If you’ve been following us for awhile, you know that we’ve dedicated years and years to the history of American moonshine. We’ve worked with some of the most renowned figures in this shadowy underworld – and truly a shadowy underworld it is – to produce the most realistic and authentic stories we possibly could. And what we found, not really to much surprise, was that truth was so much better and stranger and more fascinating than fiction.
But in the face of the ever-encroaching world of bullshit reality TV, we’ve noticed that some of these “moonshiner” shows that have hit the networks are forming public opinion. Shit, in the hot rod scene, everyone seems to have some sort of moonshiner story, so we’ve heard some of the same stories over and over. So, while this is by no means a complete list, we thought we’d mention a few things that’ll at least arm you with some facts and reality when you find yourself facing a wave of that moonshine bullshit:
1. Ain’t that many moonshiners left.
Got news for you: liquor is legal now and weed ain’t. Moonshine is moonshine because the guy with the still doesn’t want to pay taxes on what he makes. But the demand just isn’t what it used to be, so the risk – the jailtime and fines – just isn’t worth the reward. Which means there are very few actual moonshiners left to do the work and make the stuff. Weed, on the other hand, is the new Prohibition cash crop and guess what alot of those former moonshiners are easily transitioning to…
2. Moonshiners don’t call it moonshine.
They call it liquor. They may have called it ‘white mule’ and ‘shine’ or a few other things at one time, but for the most part, you’ll be in the know if you just call it liquor. Which is what it is.
3. Real moonshiners aren’t on TV.
You can rest assured that the few guys still making moonshine know it’s illegal. And because they know it’s illegal, they don’t want many people to know about what they’re doing, where they’re doing it, who they’re doing it with or who they might be providing it to. Which means you can also rest assured that whatever you’re seeing on TV is B.U.L.L.S.H.I.T. Really. News flash for you: not much reality in reality television.
4. Moonshine won’t make you go blind.
Years and years ago, some moonshiners would use old car radiators as part of the cooling process in their liquor-making. And, back in those days, radiators would be repaired with pure lead. Since any perfectly good radiator was probably still being used in the family sedan, mostly repaired and patched radiators would be used by these few guys and the lead poisoning that might occur as a result would cause vision problems. Which, of course, turned into moonshine lore. Again – don’t believe everything you hear.
5. No moonshiner is still driving a black ’40 Ford coupe or a ’57 Fairlane with dogdish caps.
Even the old guys they wobble out onto The History Channel who really did run liquor back in The Day seem to have forgotten what their cars really looked like: they weren’t running modern radials, didn’t have comfy tilt wheels and certainly didn’t stop under the power of Wilwood discs, although that’s exactly what they’ll show you when they hit the electric garage door opener to reveal the perfect black ’40 Ford coupe sitting on a glassy cement floor running up to the door that goes to the kitchen. On the other hand, a used F150 with a camper shell that’s sprung so heavy you can’t bounce the rear bumper with your foot is the vehicle of choice for the guy still running liquor. Remember: the idea is to blend in and not attract attention, for chrissakes.
6. Most moonshiners take great pride in their work.
Since the demand for illicit liquor has been in steep decline over the last, say, fifty years, it’s rare to find it being made in any sort of large quantities. Which means that when it’s made these days, it’s for one of two reasons: tradition and/or specific demand. Tradition, because it’s what your family did for generations. Specific demand, because there’s a small, tight-knit group of buyers and sellers who can still make some money and support themselves with it. Both of which are good reasons to make really well-crafted liquor. Strong, but good – some of which can be hit straight or mixed in other drinks, most of which is cut with local fruit in season and savored by a trusted few. None of the authentic illicit liquor you’ll find today is rot-gut garbage because it’s not being made in vast quantities to move for profit. Why? Because the demand ain’t there. Why? Because there are more labels available today than ever before. Supply and demand, kids…supply and demand.
There’s tons more to go over, but this’ll get you through the next backyard skinny-jean yellow-tired Dutch bicycle hipster grass-fed free-range bespoke curated small-batch pulled pork barbecue you find yourself dragged to. For more good stuff, find a few of our early issues of GARAGE magazine or drop us a note – we’ll turn you onto some more goodness…