Moonshine by any other name would be just as potent
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 14:01
Since the Revolutionary Era, Americans have had an on again-off again fascination with moonshine. It’s been the subject of numerous songs, associated with the Appalachian culture for decades and was solely responsible for the creation of stock car racing in the United States.
Yet with its recent appearance on the shelves of liquor stores around the country a heated debate has begun. Is this newly legalized whiskey truly the legendary transparent liquid of American folklore, or is it nothing more than a clever marketing gimmick?
Popskull, Jet Fuel, Hooch, Red Eye, Cat Daddy, Bush Whiskey, Mule Kick, White Dog, Hillbilly Pop, Likker, Tiger’s Sweat, Mountain Dew, Rotgut, Shine, and of course White Lightening. Moonshine goes by many names, more recently being called Clear or White Whiskey by distilleries who produce it and have gone through the proper legal channels to do so, but the use of the term “whiskey” being interchanged with moonshine has many liquor aficionados’ blood boiling.
According to an article by BevX: A Beverage and Lifestyle Magazine – and self proclaimed beverage experts – whiskey by definition is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash that has been aged in wooden barrels – that being the part that gives whiskey its infamous golden brown color.
Whiskey is as much a product of the barrel and barrel aging as it is of the Spirit itself. For this reason the world’s most famous Whiskey types have established by law minimum aging requirements.
Yet moonshine, in its original illicit form, is known for being young and fresh – straight from the copper still hidden in the Ozark Mountains, poured directly into picturesque Mason jars and bootlegged to consumers around the country.
Moonshine is not aged and neither is its legal counterpart, white whiskey, although some distilleries have taken up a process of setting it in an oak barrel for 24 hours to comply with the standard of aging real whiskey in barrels.
But the minimum aging regulations for American whiskeys is two years, a far cry from the absurdly swift 24 hours described above. For this reason, traditional whiskey producers discount the backwoods spirit being labeled as whiskey – of any sort.
Yet many traditional moonshiners and bootleggers alike – those that engage in the production, selling and transport of illegal hooch –get frenzied over the legal version being labeled Moonshine, like the traditional whiskey distillers would prefer.
“It’s not moonshine unless it’s illegally made,” described unlawful producers in Southeastern Tennessee during a phone interview, “but it [legal moonshine] ain’t hurtin our business any.”
“It [legal shine] is an imposter,” claimed one of-age student at Sam Houston State University who wished to stay anonymous due to their own past participation in bootlegging, “I prefer the lightening.”
No matter what you prefer to call legalized hooch, one thing remains absolutely certain, distilling any sort of spirit [sans beer or wine] without the proper permits, licenses and tax forms from the Treasury Department is still very much illegal and could face up to $10,000 in fines and five years in federal prison, in addition to any state penalties, for each count convicted. And as with any prohibited substance, if it’s illegal to create, grow, transport, and possess, it’s most certainly illegal to consume.