Moonshine: A Cultural History of America's Infamous Liquor
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Nothing but clear, 100-proof American history.
Hooch. White lightning. White whiskey. Mountain dew. Moonshine goes by many names. So what is it, really? Technically speaking, "moonshine" refers to untaxed liquor made in an unlicensed still. In the United States, it’s typically corn that’s used to make the clear, unaged beverage, and it’s the mountain people of the American South who are most closely associated with the image of making and selling backwoods booze at night—by the light of the moon—to avoid detection by law enforcement.
In this book, writer Jaime Joyce explores America’s centuries-old relationship with moonshine. From the country’s early adoption of Scottish and Irish home-distilling techniques and traditions to the Whiskey Rebellion of the late 1700s to a comparison of the moonshine industry pre- and post-Prohibition and a look at modern-day craft distilling, Joyce examines the historical context that gave rise to moonshining in America and explores its continued appeal. Even more fascinating than the popularity of the liquor itself is moonshine’s widespread effect on U.S. pop culture: moonshine runners were NASCAR’s first marquee drivers; white whiskey was the unspoken star of countless Hollywood film and television productions; and numerous songs inspired by making shine have come from such musicians as Dolly Parton, Steve Earle, Metallica, Ween, and others. While we can’t condone making your own illegal liquor, reading Moonshine will give you a new perspective on the profound implications that underground moonshine making has had on life in America.
distilleries, big and small, across the United States, from Brooklyn, New York, to Seattle, Washington, to Buena Vista, Colorado, are making it. Drinkers are eager for a taste of America’s homegrown spirit, and if it’s made by small producers out of locally sourced ingredients, the appeal is even greater. Some distillers, like Heather Shade of the upstart Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines, Alaska, call their product moonshine and embrace the drink’s renegade past. “It’s a new product that’s
space of a century, whiskey making had gone from being the respectable subject of lectures and essays aimed at boosting American agriculture and entrepreneurship to an underground endeavor fueled by poverty and marked by deception and violence, the worst of which was yet to come. War on Whiskey: Taxing Liquor and Defying the Law in the 1800s 001-208_C70365.indd 59 (PMS 476U) 59 2/11/14 3:32 PM Job:02-40642 Title:MBI-Moonshine 02-C70365 #175 Dtp:225 Page:59 4 PROHIBITION’S RISE AND FALL,
a still (date unknown). 68 Chapter 4 001-208_C70365.indd 68 (PMS 476U) 2/11/14 3:32 PM Job:02-40642 Title:MBI-Moonshine 02-C70365 #175 Dtp:225 Page:68 It was moonshiners, not smugglers of legitimate alcohol from outside the country or diverters of industrial alcohol, who provided the bulk of illicit liquor during Prohibition. In the South, illegal production skyrocketed, as did prices. White whiskey, which once sold for $2 a gallon, tops, could now command $22. One had only to look at the
Lynchburg and Covington, and across the state line in West Virginia. Mays told jurors that on a typical week, he hauled five loads consisting of 100 to 250 gallons of whiskey, estimating that between 1927 and 1933 he had moved out of Franklin County some 130,000 gallons of liquor. Perhaps one of the most anticipated witnesses to testify at the Moonshine Conspiracy Trial, however, was Willie Carter Sharpe. 82 Chapter 5 001-208_C70365.indd 82 (PMS 476U) 2/11/14 3:33 PM Job:02-40642
Either 108 Chapter 7 001-208_C70365.indd 108 (PMS 476U) 2/11/14 3:33 PM Job:02-40642 Title:MBI-Moonshine 02-C70365 #175 Dtp:225 Page:108 Detail, “Don’t Be a ‘Sugar Daddy’ to Moonshiners!” This 1957 IRS comic book warned sugar suppliers about the sinister intentions of some of their customers. “Popskull Crackdown” 001-208_C70365.indd 109 (PMS 476U) 109 2/11/14 3:33 PM Job:02-40642 Title:MBI-Moonshine 02-C70365 #175 Dtp:225 Page:109 that, or they’d switch from buying sugar in