Moonshine is a term that has been associated for years with a high-proof distilled spirit that was produced illegally. This process has strong ties to the Appalachia area that runs between North Carolina and Tennessee. While that may be the case, there are also legally operated moonshine distilleries popping up around the country. 

Moonshine: The Evolution


Historically, moonshine refers to clear, unaged whiskey made from corn mash and sugar. During the prohibition era, illegal distilling became more popular. This was when there was a law that banned all alcohol production. In 1933, the prohibition law was repealed. Now, the law focuses on the evasion of alcohol tax. 

The Process

Moonshiners would do their distillations at night. This to help them avoid police trying to catch them. They were mainly in the Appalachia area because there were many remote areas in that part of the country. This made it easier to evade the police and law enforcement. 

Historically, runners or bootleggers would smuggle the moonshine across the region once the liquor was distilled. To avoid the law, these drivers had very souped-up cars that looked normal to the naked eye. However, these cars could drive very fast, carry large loads, and had really good shock absorbers. After prohibition ended, these drivers would continue ‘racing’ to keep up their skills. Believe it or not, this actually led to the formation of NASCAR

The Dangers

This beverage can be very dangerous for both the distillers and the consumers since there is no regulation on the bootlegged product. The distilling process itself produces alcohol vapors. Since the alcohol can be over 100 proof, these vapors are highly flammable and can cause explosions. This is why moonshiners have to have their stills outside, even though that makes them easier to see. It is possible for stills to blow up, which can be very dangerous. 

Moonshine can be dangerous for those who consume it because of the toxins that can be in it. While most still are now copper, there are old, handmade stills still out there. These handmade stills use car radiators in the distilling process and could have lead soldering. These could contaminate the alcohol, making it toxic. Methanol is another toxic substance that can be in the drink if it’s not distilled correctly. 

Legal Moonshine

Some would argue that any alcohol made legally isn’t real moonshine. This is due to moonshine’s history and the fact that moonshine is, by definition, an illegally made liquor. Plus, the potential for a higher-than-available-in-store proof. However, there are several companies that make moonshine and pay their taxes. A few examples are Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon, and Stillhouse Clear Corn Whiskey.