The History Of Moonshine

Mooneshine

The word “moonshine” is believed to be derived from the term “moonrakers” used for early English smugglers and the clandestine nature of the operations of illegal Appalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey.The distillation was done at night to avoid discovery.

Moonshine was especially important to the Appalachian area. This white whiskey most likely entered the Appalachian region in the late 18th century to early 1800s. Scots-Irish immigrants from the Ulster region of Northern Ireland brought their recipe for their uisce beatha, Gaelic for “water of life”. The settlers made their whiskey without aging it, and this is the same recipe that became traditional in the Appalachian area.

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In the early 20th century, moonshine became a key source of income for many Appalachian residents, since the limited road network made it difficult and expensive to transport corn crops. As a study of farmers in Cocke County, Tennessee, observes: “One could transport much more value in corn if it was first converted to whiskey. One horse could haul ten times more value on its back in whiskey than in corn.” Moonshiners in Harlan County, Kentucky, like Maggie Bailey, made the whiskey to sell in order to provide for their families. Others, like Amos Owens, from Rutherford County, North Carolina, sold moonshine to nearby areas. In modern usage, the term “moonshine” ordinarily implies that the liquor is produced illegally; however, the term has also been used on the labels of some legal products as a way of marketing them as providing a similar drinking experience as found with illegal liquor. Moonshine, white lightning, mountain dew, hooch, homebrew, and white whiskey are terms used to describe high-proof distilled spirits that are generally produced illicitly. Moonshine is typically made with corn mash as the main ingredient. Liquor-control laws in the United States that prohibit  moonshining, once consisting of a total ban under the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, now center primarily on evasion of revenue taxation on spiritous and/or intoxicating liquors, and are enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of the United States Department of the Treasury; such enforcers of these laws are known by the often derisive nickname of “revenooers”.

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