Scratching The Surface Of Moonshine's History

Craft distillery and craft distilling; the distillation of spirits, has its roots deep in American history, and are becoming more common in the nomenclature of American society. The term "craft" brings to mind the idea of smaller batches of distilled liquors being made in a family setting, a counterpart of home brewing for beers. Although the family aspect may come into play some of the time, the term "craft distilling" refers mostly to the concept of starting with raw materials and creating distilled liquors with the same attention to detail that was normal in the earlier history of the United States. In this way craft distilling sets itself apart from the larger, more established distilleries. A craft distiller is actively involved in every aspect of the skilful distillation of the spirit, from ingredient selection to bottling and labelling, thus guaranteeing its craftsmanship-worthy quality.

This craft has its clear beginnings from thousands of years, but has been subject to regulation and prohibition during some time periods in certain places.

The first clear evidence of craft distillation comes from Greek alchemists who worked in Alexandria in the first century AD. Chinese may have independently developed the practice around the same time. The medieval Arabs learned the distillation process from the Alexandrians and used it extensively. Mongolians uses a different method known as freeze distillation or the "Mongolian still" during the early Middle Ages in Central Asia. This technique involves freezing the alcoholic beverage and then removing the ice. The freezing technique had limitations in geography and implementation and so was not widely used. Many believe there is a notable drawback of this technique because it concentrates, rather than reduces, toxins such as methanol and fusel oil; which has been proved untrue.

People do craft distilling for a variety of reasons. It can be cheaper than buying commercially equivalent beverages; it allows people to adjust recipes according to their own tastes creating beverages that are unavailable on the open market.

Real moonshine comes in two “flavors” – legal and illegal. The essential difference is one is taxed and one is not. It’s all about the taxes. You can go into most any liquor store and buy moonshine such as Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey, Platte Valley Corn Whiskey or Catdaddy. The federal tax on a gallon of whiskey is around $15.00. The governmental taxing of whiskey and illegal distilling is not a new thing. Some have staged silent disagreement with it and some orchestrated violent rebellions against it, even way back sometime in the 1700’s, where lowly farmers who had difficulty to market their grain due to remote geographic location, has to distill their excess grain.

No one knows exactly where the name "Moonshine" came from. According to Wikipedia, moonshine got its name from “moonrakers” an old English term for what is known now as smugglers and the illegal operations involved in making it, or only by the “light of the moon.” It only goes to show that since time immemorial, what is forbidden is always something delectable.

Perhaps since it was illegal, the lure of moonshine was its mystery. For people before, it is a question of what made it illegal. Is it because it tastes so good and so satisfying? Is it the drink of the Appalachian gods? Sadly, the truth is far from the romanticized stories it held. It is only illegal because the government does not get paid excise taxes. Recently, the name moonshine can apply to any kind of distilled liquor that the taxes have not been paid on. However, due to some recession in 2008 and 2009, some states were forced to loosen some laws regarding distilleries in order to generate employment and keep tax revenue rolling in. This is why moonshine became suddenly mainstream.

Since that state legislature was signed, the moonshining business became widespread and is quickly gaining popularity. One of the factors that contributed to its fast fame is that it does not require to be aged in barrels. Besides, people nowadays are becoming more nostalgic and are into all that vintage stuff. The appeal for nostalgia and to have a taste of a bygone era is something that draws people in and gets them to start a new hobby with their copper stills.

Now that moonshine and distillation are starting to become mainstream and music is always a reflection of the culture, you shouldn't be surprised to hear it mentioned Rihanna’s song “Diamonds.” Where the songstress compares people to diamonds in the sky and says that moonshine makes her alive or something. Bruno Mars with all his talent, has a song about drinking moonshine with his girl which he appropriately entitled “Moonshine”.  No one can blame them though, with moonshine becoming more and more popular you're bound to hear about it everywhere.
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Chemistry, Art, Ingredients & Inspiration

For people who are in love with whiskey or any kind of alcohol for that matter, the ultimate dream is to have your own distillery. However, making brews might take a lot of effort, time, the right tools and the precise ingredients to perfect that superb taste.

If you are making any kind of home-made brew, we offer a few ingredient recommendations. You shouldn't be scared to experiment but know a little about them before concocting that recipe you've been thinking about. If you already know your basic ingredients - water, sugar and yeast, the sky is the limit. You can combine them with your own recipe for a perfect home-made brew.

Whether you’re an experienced or newbie brewer, here are some basic ingredients that you should learn more about:

Flaked Rye

  • The first is a pound of flaked rye. Brewers have a choice on whether to put rye on their home brews. But most of them often do because of the distinct flavor provided by rye in your brew. You know that there is rye in the brew because of that wonderful spicy aroma that tickles your sense of smell. It adds a smooth texture to the brew and forms some creamy head. Also, it adds a characteristic dryness which explains why most brewers use it to make Specialty Beers. Flaked rye is usually steamed and rolled in order to gelatinize its starches which make it easier for sugar conversion. The grain is unmalted, so it's used primarily to add flavor .

 Dark Toast American Oak Chips

  • The next one on the list is dark toast American oak chips. As all brewers and enthusiasts already know, oaks provide that rich color and lovely flavor to the brew. Oak chips naturally lend its taste to the brew being that brews are aged in oak barrels. But since the dawn of stainless steel fermenters and storage tanks, brewers keep that inimitable flavor by adding oak chips. But you must be careful in treading with oak since not all brews work well with the flavor. The dark toasted oak tends to add a carbonized or caramelized flavor to the drink.

Light Toast American Oak Chips

  • Finally, on the list of ingredients is the mild, light toast American oak chips. Light toast oak chips are much more subtle compared with dark toast. It often lends a fresh wood and coconut character to the brew. Use these when you're looking for a more subtle flavor. The kind of oak used matters. There are plenty of oaks out there; the most popular though are American, French and Hungarian. French oak has a mild vanilla flavor, the American oak has the strongest oak flavor while Hungarian is a little bit of both.
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The History of Moonshine

Moonshine is as much a part of Americana as the drive-in movie or baseball. The very name conjures up images of secret stills hidden deep in the woods and guarded by miserly old-timers. However, the mythology and romance which surrounds moonshine belies it's importance to American culture over the years. It has played a significant part in American history from the War of Independence to the days of Al Capone and Prohibition.

Early Production Methods
Despite being a uniquely American venture, the production of moonshine probably has it's roots in Scotland, England and Ireland. Settlers in areas such as Appalachia sought to create an alcoholic drink such as the illicit whisky and poteen they had enjoyed back in their countries of birth. They managed to do this by fermenting a mash made from Indian corn and then adding sugar, yeast and water. Early attempts at moonshine resulting in a liquid which was fairly weak, but moonshiners soon found that by distilling the liquid three times they were able to produce a liquor with considerable kick. This triple-distillation led to the famous 'triple-X' branding of jars.

The Origins of Moonshine
Following the American Revolution the newly founded American nation found it's self struggling financially. The war had left the state with huge debts and in a bid to raise revenue a tax on spirits and liquor was imposed. As most of the population was struggling to make ends meet, and given that much of the War of Independence was a reaction against imperialist taxes imposed by the British, the people reacted angrily with many choosing to distil their own alcohol while refusing to pay the government their taxes. This soon became a source of considerable income for farmers. The alcohol they produced helped provide for their families while generating the profits required to pay rent on their assets. Needless to say the government wasn't happy at losing out on their cut of this booming industry and tax collectors were sent out. These visits often resulted in violence and trouble escalated as the Treasury issued a militia force to curb the conflicts. While this succeeded in halting the violence, it drove the alcohol producers underground and the concept of moonshining was born. Thomas Jefferson later repealed the whiskey tax and for the next 60 years or so people were free to produce their own liquor, but the costs incurred by the Civil War saw the tax reintroduced and moonshining was once again forced underground.

A Booming Industry and Decline
The transformation of moonshine from a localised business into a nationwide industry came with the Prohibition Act of 1920. The ban on alcohol production, sale and consumption meant that people had to turn to alternative suppliers to get a drink. The difficulties of importing alcohol from abroad saw a boom in the production of moonshine. The demand for moonshine was at an all time high with speakeasies often run by gangsters requiring copious amounts of liquor to keep customers happy. It was a golden age for moonshiners which lasted until the Prohibition Act was repealed in 1933. Moonshine production declined sharply after this, but there is still a sizeable community who carry on the work of their forefathers by manufacturing home-made hooch.

It is difficult to think of any other 'hobbies' which have had as much of an impact on American society. What started off as a way for people to enjoy a drink and make a little extra money on the side turned into a multi-million dollar industry and gave rise to some of the most notorious criminals the country has ever seen. Even today TV Shows such as Moonshiners and Boardwalk Empire pay tribute to this most American of industries. And while this industry may be minimal compared to in it's heyday you get the impression that as long as there is corn to be mashed and a still to be used there will be people making moonshine.


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Moonshine: An Introduction

Moonshine: An Introduction

Since the dawn of American history, people have been home-making alcoholic beverages. Moonshine is characterized by two ideas: freedom and craftsmanship. After the American Revolution, the federal government placed a tax on liquor production to pay for expenses made by the war. It was a heavy tax, and for some American people, it was the difference between being able to feed their family or not. To evade this tax, people turned to moonshining. Since then, throughout American history, people have been moonshining for various reasons: to avoid taxation, to make and enjoy liquor during the Prohibition, or to exercise their own personal right to create a superb craft. What the idea of moonshining boils down to is the freedom to create your own craft and the freedom to create your craft whatever way you want. Moonshining as a hobby enables you to create your own one-of-a-kind liquor. Though traditionally whiskey, moonshining does not specifically refer to any particular kind of distilled liquor. You can make rum, vodka, or gin (just to a name a few) and use practically any kind of grain or fruit. Your craft is totally up to you! Most moonshine stills are made out of copper or stainless steel. All our stills are 100% made of copper. Copper is more expensive than stainless steel, but it’s worth it. Firstly, copper makes your moonshine smell and taste better by removing sulfur from yeast through a chemical reaction with the copper, which also improves the aroma and overall quality of the moonshine. The copper has antimicrobial effects which prevent the production of toxic substances and destroys many viruses and bacteria (again, making it taste and smell better). Stainless still has none of these benefits and the quality and aroma of the resulting distillate can suffer. This is why so many steel stills have a reflux design which yields a higher proof, tasteless distillate. Another problem with stainless steel is it's poor heat conductivity. Copper doesn't suffer from this; the electrical conductivity of copper helps distribute heat evenly throughout the still. Copper has a history of use that is at least 10,000 years old. Copper is extremely hard to erode, even under extreme conditions, yet it is malleable enough for master craftsmen to cut and pound into whatever shape they so desire. Copper has been widely used for centuries in plumbing, architecture, and as currency, and is widely used today in electronics and electrical wires. Old moonshiners in the Appalachian hills used copper and commercial distilleries use it today. And, of course, copper looks great! Steel or aluminum stills just can’t compete with copper aesthetically. Our stills are truly works of art.

The Basics of Making Moonshine

Let’s Get Started. Making moonshine with a pot still is pretty simple and is made up of two major steps: fermentation - the creation of alcohol - and distillation - the collection of alcohol by evaporation. Fermentation is the creation of alcohol. Fermentation is a chemical reaction that occurs when yeast (a type of fungi) breaks down sugars found in fruits or grains like corn, wheat, and barley and converts these sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. First, the grain is ground up. Traditionally, moonshiners would use corn and grind it up into corn mash. Then, the ground-up grain is added to the still and is soaked in hot water. Some people choose to add sugar at this stage to increase the amount of alcohol made in the end; traditional moonshiners would add malt to convert the starch in the corn into sugar to increase their alcohol yield. The yeast is added to this mixture, and the final mixture of ground grain, water, and sugar or malt is called mash. This mash is stirred thoroughly and heated gently in the still for some time to allow the yeast to process the sugars in the mash. After a set time passes, the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol. This is similar to how wine (made with fruit) and beer (made with grains) are made; wine and beer are actually pre-distilled forms of liquor. What separates wine and beer from moonshine and other liquors is the distillation process. Now, to separate the alcohol from the mash, we go to step two: distillation. Distillation is the collection of alcohol from the mix of yeast and grain or fruit from the previous step of fermentation. This is accomplished by taking advantage of the different boiling points of water (212°F) and alcohol (173°F). The mixture of yeast, grain or fruit, and water is heated to between 173-212°F which allows the ethanol (which is the type of alcohol people consume) to turn into gas while leaving most of the water in its liquid state. As more and more alcohol gas forms, pressure rises in the still and forces the alcohol gas out of the top of the still through a thin tube to the condenser. Inside the condenser, the alcohol gas is cooled and transformed into liquid alcohol. The condenser is full of cold water; when moonshine was made during the prohibition era, this cold water was usually diverted from a freshwater stream nearby. The cold water flows into the condenser from a separate opening at the top and out through a hole in the bottom to keep a constant circulation of cool water flowing. The alcohol gas enters the condenser and travels through a long, coiled tube called the worm. As the alcohol gas travels through the worm, it gets cooled by the bath of cool water surrounding the worm. This cooling makes the gas turn into a liquid, forming liquid alcohol. Then, the liquid alcohol drips out of the worm by means of a spout into a container. There’s your moonshine!

From ground up grain to finished liquor, moonshining is a simple and easy to learn hobby with its roots deep in American history. Don’t let complicated terms like pH or sparging scare you off; moonshining is straightforward. As you can see from the above description, the methods are clear and accessible. While you learn, practice, and make moonshine, you can experiment with different types of grain, fruit, or even yeast. Check out for more great tips on moonshining. Once you get started, you’ll realize drinking it is only half the fun! No matter what your skill level, from beginner all the way up to expert artisan, moonshining will quench your thirst for creation and craftsmanship.

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Apple Pie Moonshine Recipe

Apple pie moonshine is an old favorite. Its sweet, pleasantly spiced apple flavor takes the edge off of especially strong moonshine, and makes it more enjoyable for people who can’t handle the kick and flavor of straight-up shine. Once you’ve tried apple pie moonshine, you’ll want to have some on hand all year long, but it’s especially good during the fall when fresh apple cider is on store shelves. Apple pie moonshine keeps very well due to the high alcohol content, and the flavor improves with age, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch since there’s no chance of it going to waste. 

The Ingredients

These are the ingredients and equipment that you need in order to make 12 quarts of apple pie moonshine. 

* Large cooking pot

* 12 quart-sized mason jars with bands and lids

* 1 gallon of apple cider

* 1/2 gallon of apple juice

* 6 cups of brown sugar

* 12 cinnamon sticks

* 12 whole cloves

* 2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg

* 2 cups of spiced rum

* 350ml of Everclear (or high-proof vodka), or about 1/2 of a fifth

The Recipe

There are two stages to making apple pie moonshine. The first step involves make a flavorful base out of apple cider, apple juice, sugar and spices. The alcohol is added to this flavor base in the second step, and then the moonshine is put into jars for storage. This recipe is split up into two steps in order to avoid heating high-proof alcohol on the stovetop, which can cause a fire and reduce the alcohol content of the finished product. It’s an easy recipe as long as you follow the directions carefully, and the moonshine that it makes can’t be beat. 

First, add the following ingredients to your cooking pot and bring them to a boil:

* Apple cider

* Apple juice

* Sugar

* Cinnamon, clove and nutmeg

After the cider and juice mixture boils, turn off the heat and cover the cooking pot with a lid. Allow the mixture to sit, covered, until it comes back to room temperature. Once the cider and juice mixture has cooled, you can add the alcohol and stir for a moment in order to mix the alcohol well. Then use a ladle to carefully fill each mason jar 3/4 full with the apple cider moonshine and put on the lid. Optionally, you can add one cinnamon stick and one clove to each jar before storing them in order to increase the flavor of the spices over time. After 6 weeks of aging, your moonshine will taste exactly like apple pie.


For best results, you’ll want to store your moonshine in a cool, dark space for at least 2 weeks before drinking. This method of storage helps to age the moonshine and mellow the flavors, taking the edge off of the spices and letting everything meld into tasting like a delicious apple pie. After you’re happy with the taste of your apple pie moonshine, you can move it to the refrigerator in order to slow down the aging process. It can also be stored indefinitely in the freezer, although depending on the alcohol content it may freeze solid. As long as the air space in each jar is large enough, freezing isn’t an issue. But if the contents are too cramped then it’s possible to crack a jar during freezing. Refrigeration is the recommended method for long-term storage, but it’s not necessary as the alcohol content of the moonshine will stop it from spoiling. Apple Pie Moonshine Recipe