Moonshine: A Cultural History of Americas Infamous Liquor

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The Growler: Why write a book on moonshine? How did you get interested in this topic? Jaime Joyce: To me, moonshine is the true American spirit, no pun intended. It represents the pioneering American spirit.


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Joyce: There are so many characters. But there were a lot of women doing it, and I found that really cool. It ended up being one of my favorite chapters. Junior Johnson is one of the most well known drivers out there, and he was so great to talk to.

Uganda's Moonshine Epidemic

He told me all about his life growing up in North Carolina running whiskey for his dad. It was fascinating because of the characters, one of them being Willie Carter Sharpe. She was testifying in court and everyone was so thrilled by her because she had diamonds in her teeth. Joyce: In the early days, that was the Whiskey Rebellion. Was it justified? It was a different time.

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They were fighting for what they believed in. Growler: When the government responded to moonshining, through tax policies and local enforcement, did they exacerbate the problem or were they just caught between a rock and a hard place? Moonshining was rampant, particularly in the early days.

Bringing them to justice was not easy. It was being made in the back woods. The revenue agents were on horseback. There were no overhead planes with heat sensors on them. It was hard, brutal work. Growler: You mention in the book about the circumstances giving rise to moonshining in rural areas — that jobs were scarce it seemed like the best way to make a living.

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How much of that do you buy? Was it truly their only option or was that an easy justification? By the early 20th century, moonshine became a key source of income for many Appalachian residents because 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.

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One horse could haul ten times more value on its back in whiskey than in corn. Sutton's life was covered in a documentary on the Discovery Channel called "Moonshiners". The bootlegger once said that the malt a combination of corn, barley, rye is what makes the basic moonshine recipe work. Once distilled, drivers called bootleggers smuggled the moonshine across the region in specially adapted cars, which were ordinary on the outside but modified with souped-up engines, extra interior room, and heavy-duty shock absorbers to coddle the jars of illicit alcohol.

Poorly produced moonshine can be contaminated, mainly from materials used in the construction of the still.

Moonshine - Wikipedia

Stills employing automotive radiators as condensers are particularly dangerous; in some cases, glycol produced from antifreeze can be a problem. Radiators used as condensers could also contain lead at the connections to the plumbing. Using these methods often resulted in blindness or lead poisoning [12] in those who consumed tainted liquor.

Consumption of lead-tainted moonshine is a serious risk factor for saturnine gout , a very painful but treatable medical condition that damages the kidneys and joints.


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Although methanol is not produced in toxic amounts by fermentation of sugars from grain starches, [15] contamination is still possible by unscrupulous distillers using cheap methanol to increase the apparent strength of the product. Moonshine can be made both more palatable and perhaps less dangerous by discarding the "foreshot" — the first few ounces of alcohol that drip from the condenser. Because methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than ethanol it is commonly believed that the foreshot contains most of the methanol, if any, from the mash. However, research shows this is not the case, and methanol is present until the very end of the distillation run.

Despite this, distillers will usually collect the foreshots until the temperature of the still reaches 80 degrees Celsius Fahrenheit. This is especially true during the distilling process when vaporized alcohol may accumulate in the air to dangerous concentrations if adequate ventilation is not provided. A quick estimate of the alcoholic strength, or proof, of the distillate the ratio of alcohol to water is often achieved by shaking a clear container of the distillate.


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Large bubbles with a short duration indicate a higher alcohol content, while smaller bubbles that disappear more slowly indicate lower alcohol content. A more reliable method is to use an alcoholmeter or hydrometer. A hydrometer is used during and after the fermentation process to determine the potential alcohol percent of the moonshine, whereas an alcoholmeter is used after the product has been distilled to determine the volume percent or proof. A common folk test for the quality of moonshine was to pour a small quantity of it into a spoon and set it on fire. The theory was that a safe distillate burns with a blue flame, but a tainted distillate burns with a yellow flame.

Practitioners of this simple test also held that if a radiator coil had been used as a condenser, then there would be lead in the distillate, which would give a reddish flame. This led to the mnemonic , "Lead burns red and makes you dead. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Not to be confused with moonlight.

For other uses, see Moonshine disambiguation. Main article: Moonshine by country. Liquor portal Drink portal. Is Moonshine Illegal? Retrieved Oklahoma State University. Archived from the original on Retrieved 21 March Illegal Odyssey: Years of Kentucky Moonshine.