Moonshine, white liquor, white lightning, hooch, homebrew, white whiskey. Whatever you want to call it, it evokes a certain feeling in the listener and consumer. Some immediately associate it with people like the McCoys brewing it in the Appalachian mountains. Many others, myself included, think of a delicious drink that can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or with simple ingredients like apples and a cinnamon stick.
While the origin of the word is unclear, moonshine likely derives from the fact that many early brewers had to distill the liquor at night, underneath the moon, to avoid discovery. Moonshiners enjoyed relative prosperity making the liquor because, pound for pound, corn converted into moonshine was worth up to 10 times the value of the raw product. It was also an excellent way to turn surplus crops into a profit. So why does moonshine have such a bad reputation? Because of amateurs producing it illegally. The materials used in the construction of the still can contaminate the product and produce very dangerous chemicals such as glycol, methanol, and lead. There are a few methods to test if moonshine is safe. Although some of these processess, such as seeing which color the alcohol burns, can reveal some information about the liquor, the only true way for moonshine makers to test it is to use various scientific equipment.
Modern moonshine is legal, in short, because it can be regulated and taxed. The stuff you find in the corner store in a mason jar is legal moonshine. It might not be very good, but it is legal. If I went and made moonshine in a basement it would be illegal, just like if I made wine without a license. One company in particular is leading the industry by making the oft-misunderstood liquor available (and delicious) to the public. Short Mountain Distillery may only be seven years old, but they have over 100 years of combined moonshining experience behind the still. What started as an organic farm turned into one of the finest distilleries in Tennessee. The idea was simple: create an excellent product that keeps the jobs local and the land fertile. Nestled in 400 acres of farmland, the Kaufman brothers don't only make plain moonshine, they have various organic flavors such as apple pie and tea, as well as other spirits like bourbon. Allow me to give you a little taste of their products:
- SHINE: This 105-proof, sugar-and-corn moonshine is outstandingly easy to drink. With a sweet aftertaste, this strong yet smooth moonshine might be my favorite.
- SHINER'S SELECT: Made on a traditional pot still, this 100-proof moonshine has all the flavors you expect from moonshine without the burn you might associate with it.
- ORGANIC SHINE: This charcoal-filtered, 100-proof organic corn moonshine has a delightfully smoky note with a smooth finish.
- APPLE PIE: While not my favorite, this sweet, 40-proof liquor has lovely notes of cinnamon and vanilla. It would be fantastic in a mixed drink or maybe even a dessert (think flambeed apples in the liquor over vanilla ice cream).
- PROHIBITION TEA: A 60-proof tea is something of a dream for me. As an avid tea drinker, I have to say this is my absolute favorite. It really just tastes like alcoholic sweet tea. Yes.
- BOURBON: If you are a fan of bourbon or any other whiskey, you will really enjoy this. Strong peat notes make for an insanely smooth experience.