just for recreational purposes, but also to provide food for families.
  3. Obtaining more revenue was advantageous at the time due to the difficult economic climate.
  4. Paying hefty taxes meant that they had less cash to spend on their families’ food.
  5. Those who worked as moonshiners were also hardworking farmers, and this was unacceptable for them.

Every penny they earned was extremely valuable to them, and they needed to retain it. As a result, they continued to manufacture their alcohol illegally in order to escape the high taxes that they were compelled to pay.

Operations in the Backwoods

The moonshiners proceeded to conduct their operations in the depths of the backwoods, where it would be difficult to detect them in order to escape being apprehended by the police. The only source of light available to them because they were working late into the night to make their whiskey was the moonlight. Hence, moonshine became the term for the spirit.

Is Moonshine Just Whiskey Made of Corn?

When the term “moonshine” is uttered, the first thing that springs to mind is whiskey that has not been matured and is manufactured from corn mash. This is somewhat correct, however any illegally produced alcoholic beverage is referred to as moonshine. They began manufacturing alcohol batches with white sugar instead of the traditional corn mash in order to make a more affordable product and generate more profits for their customers. This, however, was not whiskey, but rather rum. Occasionally, grains were swapped out for fruits as well.

Moonshine was the name given to this alcoholic beverage since it was created illegally and late at night under the influence of the moonlight.

Is There Moonshine That Is Legal?

  1. The United States government approved spirit distillation for a small number of designated distillers in certain places, allowing them to produce and sell moonshine lawfully.
  2. Then there’s the great question: is the legalized alcohol still referred to as moonshine, despite the fact that the word moonshine is used to refer to alcohol that has been unlawfully distilled?

Although the moonshine seen in shops has been legalized, the processes and formulas used in distilling the illicit moonshine have remained the same, resulting in the same product with the same experience, and therefore the word “moonshine” has been retained.

What Else Is Moonshine Called?

Moonshine is referred to by a variety of different names in addition to the word “moonshine,” which is the most often used term. A short sampling of names that you may have heard previously is presented below. Check to see if you can identify any of them:

  • The alley bourbon
  • The white lightning
  • The bush whiskey
  • The donkey punch
  • The skull cracker
  • The wild cat
  • The mountain dew
  • The hooch
  • And many more things.
    The cool water
  • The branch water
  • The jet fuel
  • The mule kick
  • The cat daddy
  • The rotgut
  • The pop skull
  • The white dog
  • The hillbilly pop
  • And many more
  • The cool water
  1. Moonshine is a kind of whiskey manufactured from grain, often maize, that has not been matured.
  2. As a result, why isn’t it simply referred to as “grain whiskey,” “corn whiskey,” or “unaged whiskey”?
  3. How did it come to have such a distinctive name that is now well recognized throughout the United States and the rest of the world?
  4. It all boils back to the fact that it is unlawful in the first place.
  5. Find out more about its etymology in the section below.

From Britain to America

The term “moonshining” comes from the United Kingdom, where it was used as a verb to describe moonshining. At initially, moonshining was simply defined as engaging in any activity or performing any labor that was performed late at night. However, when the name made its way to the United States, it took on a whole other connotation.

Times Were Tough

When the United States imposed a disproportionately high distilled spirits tax on the sale of whiskey produced by its residents, in part to pay the Civil War, moonshiners began manufacturing their alcoholic beverages illegally to supplement their income. They weren’t creating whiskey as a recreational activity; rather, they were making it to provide for their families. It was a difficult time back then, and any little bit of extra revenue was appreciated.

If they agree to pay the high tax on the sale of their products, they may find themselves with insufficient funds to put food on the table and provide for their family. A situation like this was just untenable for the hard-working farmers who had turned to moonshining. They needed to be able to retain every cent they earned. As a result, they continued to manufacture their booze in secret in order to avoid paying any taxes to the federal government.

Backwoods Operations

  • In order to avoid detection by the police and avoid being apprehended, they began performing their activities deep in the woods, where they would be difficult to track down.
  • After midnight, in complete darkness with only the light of the moon to guide them, they went about their business distilling alcohol.
  • As a result, the name “moonshine” came to be linked exclusively with the illicit alcohol that these moonshiners produced.

Just Corn Whiskey?

When you think of moonshine, you probably think of a clear, unaged whiskey created from corn mash, which is what most people think of. You’d be basically true, but the word is also commonly used to refer to any alcoholic beverage that has been unlawfully produced. During the Prohibition period, there was a high demand for alcoholic beverages, which led to a glut of moonshiners.

As a result, in order to produce a lower-cost product and generate more revenue from their sales, they began producing batches of alcohol using white sugar instead of corn mash, which was technically rum rather than whiskey.

Some people even totally eliminate grains in favor of fruits. However, because all of this alcoholic beverage was produced illegally, late at night, and under the light of the moon, it was collectively referred to as moonshine.

Can There Be Such a Thing as Legal Moonshine?

Select distilleries in specified locations were granted permission to lawfully make and sell’shine when the United States loosened its distilled spirits restrictions a few years back. But, if moonshine is a phrase that refers to any form of alcoholic beverage that is illegally produced and marketed, can it still go by the well-known name? Despite the fact that the “moonshine” sold in shops is legal, the formulas used to create it are the same as those that were previously employed in illicit distillation operations.

As a result, it is the same product and is promoted under the same brand as the illicit items since it gives the same drinking experience as the illegal products.

Alternate Names

  • In addition to its well-known name,’shine has been given a long variety of nicknames or other spellings that have been popular through time.
  • White lightning, mountain dew, alley bourbon, hooch, bush whiskey, cool water, branchwater, catdaddy, donkey punch, hillbilly pop, jet fuel, mule kick, popskull, rotgut, skull cracker, white dog, and wild cat are just a few of the many names for these spirits, which also include mule kick, rotgut, skull cracker, white dog, and wild cat.

Type Whisky
Alcohol by volume At least 40%
Proof (US) At least 80°
Colour Clear
Ingredients Grain, sugar
Related products Bourbon whiskey, Corn whiskey, Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, Rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey

Known as moonshine, this high-proof whiskey has been and continues to be manufactured illegally, without the permission of the government. The term comes from a habit of making alcoholic beverages by night in order to avoid being discovered by law enforcement officers. Outside of a licensed distillery, the production of such beverages is still prohibited in the majority of nations. Recently, commercial manufacturers have begun to label some of their goods as “moonshine,” a term that has become more popular.


  • A variety of monikers are used to describe moonshine in English, including mountain dew, choop (also known as hooch), hooch (also known as homebrew), mulekick (also known as shine), white lightning (also known as white/corn liquor), white/corn whiskey (also known as pass around), firewater (also known as bootleg).
  • Moonshine is known by several names in different languages and nations (see Moonshine by country).

Moonshine stills

In most countries, it is illegal to sell, import, or own a moonshine still unless you have authorization from the government. However, guidelines produced by home brewing aficionados and published on local brewery forums that explain where to find inexpensive equipment and how to build it into a still are frequently found. Stainless steel vessels are frequently replaced by plastic (e.g., polypropylene) vessels that can tolerate high temperatures in order to save costs. However, the principle of plastic remains the same.

  • It is possible to reach a vapor alcohol level of 95 percent ABV using a column or spiral still.
    On the basis of 48 samples, moonshine is typically distilled to 40 percent ABV and is seldom higher than 66 percent ABV. For example, ordinary pot stills typically generate 40 percent alcohol by volume and reach a peak of 60-80 percent alcohol by volume after numerous distillations. The ethanol, on the other hand, may be dried to 95 percent alcohol by heating 3A molecular sieves, such as 3A zeolite.

Evaporation stills

A plastic still is a distillation equipment that is specifically designed for the separation of ethanol from water. Plastic stills are capable of producing vapor alcohol with a level of 40 percent ABV. Plastic stills are popular for homebrewing moonshine due to the fact that they are inexpensive and simple to construct. Essentially, a smaller volume of liquid is placed in an open smaller vessel inside a bigger vessel that is sealed. This is the basic concept.

The liquid is preserved at around 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) by an immersion heater, which causes it to gently evaporate and condense on the inner walls of the outer vessel. It is possible to guide the condensation that collects at the bottom of the jar to the bottom of the vessel by using an activated carbon filter.

Because the finished result contains nearly double the amount of alcohol found in the beginning liquid, the process can be repeated many more times to produce an even stronger distillate. The approach is labor-intensive and inefficient, making it unsuitable for large-scale production.

Boiling stills

  1. Washing
  2. Steaming
  3. Liquid removal
  4. Vaporizing alcohol
  5. Components that have been recycled and are less volatile
  6. The most volatile components
  7. The condenser
  1. *Steam is used to pre-heat the columns on both sides.
  2. A column still, also known as a continuous still, patent still, or Coffey still, is a type of still that is made up of two columns that are connected together.
  3. A column still is capable of producing vapor alcohol with a concentration of 95 percent ABV.
Spiral still

A spiral still is a form of column still that has a basic slow air-cooled distillation equipment that is widely used for bootlegging and other illegal activities. The column and cooler are made of a copper tube that is 5 feet (15 meters) long and twisted in a spiral pattern. The tube is initially raised to serve as a basic column, and then lowered to chill the substance being processed. Cookware is often comprised of a 30-litre (6.6 imperial gal; 7.9 US gal) wine bucket made of polypropylene (pp). Typically, a 300W dip heater is used as the heat source.

Spiral burners are popular because, despite their simplicity of construction and low manufacturing costs, they can produce 95 percent ABV despite their low production costs.

Pot still

This kind of distillation device or still is used to distill flavored spirits such as whiskey or cognac, but not rectified spirits since they are ineffective at extracting congeners from the distillate. Pot stills are used for batch distillation, as opposed to continuous distillation (as opposed to a Coffey or column stills which operate on a continuous basis). Pot stills, which are traditionally made of copper, are available in a variety of forms and sizes, depending on the quantity and kind of spirit being produced.

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Geographical differences in still design are evident, with particular stills becoming increasingly popular in Appalachian regions. Spirits produced in pots typically have an alcoholic content of 40 percent and reach a peak of 60 to 80 percent after numerous distillations.


  • Improperly manufactured moonshine can be polluted, mostly as a result of the materials used in the building of the still.
  • Vehicle-based stills that use vehicle radiators as condensers can be particularly hazardous;
  • in some situations, glycol generated by antifreeze might pose a health threat.
  • Radiators that are used as condensers may also contain lead at the points where they connect to the plumbing.
  • These procedures frequently resulted in blindness or lead poisoning in people who drank polluted liquor as a result of their use.

This was a problem during Prohibition, when many people died as a result of taking harmful chemicals. Consumption of lead-tainted moonshine is a significant risk factor for saturnine gout, a painful but curable medical illness that affects the kidneys and joints and is associated with a high mortality rate. Despite the fact that methanol is not created in dangerous quantities by the fermentation of sugars from grain starches, contamination can nevertheless occur when unscrupulous distillers use low-cost methanol to raise the perceived strength of the beverage.

It is possible to make moonshine more appetizing while also making it potentially less harmful by removing the “foreshot,” which is the initial few ounces of alcohol that drips from the condenser. The fact that methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than ethanol leads to the widespread belief that the foreshot contains the vast majority of the methanol present in the mash (if any). However, according to study, this is not the case, and methanol may be found in the product until the very end of the distillation process.

  • Despite this, distillers will often continue to collect foreshots until the temperature of the still exceeds 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Aside from that, the head that follows immediately following the foreshot is frequently contaminated with trace levels of other undesirable substances, such as acetone and other aldehydes.
  • Fusel alcohols are another type of undesired byproduct of fermentation that is found in the “aftershot,” and which is normally discarded as a result of this.

At greater strengths (concentrations above 24 percent ABV are considered harmful by the Global Harmonized System), alcohol concentrations are flammable and hence dangerous to handle.

As a matter of fact, if proper ventilation is not given during the distillation process, vaporized alcohol can collect in the air to dangerous levels.

Adulterated moonshine

The use of impure moonshine has been shown to greatly increase the risk of kidney illness in people who consume it on a regular basis, principally as a result of the high lead level. When methanol is used to adulterate moonshine, it has been known to cause outbreaks of methanol poisoning (bootleg liquor).


Shaking a transparent container of the distillate can provide a rapid estimate of the alcoholic strength, or proof, of the distillate (the ratio of alcohol to water) in a few seconds. When there are many large bubbles that dissolve quickly, this indicates that the alcohol concentration is high, whereas smaller bubbles that disappear more slowly suggest a lower alcohol content. The use of an alcoholmeter or a hydrometer is a more reliable means of testing.

When determining the potential alcohol percent of moonshine during and after the fermenting process, a hydrometer is utilized, whereas an alcoholmeter is used after the product has been distilled to ascertain the volume percent or proof.


  • A typical jar of moonshine is shown here.
  • It was formerly mistakenly thought that the presence of a blue flame indicated that the water was safe to drink.
  • A popular folk test for the quality of moonshine was to pour a tiny amount of it onto a spoon and then light it on fire to see how it turned out.

Apparently, a safe distillate burns with a blue flame, but an unclean distillate burns with a yellow flame, according to this theory: This simple test was also used to determine whether or not lead was present in the distillate, which resulted in a crimson flame when a radiator coil was used as the condenser, according to practitioners of the simple test. As a result, the mnemonic “Lead burns red and kills you” or “Red signifies dead” came to be popular.

In addition, other harmful components, such as methanol, cannot be discovered with a simple burn test since methanol flames are blue in color and difficult to spot in natural light.


The Moonshine Man of Kentucky, an image from Harper’s Weekly published in 1877 depicting five episodes from the life of a Kentucky moonshiner, may be found here. Museum exhibit featuring a vintage moonshine distillation apparatus When it comes to illicit booze, moonshine has traditionally been defined as “clear, unaged whiskey,” which was previously manufactured using barley in Scotland and Ireland or corn mash in the United States, however sugar has become just as frequent in the last century.

  1. The term was coined in the British Isles as a result of excise rules, but it only gained significance in the United States after a levy was enacted during the Civil War that prohibited the use of non-registered distilleries.
  2. During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), when the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution enforced a comprehensive prohibition on alcohol manufacture, illegal distillation increased in popularity.
  3. Since the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in 1933, legislation has focused on the evasion of taxation on all types of spirits and intoxicating liquors.

Formerly enforced by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, applicable statutes are now more often handled by state authorities in most cases. Enforcement agents were once referred to as “revenuers,” which was a vernacular term for them.


The first documented usage of the phrase “moonshine” being used to refer to illegal alcoholic beverages dates back to a 1785 edition of Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, which was published in England. The term “moonshine” once applied to anything that was “illusory” or to the physical light emitted by a rising or setting moon.

Consequently, because the United States Government deems the phrase “fanciful term” and does not control its usage on the labels of commercial products, legal moonshines may include any type of spirit, as long as the type of spirit is clearly mentioned elsewhere on the label.


The moonshine distilling process was carried out at night to avoid detection. While moonshiners could be found in both urban and rural locations across the United States during the Civil War, moonshine production centered in Appalachia because the region’s poor road network made it simple to dodge tax collectors and because transporting maize crops was difficult and expensive. According to the findings of a survey of farmers in Cocke County, Tennessee: “If the maize was first transformed into whiskey, it would be possible to carry far more value.

  • One horse could carry 10 times the amount of liquor that it could carry in corn on its back.
  • ” Moonshiners in Harlan County, Kentucky, such as Maggie Bailey, made a living by selling moonshine in order to support their households.
  • Others, such as Amos Owens of Rutherford County, North Carolina, and Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton of Maggie Valley, North Carolina, made a living selling moonshine in the surrounding area.
  • The Discovery Channel broadcasted a documentary on Sutton’s life called “Moonshiners” that chronicled his life.

It was reportedly stated by a bootlegger that the malt (a blend of maize, barley, and rye) is what makes the basic moonshine formula function properly. Although the phrase “moonshine” is no longer in common usage, it nevertheless indicates that the liquor is unlawfully made, and it is often used on the labels of legal products to sell them as delivering a banned drinking experience.

Drivers known as “runners” or “bootleggers,” who transported moonshine and “bootleg” (illegally imported) whiskey around the region in automobiles that had been particularly modified for speed and load-carrying capability, were known as “bootleggers” or “bootleggers.” In appearance, the automobiles were conventional, but on the inside, they had been upgraded with beefier engines, more interior space, and heavy-duty shock absorbers to hold the weight of the illicit booze.

As a result of the repeal of Prohibition, the out-of-work drivers were able to keep their talents sharp by participating in organized races, which resulted in the founding of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). A number of previous “runners” went on to become well-known drivers in the sport.

See also

  • Applejack (drink)
  • Bootleggers and Baptists
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
  • Congener (alcohol)
  • Dixie mafia, farmhouse ale, free beer, homebrewing, Kilju, and other terms.
    Moonshine as depicted in popular culture
    Nip joint, rum-running, and sour mash are all options.

Further reading

  • The image above depicts “cow shoes worn by American moonshiners during the Prohibition era to conceal their tracks, 1924.” 14th of May, 2021, according to Retrieved on the 4th of October, 2021.


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  38. What you need to know about urban moonshining from the Kings County Distillery, including how to create and enjoy whiskey ISBN 1-4197-0990-9
  39. OCLC 843332480
  40. David Haskell, 1979-. New York: Springer-Verlag. Jason Sumich is the author of this work. This article is titled “It’s All Legal, Until You Get Caught: Moonshining in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.” Appalachian State University is located in Boone, North Carolina. On the 21st of March, 2014, I was able to get a hold of
  41. (2012), p. 98–99
  42. Peine Schafft 2012, p. Melissa Block is a writer who lives in the United States (8 December 2005). Maggie Bailey, dubbed the “Queen of the Mountain Bootleggers,” was featured on National Public Radio. Obtainable on the 4th of May, 2015
  43. “Popcorn Sutton Moonshine Recipe” is a recipe for making moonshine from popcorn. whiskey still company a b whiskey still company Cooper, William J.
  44. Terrill, Thomas E. Cooper, William J.
  45. Terrill, Thomas E. (2009). The American South: A History, Volume II (The American South: A History, Volume II) (4th ed.). Published by Rowman & Littlefield in Lanham, Maryland, on page 625 (ISBN 978-0-7425-6097-0)
  46. Jennifer Billock authored the article “How Moonshine Bootlegging Gave Rise to NASCAR.” Smithsonian. Obtainable on April 4, 2019


  • (Spring–Fall 2012) Peine, Emelie K., and Schafft, Kai A., Minnesota 13: “Wet” Wild Prohibition Days (2007) ISBN 978-0-9798017-0-9
  • Davis, Elaine. (Spring–Fall 2007). « Moonshine, Mountaineers, and Modernity: Distilling Cultural History in the Southern Appalachian Mountains» is the title of a research project. Journal of Appalachian Studies, published by the Appalachian Studies Association, volume 18, number 1, pages 93–112. Rowley, Matthew
  • JSTOR 23337709
  • Rowley, Matthew. Moonshine! A History, Songs, Stories, and How-Tos (2007) ISBN 978-1-57990-648-1
  • Watman, Max. Moonshine! A History, Songs, Stories, and How-Tos (2007) ISBN 978-1-57990-648-1 Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine (2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-7024-3
  • Jeff King, Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine (2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-7024-3
  • Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine (2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-7024-3
  • Chasing the White Dog: An The Home Distiller’s Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making Moonshine, Whiskey, Vodka, Rum, and a Ton of Other Spirits! The year is 2012, and the ISBN is 978-1-4699-8939-6.

External links

  • “Moonshine – Blue Ridge Style,” a joint exhibition by the Blue Ridge Institute and the Museum of Ferrum College, is on display through March 31.
    A one-hour Irish documentary film about the beginnings of the craft, Déants an Phoitn (Poteen Making), directed by Mac Dara Curraidhn (produced in 1998), is also recommended.
    North Carolina is a state in the United States. Moonshine – information, photographs, music, and video snippets from the past and present
  • The Alcohol and Drugs History Society maintains a moonshine news page.
    Georgia Moonshine – History and folklore of moonshine in the state of Georgia, United States
  • “Moonshine ‘tempts new generation,'” according to the BBC, when it comes to illicit liquor distillation in the twenty-first century.
    Still from the past: Moonshine in Franklin County, Virginia – Video

“Why is such and such named X, Y, or Z?” is a question that everyone will ask at some point in their lives, and most likely multiple times throughout. Some of the answers are rather simple, such is the fact that pizza is the Italian word for pie.

Other times, the solution isn’t that straightforward. As an illustration, consider the phrase moonshine. It’s possible that the origin and meaning of the phrase are not what you expect, or even what you believe you might know.

England Circa 18th Century

The term “moonshine” as we know it now has its origins in the 18th century in England, when it was first used. Its meaning is derived from the concept of light without heat, or light emitted by the moon, respectively. It referred to illegal or smuggled alcoholic beverages. Moonshiner was a phrase used to denote anyone who engaged in unlawful activities while concealing their identities in the dark. It might refer to any number of crimes, including robbery, burglary, and grave robbing.

America Post-Revolution

  • Following the American Revolution, the United States began taxing alcoholic beverages and spirits in order to assist pay off the debts incurred during the war.
  • Corn had a poor monetary worth, but it had the potential to be transformed into a highly valuable whiskey.
  • Tensions about the additional taxes erupted into the Whiskey Rebellion, which resulted in the mobilization of 13,000 troops to the state of Pennsylvania in response.
  • Jefferson, on the other hand, revoked the tax in 1801.
  • However, this was not a long-lasting effect.
  • By the Civil War, new excise duties had garnered widespread support, and moonshiners were no longer seen as heroes who had defeated their government, but rather as criminals who had committed crimes against the state.
  • Once prohibition was lifted, moonshiners were able to earn a substantial amount of money from their clandestine moonshine operations conducted under the cover of darkness.
  • A interesting history aside, the name moonshine has survived and is now used more frequently than any other phrase to refer to unaged and illegally made spirits, regardless of their origin.
  • Mountain Dew, on the other hand, is excluded because, as many people are unaware, it was originally slang for moonshine long before it became renowned as a neon soda.

Moonshine has a rich history that is as diverse as the many different forms of the spirit itself. The majority of people are aware of the infamous side of the country’s history, yet this uniquely American spirit has many attributes that should be honored today. Do you still not believe us? Here are five interesting facts about this specialized spirit that you probably didn’t know.

1. Not all moonshine is illegal, nor is it dangerous.

Moonshiners have always produced their own booze in order to circumvent compliance with laws, taxes, and regulations. The absence of FDA inspectors to guarantee that safety and quality requirements are fulfilled might result in a product that contains excessive levels of potentially hazardous substances, such as methanol, due to faulty batches or inefficient production practices (such as distilling in vehicle radiators). Consuming methanol can cause the blood to become acidic, which can result in blindness, convulsions, and even death. Of course, many moonshiners in these tiny towns were concerned about maintaining their good reputations among their regular customers, many of whom were friends and neighbors. If their booze was substandard, or if people became ill or died as a result of drinking it, the moonshiner responsible would be forced out of business. Today, the word “moonshine” is still used to denote illicit alcoholic beverages, but it has acquired a new connotation in the distilling industry as a result of recent developments. Because the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) does not have an official definition for moonshine, it is often classified as a “other” or “specialty spirit” under the categorization “other spirits.” According to Colin Blake, Moonshine University’s Director of Spirits Education, “Moonshine continues to be the Wild West of spirits, but not for legal reasons.” As opposed to other spirits, legally manufactured moonshine can be prepared from any source material, at any proof level, with any coloring or flavoring added – the whole shebang. There are no guidelines regarding how it should be classified.” In other words, the “moonshine” name that we see on a variety of spirits today is a movable feast.

It is used to refer to liquor that does not fall into a single category and is used as an all-encompassing word. In other words, the moonshine you buy at your local liquor shop is legal and safe for use under reasonable conditions.

2. A triple X once indicated a moonshine’s quality.

  • You might remember seeing allusions to moonshine in a jug with the letter XXX in it throughout popular culture.
  • Due to the fact that these Xs were formerly used to denote how many times a batch of moonshine had been put through the still in typical DIY fashion, Prior to the invention of current distillation processes and equipment, moonshiners were required to execute three runs in order to get a higher, purer alcohol level – generally much above 80 percent ABV.
  • A batch of beer ended up in a jug labeled with three double X’s by the time it was truly completed.
  • Yes, you are correct.
  • Although early moonshine was made illegally, this does not imply that the distillers were unconcerned with the quality of the product they were producing.
  • The operations that could demonstrate a high level of professionalism in their communities were held in high regard.
  • That emotion continues on in many current (and now legally created) moonshines that are consumed today, and it will be indelibly etched in the annals of moonshine history for generations to come.

3. Moonshine inspired NASCAR.

For the avoidance of doubt, moonshiners produce the whiskey while bootleggers carry it. The name “bootlegger” dates back to the 1880s, when smugglers used to conceal flasks in the tops of their boot tops. When automobiles were introduced, the term’s meaning was broadened to encompass anybody involved in the smuggling of alcoholic beverages. As troops returned home from World War II, equipped with new mechanical abilities, they immediately found work as bootleggers in their own areas. Modifying automobiles allowed these modern bootleggers to increase the amount of moonshine they could carry while also gaining the driving abilities essential to escape the authorities. On their off-days, these bootleggers would put their abilities to the test by competing against one another in races. More than just a source of bragging rights, this rite laid the groundwork for the modern-day NASCAR. Naturally, it was a mooshiner who provided the initial seed money for the sports group, which was founded by Big Bill France, a former bootlegger himself. Sugarlands Distilling Co., a moonshine-based distillery in Texas, is now home to the official spirit of the NASCAR Cup Series. Sugarlands began its Gatlinburg, Tennessee, business after visiting Moonshine University. There, they manufacture ” Sugarlands Shine ” in a range of unique tastes ranging from old fashioned lemonade and blueberry muffin to maple bacon, root beer, and peanut butter and jelly.

4. America’s first legal moonshine distillery was launched in 2005.

Piedmont Distillers, based in Madison, North Carolina, has the distinction of being the first legal moonshine business in the United States, as well as the state’s first legal distillery after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Additionally, in addition to being a part of the history of moonshine, Piedmont’s whole company is dedicated to telling the unique tale of moonshine. Their Midnight Moon moonshine is triple distilled (remember those three Xs?) and made using recipes passed down from famed moonshiner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson. infusions of actual fruit, including anything from watermelon and strawberry to raspberry and peach, are utilized in limited edition batches.

As of 2005, there have been an increasing number of legal moonshine enterprises springing up around the United States, notably Sugarlands (Tennessee) and Call Family Distillers, which is situated in North Carolina as well.

5. Mountain Dew was originally created as a chaser for whiskey.

The brilliant yellow beverage you’re undoubtedly familiar with was called after a slang phrase for mountain-brewed moonshine, which you may not have realized at the time of its introduction. Yes, you are correct. In Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1932, brothers Barney and Ally Hartman invented the lemon-lime cocktail as a whiskey chaser for their friends. In accordance with the Smithsonian, the name “Mountain Dew” was chosen in order to stress the intended usage of the drink, which was emphasized even more by the existence of the original brand mascot, “Willy the Hillbilly,” and his catchphrase, “It’ll tickle yore innards.” As a result of PepsiCo’s acquisition of Mountain Dew in 1964, distribution was expanded beyond Tennessee to include the whole United States. Although the brand’s link with moonshine has developed since then, its legacy is still alive and well. Interested in learning more about the distillation process? Check out this article. Check out the 6-day Distiller Course offered by Moonshine University. You’ll receive comprehensive, practical, and hands-on training from industry professionals throughout the program. By the end of the course, you will have a thorough understanding of all aspects of distillery operations, from the construction of the first brick to the placement of a finished product on the market. More information is available here: Related Content Moonshine University is celebrating the “Moonshine” in its name. The Stave Thief Society has officially launched. What You Didn’t Know About Rum Until Now

What really is in a name? In the case of moonshine, there’s a lot of history and more than a little bit of mystery to be discovered. Moonshine conjures up images of a wild past replete with bearded bootleggers, stock cars speeding away from the authorities, and other illicit acts if you’re anything like me. As it turns out, all of those circumstances had a significant role in how the company received its name. An in-depth examination of the unique title given to moonshine, including its meaning and relationship to the history of this infamously strong drink is provided below.

Why the Name “Moonshine?”

First, a short review of the material: Moonshine is a type of whiskey that has not been matured and is manufactured from grain, generally maize. Consequently, why is it referred to as moonshine rather than the more obvious alternative names such as:

  • Corn whiskey
  • Grain whiskey
  • Rye whiskey
  • Bourbon whiskey
  • Almost everything that contains the term “whiskey”

The solution, like with so many things associated with’shine,’ includes criminal activity. During the peak of American moonshine manufacturing, back when it was a massively illegal activity, distillers would produce large batches of alcohol at night to keep their operations running smoothly. Why is it at night? This is due to the fact that the distillation process produces a plume of smoke, which might serve as a signal to law enforcement that “Hey authorities, illicit spirits are being manufactured here; come bust these folks.” The telltale smoke trails were masked by the darkness. However, that was not the only manner by which moonshiners were able to avoid the law. Their stills were also hidden deep into the forest, adding an extra degree of secrecy to the operation.

Of course, any form of artificial illumination was out of the question because the light would give away where they were hiding. As a result, distillers would work under the illumination provided by, you guessed it, the moon.

The Surprising British Origins of the Term

  1. It should come as no surprise that moonshine is produced under the light of the moon, but there is a twist to the story.
  2. The name “whiskey” was not coined until the 1860s by American distillers.
  3. Instead, it dates back more than a century and originated on the other side of the world.
  4. The town of Wiltshire, in the English county of Wiltshire, had a bit of a reputation issue in the late 1700s.
  5. Their neighbors dubbed to them as “moonrakers,” and they related tales of Wiltshire men who once mistaken the moon’s reflection in a nearby lake for a wheel of cheese.
  6. However, it turns out that the people of Wiltshire were the ones who had the final laugh.
  7. It was portrayed as a weird, maybe feeble-minded local activity – and local men went so far as to really stay out at the local ponds at night, casting nets to catch the moon’s reflection – that the practice was eventually banned.
  8. Unless, of course, the whole affair was a ruse to conceal their brandy smuggling activities.
  9. They’d go out to the ponds and grab their illegal kegs, and the local police were completely unaware of what was going on.
  10. What was the name that the smugglers assigned to their smuggled alcoholic beverages?
  11. Moonshine.

Moonshine Arrives in America

Early hilly regions of colonial America were colonized by people from England, Scotland, and Ireland. They carried their liquor recipes with them, but they had to make modest modifications to them due to the limited availability of certain ingredients. Instead of using spirits manufactured from wheat and rye, they utilized spirits derived from maize. Corn whiskey was popular and lawful in all of the colonies throughout the colonial period. Because there was such a huge demand for alcohol, those who produced it had little trouble finding buyers, and they also utilized it as a kind of trading. It was also a practical solution. In addition, corn was abundant, and if you had a surplus, its liquid form was more convenient to store than sacks of grain. For a time, producers of corn whiskey had a comfortable lifestyle, at least until the newly established federal government began to run out of funds. The Whiskey Tax was instituted by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who was burdened by debt from the Revolutionary War. Perhaps unsurprisingly, imposing a tax on the most popular alcoholic beverage in the country did not go down well. The militia headed by President George Washington battled with farmers, distillers, and other people over the course of many months in 1776. The Whisky Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Uprising, was the biggest fight between Americans from the country’s foundation up to the Civil War.

Why Appalachia Is Commonly Associated with the Term Moonshine

The federal government put a halt to the insurrection and also made amendments to the legislation in the process. With time, the country began to chill. However, among distillers, there was still a simmering hatred against this distant federal government and its authority to levy taxes on them. The tax was paid by the majority of distillers, but not all of them. Those that flatly refused to participate then relocated their stills away from the public eye. Despite the fact that they employed maize rather than wheat or rye, the liquor they created was still clear, white, and unaged whiskey, and – probably most crucially – it was manufactured illegally. The phrase “moonshine” was totally appropriate. Aside from the fact that many distillers did not want to pay taxes, many others just could not.

There were limited economic prospects available in rural and hilly areas such as the Appalachian Mountains. Farmers, particularly during difficult economic times, relied on moonshine as a source of additional money – and every cent made was critical.

The Modern Usage of the Term Moonshine

Currently, the name “moonshine” refers to two distinct forms of distilled spirits. First and foremost, there is legal moonshine. Certain liquor rules in the United States were loosened a few years ago, and now several big distilleries are permitted to legally produce and sell moonshine. Essentially, it’s the same recipe that was utilized in the past, just without the legal ramifications, and made in a far more sanitary and well-regulated environment today. However, the term “moonshine” can refer to any form of unlawful alcoholic beverage. For example, during Prohibition, bootleggers brewed moonshine using white sugar instead of maize, which resulted in a cheaper product and, thus, a higher profit margin for themselves. In a technical sense, they were distilling rum. As a result, the term “moonshine” does not always relate to whiskey. It is mostly used in a historical setting that the second phrase appears. Moonshine is generally understood to refer to the first sort of moonshine that is legal in most jurisdictions. Fortunately, with a few exceptions, it is legal to own and even create moonshine in a home still (although you should double-check the individual rules in your region before doing so).

Final Thoughts

  1. Many people are unaware that the term “moonshine” refers to much more than just alcoholic beverages.
  2. When a word travels over a continent, it comes to signify a whole era of American history, and you may have a taste of that history by sampling some moonshine today, you’ll be transported back in time.

There have been many other names given to moonshine throughout the years, including “rot gut,” “white lightnin’,” and “corn liquor.” Moonshine is defined as “intoxicating liquor, particularly illegally produced maize whiskey,” according to the dictionary. A “moonshiner” is defined as “a person who manufactures or sells illegal whiskey.” The European form is “whisky” (the American version is whiskey), which is derived from the Gaelic phrase for “water of life” that means “water of life.” The water of life, often known as unlawful, illicit whiskey, has been a part of global history and lore for thousands of years, and it is still a tradition in the southern United States of America today. Oklahoma is no different, with many citizens having a long history of illicit booze production, distribution, and use. The manufacturing and sale of whiskey have been taxed as a source of government revenue almost since the founding of the United States of America. Thus, the fundamental motivation for illegally producing whiskey has been to avoid paying taxes on the alcohol produced. The United States Congress imposed an excise tax on whiskey in 1791 in order to contribute to the repayment of the nation’s debt, with the encouragement of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Many Scotch-Irish settlers, who not only drank whiskey but also distilled it and sold it for a living, felt that the levy was unfair and discriminatory. The Whiskey Rebellion was a sequence of events that took place in 1794, particularly on the border, in which they demonstrated and revolted. They were taken into custody, but President George Washington eventually released them. Following the Civil War, the tariff on legal alcoholic beverages was established at “eight times” the distiller’s cost in some locations. In order to avoid paying the tax, many distillers in the 1870s chose to bribe revenue collectors and politicians at all levels of government in order to avoid paying it. The Whiskey Ring was born as a result of their activities, which became a public scandal. In the end, Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin Bristow was responsible for breaking the ring, which was one of numerous scandals that occurred during President Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency. It was against federal law to sell or distribute alcohol to American Indians in Indian Territory, according to federal law. When the Unassigned Territory (Oklahoma Territory) became available for non-Indian settlement in 1889, saloons sprung up along the area’s eastern and southern boundaries, near to Indian lands, and quickly became popular. Over the next two decades, the amount of liquor trade increased to the point where the authors of the 1907 state constitution placed a restriction on the sale of all alcoholic drinks. Despite this, the distillation, sale, and consumption of moonshine persisted after the state gained its independence. Following the lifting of national prohibition in 1933, the state government, inspired by religious conservatism, issued a legislation stating that no alcoholic beverages with an alcohol percentage level more than 3.2 beer may be sold in Oklahoma. The legislation was finally repealed in 1959. Moonshine is an alcoholic beverage created from fermented grains or mash. In Oklahoma, the primary component is generally maize, and the finished product is referred to as “corn whiskey. A distiller’s own preference for other components, like as yeast, malt, and sugar, influences the final product (moonshiner). This procedure often needs copper pots, a fire (alcohol reaches to around 172 degrees Fahrenheit), and an oak barrel in which to mature and color the liquor once it has been produced. Cooking sugar generally produces a sweet aroma in the air while it cooks, which is pleasant. Occasionally, revenue agents might detect the presence of a still based on the fragrance, or they could identify a moonshiner based on his purchases of huge quantities of sugar or other ingredients. The final product has traditionally been “bottled” and sold in jars similar to those used for canning fruit. Moonshine, as well as the bootlegger, who sold illicit whiskey to his customers, have played important roles in Oklahoma history. Because it was illegal to sell 3.2 beer in places where dancing was permitted, the bootlegger quickly established himself as a common sight at dance halls. Bootleggers were also immortalized in Oklahoma folklore. However, rather than retailing moonshine, the majority of bootleggers sold booze that had been lawfully produced and bottled in other states and “imported” into their state from elsewhere. The crude technique used in moonshine production frequently resulted in the production of a chemical that was harmful to human health. It was possible to acquire the “jake leg” or “jake walk,” a permanent, debilitating condition that caused a leg to be pulled into an almost useless position, by consuming moonshine distilled with Jamaican ginger or by consuming Jamaican ginger, which was typically 70 percent alcohol, in large quantities. Moonshiners discovered that “jake” enhanced the power of their product, while alcoholics discovered that Jamaican ginger was either as strong or stronger than moonshine in its own right. Jamaican ginger also included a number of potentially hazardous compounds. Unfortunately, Oklahoma was home to some of the first “jake walk” sufferers who were diagnosed in the state. A number of moonshiners in the late twentieth century employed a variety of procedures and additional chemicals, such as lye, battery acid, or other caustics, to abbreviate the distillation and aging times of their spirits. The resultant beverage has the potential to cause significant injury or death to the drinker. Oklahoma has a substantial market for non-taxed and unlawful alcoholic drinks like as home brew, moonshine, Choc beer, and/or other illicit alcoholic beverages. As recently as 1963, law enforcement organizations reported that 18,400 stills had been collected across the country in that year, with Oklahoma and Arkansas equal for tenth position in terms of the number of stills taken in each state.

In Oklahoma, the custom of moonshining has survived into the twenty-first century. Guy Logsdon is a writer who lives in the United Kingdom. Check out these other articles: CHOC BEER, FOLKLIFE, FOODWAYS, and PROHIBITION.


The Second Oldest Profession: An Informal History of Moonshining in America (Jess Carr, The Second Oldest Profession: An Informal History of Moonshining in America) (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: 1972). ‘Born Sober: Prohibition in Oklahoma from 1907 to 1959,’ by Jimmie Lewis Franklin (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). Moonshine: Its History and Folklore (Esther Kellner, Moonshine: Its History and Folklore) (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1971).

Finding and drinking moonshine is considered a rite of passage in the Southern United States. With its rebellious past and deadly image, moonshine has secured a position in popular culture as a result of its presence in the country’s history. When it comes to moonshine, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is described as “whisky or other powerful alcoholic beverages that have been prepared and marketed illegally.” As a result of this classification, it may be perplexing to walk into a liquor store (or Costco) and see drink that has been classified as moonshine. Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that there are no legal rules for designating something as moonshine at this time. Unlike whiskey, which must be prepared from grain, distilled and bottled at a specific alcohol concentration, and matured in oak barrels,’shine does not have a comparable product in the marketplace. It, like vodka, may be manufactured from any fermentable material, including fruit, sugar, grain, and milk. There is no upper limit to the amount of alcohol in this drink, unlike vodka. With the exception of putting white whiskey on the label, you may create it any way you want it to be. As a result, despite what you might have read in the Oxford English Dictionary, legally produced booze called “moonshine” can be found all over the world. In spite of the fact that it has a strong Southern connotation, hooch is not exclusively a Southern beverage. Although the phrase “moonshine” has been present since the late 15th century, it was only in the 18th century that it was used to refer to liquor in the United Kingdom. The practice’s American roots (as well as the foundations of contemporary American whiskey manufacturing in general) may be traced back to frontier life in Pennsylvania and other grain-producing regions throughout the nineteenth century. When grain mills were operating at the time, farmers who had extra produce would distill it in order to keep it from spoiling. Whiskey was also used as cash in various parts of the world back then. The “whiskey tax,” as it was known at the time, was imposed by the federal government on liquor produced within the country in 1791. For the following three years, distillers used less-than-legal tactics to keep tax collectors at bay, which resulted in the dispatch of a U.S. marshal to Pennsylvania to collect the taxes owed. The residence of the area’s tax inspector general was stormed by more than 500 men. Their leader was assassinated, which sparked a massive demonstration that drew approximately 6000 people. The Whiskey Tax was finally repealed in 1801, and the events of the decade preceding became known as the Whiskey Rebellion (or Whiskey Revolt). There is a lot of truth to the folklore and legends around moonshine. It is possible that bad batches or specific manufacturing procedures (such as distilling in automobile radiators) can result in liquor that will cause you to become blind—or worse—if consumed. Despite the fact that some moonshiners say that these stories were published in an effort to discredit their work, legitimate producers are of the opposite opinion. In any case, the federal government hired Louis Armstrong to record radio advertisements warning people about the hazards of drinking it. Don’t make the mistake of conflating moonshiners with bootleggers. Moonshiners create the booze, while bootleggers transport it out of the country. Around the 1880s, the term bootlegger was used to refer to the practice of concealing flasks in the boot tops of automobiles; however, with the development of automobiles, the phrase evolved to refer to anybody who smuggled alcoholic beverages. Mechanics rapidly devised methods of modifying motors and automobiles in order to conceal and convey as much moonshine as possible. During their time spent evading the cops, these whiskey runners picked up some serious driving talents. During their spare time, they’d compete with one another in races, which would eventually give birth to NASCAR. NASCAR and moonshiners were so intertwined, in fact, that a moonshiner provided seed money to Bill France, the organization’s founder. Robert Glenn Johnson, best known by his stage name Junior Johnson, is another well-known connection. After inheriting the fortune of his father, who was an infamous moonshiner, this former driver and NASCAR team owner recently teamed up with a North Carolina distillery to create “Midnight Moon.” No matter what you choose to call it—moonshine, white lightning, firewater, skullpop, mountain dew, or just moonshine—its rebellious past and controversial present make it a terrible drink. Sign up for our newsletter now! SIGN UP RIGHT NOW

  1. According to legend, the term “moonshine” (unaged spirits illicitly produced “by the light of the moon”) was coined in reference to “moonrakers,” a fictitious English brandy smugglers who were supposed to have dug kegs from ponds.
  2. When they were apprehended, they feigned to be fools, pretending to be raking cheese from the moon’s reflection.
  3. Moonshine was initially used to refer to the physical light of the moon in the 15th century, and it has been around ever since.
  4. A metaphorical application of the phrase may be found in both poetry and prose, where it refers to “appearance without substance.
  5. ” It has been used colloquially in reference to illegally produced spirits since the late 18th century, primarily unaged corn-mash whiskey produced in Appalachia.
  6. The clear color of the liquid, as well as the fact that it was produced and smuggled at night, are both cited as reasons for the use of this term.
  7. However, while the production of moonshine was illegal until 2010, largely because producers would distill their own spirits in order to avoid the high taxes on liquor production (and also because it has historically been produced in an unsafe manner), the term became particularly popular during the period following the passage of the 18th Amendment and the passage of the Volstead Act, which began Prohibition in 1920 and ended it in 1933, when it became especially popular.
  8. Because of the folk story stated in the title, the moniker “Moonraker,” which is said to have spawned the phrases “moonshine” and “moonshiner,” has remained popular as a nickname for individuals from the rural English county of Wiltshire for generations.
  9. When brandy smuggling was growing in the mid- to late-1700s, Wiltshire was strategically located along the hidden paths of a thriving enterprise.
  10. According to the legend, the natives concealed smuggled casks of French brandy in ponds to avoid being discovered by customs inspectors (also known as revenue officers, which would influence the Appalachian term “revenooers”).
  11. When they were found attempting to collect the brandy with rakes in the middle of the night, they pretended to be confused by pointing to the reflection of the moon in the pond and said they were attempting to rake in a wheel of cheese.
  12. The tax collectors laughed at their presumption of ignorance and continued on their way.

Moonshine has been dubbed a variety of derogatory names, including Rotgut. Skullpop. Firewater. Panther Piss is a term used to describe a substance that is excreted by a Panther. As implied by the name, it is a type of whiskey for which no taxes have been paid and which is made by a group of good ol’ boys under cover of darkness and by the light of the moon, before being loaded into souped-up coupes and transported to consumers through winding country roads. Consider James Mitchum’s performance as moonshine runner Lucas Doolin in the 1958 cult movie Thunder Road as an example. It is this reputation as a rebel that adds to the attraction of the beverage. Moonshine is often manufactured from maize, however it may and has been created from any fermentable material, including cereals such as rye or wheat, as well as plain old sugar. It’s fresh and unblemished. It’s referred to as “whiskey without the wood.” Bourbon that hasn’t been aged in a barrel. To learn more about moonshine, visit a liquor store and purchase a bottle. Pay attention to the label: Almost certainly, it’s either corn whisky (yep, it’s written with an e) or neutral spirits, which is practically vodka. Due to the fact that it is produced by legal and tax-paying distillers, some companies sell their product as white whiskey, which may be a more appropriate descriptor than moonshine. Others choose to remain with what they know: history, heritage, and moonshine. It’s a name with a fascinating backstory. But what exactly is the backstory to moonshine? Is it possible that you’ve been curious in the history of moonshine? Is all of the information you’ve heard about moonshine and its link to NASCAR correct?

For my most recent book, Moonshine: A Cultural History of America’s Infamous Liquor, I looked further into the history of moonshine than I had previously. Here are a few interesting facts that you might not have known.

Moonshine’s Not Just a Southern Thing

The following image is courtesy of Zenith Press. While moonshine is strongly ingrained in Southern culture and tradition, its origins may really be traced back to the United States state of Pennsylvania. When the federal government enacted the distilled-spirits tax in 1791, farmer-distillers in the western section of the state took to the streets to demonstrate their displeasure. Tax collectors were tarred and feathered, and their homes were attacked with firearms. The Whiskey Rebellion was spurred by these activities, which came dangerously close to triggering America’s first civil war. Moonshine production eventually spread to major metropolitan areas. Vinegar Hill, a waterfront area in Brooklyn that is currently known as Vinegar Hill, used to be a hub of illegal whiskey production. During the summer of 1869, law enforcement cracked down on Irish immigrants who had established secret distilleries in the area and refused to pay government taxes on their product. After conducting a pre-dawn raid, they cut up stills and confiscated whiskey, which they transported to the neighboring Brooklyn Navy Yard. Of course, this did not prevent people from producing alcoholic beverages. By the early 1900s, New York City was producing more moonshine than the whole southern United States combined. The results of a one-day sweep in Chicago in June of 1925 resulted in 50 raids, 320 arrests, and the seizure of 10,000 liters of booze during Prohibition. It was reported in the Chicago Daily Tribune that the Genna criminal family had imported Italian laborers to the United States “to make moonshine.” Meanwhile, Prohibition officials in Los Angeles discovered a 250-gallon still and 800 gallons of mash, the soupy, fermented grain that is used to produce the booze, inside a five-room ranch home. According to a report in the New York Times, moonshine is being produced in San Francisco, Oregon, and Washington State.

Women Made Moonshine, Too.

The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information. You can think of moonshining as more of a man’s world than anything else. Women, on the other hand, were distilling booze. “Nancy the Moonshiner” was one of the ladies who lived in this enclave. When she was growing up in Warren County, New Jersey, folks thought she was a bit of an oddball. What she actually was, though, was a moneymaker and a tenacious entrepreneur who worked hard to make ends meet. She snatched apples from an orchard near her house in the middle of the night. The apples were used to manufacture Jersey lightning, also known as apple jack, which is a distilled hard apple cider. In the hopes of apprehending Nancy, a government detective broke into her hillside house near the Pequest River and knocked her unconscious before fleeing. She managed to get away. The same year, a Polish immigrant called Mary Wazeniak opened a moonshine stand in her hometown of La Grange Park, Illinois, where she offered moonshine to clients for fifteen cents a shot. Wazeniak was apprehended when a guy wandered home at the end of the night and then fell into a marsh, where he later died. She was dubbed “Moonshine Mary” by the press. She was the first woman to be found guilty of selling poisoned liquor in the state of Illinois. Women were also transporting moonshine at the time. Willie Carter Sharpe was one of the most well-known whiskey trippers in Franklin County, Virginia, where he lived for many years. It is estimated that she delivered roughly 145,000 gallons of whiskey from distiller to client by vehicle between 1927 and 1931. Her diamond-studded teeth drew attention during her testimony in the Moonshine Conspiracy Trial in 1935, which was shown live on television.

For violating the National Prohibition Act, she’d been arrested more than a dozen times, and she served time in Alderson Women’s Correctional Facility, the same facility where Martha Stewart would do her term some 70 years later.

NASCAR Really Does Have Moonshine Roots.

  1. What exactly is contained within the cases?
  2. Of course, we’re talking about moonshine.
  3. The Library of Congress is a federal government institution that collects and organizes information.
  4. Whiskey trippers were masters of the vehicle, as no one else could match them.
  5. Many of them enjoyed competing against one another in their spare time.
  6. Lloyd Seay was one of those drivers, and he was a rising star in the world of stock car racing.
  7. He was killed by his cousin in a disagreement over moonshine in 1941, though, and his career was effectively finished.
  8. Another of Seay’s relatives, Georgia moonshiner Raymond Parks, stepped forward after his death to provide seed money to NASCAR founder Bill France in order to assist him in getting his sporting organization off the ground.
  9. It was his mechanic, Louis Jerome “Red” Vogt, who coined the term NASCAR at a conference held in France in 1947 at Daytona Beach, where he was present (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing).
  10. For years, Vogt worked on NASCAR vehicles and tailored engines for whiskey travelers based on the road conditions along their most often traveled destinations.
  11. Junior Johnson, on the other hand, is perhaps NASCAR’s most well-known connection to moonshining.
  12. While still in high school, he began delivering moonshine from his father’s property in North Carolina to consumers all across town—all while outrunning the revenue agents who tried to apprehend him.
  13. He was 14 years old at the time.
  14. Johnson’s ability behind the wheel resulted in success on the racetrack for the team.
  15. His first major victory came at the Altamont-Schenectady Fairgrounds in upstate New York, early in his NASCAR career.
  16. After that, he drove directly home to Wilkes County, where he was arrested the next morning for starting up his father’s stills in the family’s basement.
  17. He was imprisoned in federal prison for 11 months.
  18. When he got out, he immediately returned to the two things he enjoyed doing the most: racing and moonshining.
  19. Johnson was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 after being convicted of moonshining.
  20. In 2010, the racing veteran was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the first class of honorees.

Modern-Day Moonshine

Photograph courtesy of Nan Palermo on Flickr. What you’ve been hearing is correct: Back in the day, drinking moonshine might literally cause a person to go blind. The problem was caused by shady manufacturing practices. For example, some illegal distillers used lye to speed up the fermentation process in their product. Others utilized automobile radiators to create their moonshine, which can result in lead seeping into the product and building up in the body of those who consume the alcohol. The situation was so severe that, as part of its Poison Moonshine Publicity Program in the 1960s, the federal government sought the services of Louis Armstrong to record radio advertisements to raise awareness about the dangers of backwoods liquor. His words were chilling: “That crap will blind you, cripple you, and finally kill you, pals.” Fortunately, you may now have a taste of moonshine heritage without jeopardizing your safety or well-being. The brands mentioned on this page are carefully crafted on licensed still frames. Each pays homage to the moonshine heritage in its own way. Even better, one of them comes from a woman-owned distillery, one is manufactured in Brooklyn (not the South! ), and one comes from a NASCAR racing legend. The Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery in Georgia produces maize whiskey using a 150-year-old formula that was passed down from a moonshiner named Simmie Free who wore overalls and worked at the distillery. Cheryl Wood, his granddaughter, founded the distillery in north Georgia in 2012, bringing an illicit family company into the legal realm. Put a rural spin on Sex on the Beach by substituting Wood’s moonshine for the traditional vodka. She refers to her interpretation of the traditional cocktail as “In the Woods, it’s a banger. “I prefer to drink it neat and carefully since this thing has a lot of kick to it! It has a pleasant caramel fragrance and a flavor that reminds me of cornbread in a jar. Flickr user DeShaun Craddock Kings County Distillery, located within the Brooklyn Navy Yard, was New York City’s first permitted distillery since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Colin Spoelman, the company’s founder, is a native of Kentucky. Prior to establishing KCD, he and his partner David Haskell ran a moonshine distillery out of their home. For the eighth year in a row, the distillery’s moonshine, which is manufactured from a combination of organic New York State maize and Scottish malted barley, was awarded gold by the American Distilling Institute at the 8th annual Craft American Spirits competition. The beverage has a pleasant sweetness to it, and it has a smooth texture on the tongue. Then try the chocolate whiskey from the distillery, which is a personal favorite of mine. I’m aware of the situation. It is in no way related to tradition. However, it is moonshine that has been infused with cacao bean husks, making it taste like alcoholic liquid dark chocolate. It took him years, but NASCAR icon Junior Johnson ultimately succeeded in taking his father’s moonshine formula and putting it on the market in a legal manner. Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon moonshine is the name of the brand, and unlike Dawsonville or King’s County moonshine, Midnight Moon has a national distribution network, making it quite simple to get your hands on a bottle. Heck, you can get it at Costco at a reasonable price. Try the basic taste, which comes in a Mason jar, or venture out to the Apple Pie flavor, which is an Appalachian favorite made with apple juice and cinnamon sticks and packaged in a jar.

The latter truly does taste like dessert—but with a kick—and is a fantastic treat for the upcoming cold fall evenings. There will be no rotgut here. It’s just plain old mountain dew.

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