View Full Version : Moonshine, today

10-22-2004, 15:07
I came across this article while surfing, today: Moonshine in Ky (http://www.courier-journal.com/localnews/2004/10/21ky/A1-moonshine1021-8219.html)


10-22-2004, 16:02
Very interesting, Tim, good catch. Reading this reminded me of what Michael Jackson wrote in his 1988 World Guide To Whisky about a grizzled, former moonshiner pictured in the text, "he is an unrepentant whiskey lover". http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif


10-23-2004, 21:09
"It's definitely an unusual thing these days..."

Moonshine has been around TV lately. I saw a special on it at CMT and the History channel. One or both programs said that moonshine was on the rise with the younger generation.

A part of me wishes it could be legal. I know people got hurt, but home stills were the way the country used to be. When we truly were a free country.

10-23-2004, 21:58
> I know people got hurt, but home stills were the way the country used to be.

Home stills actually aren't really all that dangerous, as long as they don't
explode or burn down the house. Them fellers tryin' to make deep fried
turkeys... now that's trouble right there, I'll tell you what.

Tim Dellinger

10-24-2004, 16:45
Despite the somewhat negative spin, I thought the moonshine special on CMT was great! What were your thoughts? Did anybody else see it?

Perhaps there is some risk in consuming moonshine, but I'll say this - I think there is a fair amount of moonshine consumed around here (in rural VA), but, in the seven years I've been practicing here, I have yet to treat my first moonshine related illness. Fortunately, I have government approved tobacco consumption to keep the patients rolling in. Otherwise, business would be a bit slow. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif

10-25-2004, 14:08
I found the CMT program very interesting, including the part about Jake leg, how it may have injured thousands in the 1930s. Some of that stuff was 70 to 85 percent alcohol.


10-25-2004, 20:18
Was the CMT program the same one that A&E and the History Channel have shown? (Rumrunners, Moonshiners, and Bootleggers)?

10-26-2004, 09:26
The officers seized several large metal barrels, in which corn mash allegedly was fermented, and other items needed to make moonshine, including propane tanks and three large bags of sugar.

Modern moonshiners, especially those who are doing it as a business and not just for fun, rarely use corn or any other grain. They use table sugar, which is relatively cheap (thanks to subsidies), available and easy to work with. No worries about cooking, conversion, enzymes or any of that. Sugar water ferments up right nice. I have heard of moonshiners adding a couple cans of creamed corn for flavor, but that's about it.

10-26-2004, 09:47
I think this is a different show, only on CMT.

10-26-2004, 11:44
> I have heard of moonshiners adding a couple cans of creamed corn for
> flavor, but that's about it.

Creamed corn??? That's a new one for me! I have heard tell of the
the virtues of adding tomato paste to a sugar wash, but for the most
part, large operations use a little splash of dried grains in their
sugar water.

My feeling is that pure sugar water is the recipe of the isolated
beginner... it just doesn't provide the nutrients and raw materials
that the yeast needs, and dramatic improvements are seen when you
treat the yeast marginally better.

I dug up a few news stories a while back, and they all use grain adjuncts:

Tim Dellinger

10-26-2004, 16:18
If you augment your sugar water with some ground grains, is cooking, or the addition of malt or other enzymes, necessary for conversion? Do moonshiners ferment the mash or a wort? Or do they screen out the solids post-fermentation but pre-distillation? If not, how to they avoid the problems typical of mash distillation in a pot still? I always assumed that avoiding solids in the still was one of the advantages of using sugar.

10-27-2004, 09:51
These are harder questions to answer with any certainty, since
practices vary so much between operations, and the evidence isn't
as plain to see. Police reports of busts will list things like
grain and molasses, but unfortunately they tend to be a little
shy on details that would give clues as to exact production
practices. Similarly, people who have seen or helped with stills
and give anecdotal evidence can tell you for ceratin that corn
was added, but when you start asking, even in nice, non-technical
terms, if they extract a wort or if they ferment on the grain, then
the answers aren't quite as clear. So researching adjunct usage
is a lot easier than trying to pick up other details.

If you decide to get super-curious, I've heard that a guy named Matthew
Rowley is doing much more research that I am on this stuff, and is
looking to put together a book.

Tim Dellinger

10-27-2004, 13:34
I would think that since the vast majority probably learned to make shine from their fathers and grandfathers they probably had their own terms for each step of their process that wouldn't necessarily match established industry terms. When asked why they do any particular part of the process the way they do, the answer would surely be "because that's the way dad showed me to do it". Kind of like asking a fisherman how he prefers to evacuate the viscera of his catch and being told "I don't do any of that, I just gut em".

10-27-2004, 18:25
> Kind of like asking a fisherman how he prefers to evacuate the viscera
> of his catch and being told "I don't do any of that, I just gut em".

That's why I say "in nice, non-technical terms", but the real problem
is that it's actually a complicated question. At first glance, either
you ferment on the grains, or you drain off a wort... either you put
the grains in the still, or you don't... either your boil the {mash, wort}
or you don't.. but there's lots of gray area in between when you think
about it.

What if at some point you let the solids settle for a day, and only
take the top 80% of the liquid? You're not really filtering per se, but
you are getting rid of most of the solids. And what if you just have a
course filter, but you still let, say, 50% of the solids through?

What if you use some of your cooling water (which is now hot, of course)
to make the mash? You're not really boiling it or heating it per se, but
it is hot.

Some of the moonshining rigs get really complicated with ingenious ways
to pre-heat the beer before it goes into the still, and to route liquids
in all kinds of crazy ways using gravity so that you don't have to pour
or pump anything.

Tim Dellinger