Moonshine
Overview
Moonshine is an illegally produced distilled beverage
Distilled beverage
A distilled beverage, liquor, or spirit is an alcoholic beverage containing ethanol that is produced by distilling ethanol produced by means of fermenting grain, fruit, or vegetables...

. The word is believed to derive from early English smugglers
Moonrakers
Moonrakers is the colloquial name for people from Wiltshire, a county of South West England in the West Country.-Legend:This refers to a folk story set in the time when smuggling was a significant industry in rural England, with Wiltshire lying on the smugglers' secret routes between the south...

 and illegal Appalachian distillers who clandestinely (i.e., by the light of the moon) produced and distributed whiskey.
Moonshine is any distilled spirit made in an unlicensed still
Still
A still is a permanent apparatus used to distill miscible or immiscible liquid mixtures by heating to selectively boil and then cooling to condense the vapor...

. As with all distilled spirits
Distilled beverage
A distilled beverage, liquor, or spirit is an alcoholic beverage containing ethanol that is produced by distilling ethanol produced by means of fermenting grain, fruit, or vegetables...

, yeast
Yeast
Yeasts are eukaryotic micro-organisms classified in the kingdom Fungi, with 1,500 species currently described estimated to be only 1% of all fungal species. Most reproduce asexually by mitosis, and many do so by an asymmetric division process called budding...

 ferments
Ethanol fermentation
Ethanol fermentation, also referred to as alcoholic fermentation, is a biological process in which sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose are converted into cellular energy and thereby produce ethanol and carbon dioxide as metabolic waste products...

 a sugar source to produce alcohol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

; the alcohol is then extracted through by means of distillation.

Because of its illegal nature, moonshine is rarely aged in barrels like proper whiskey, and it sometimes contains impurities and off flavors.
Encyclopedia
Moonshine is an illegally produced distilled beverage
Distilled beverage
A distilled beverage, liquor, or spirit is an alcoholic beverage containing ethanol that is produced by distilling ethanol produced by means of fermenting grain, fruit, or vegetables...

. The word is believed to derive from early English smugglers
Moonrakers
Moonrakers is the colloquial name for people from Wiltshire, a county of South West England in the West Country.-Legend:This refers to a folk story set in the time when smuggling was a significant industry in rural England, with Wiltshire lying on the smugglers' secret routes between the south...

 and illegal Appalachian distillers who clandestinely (i.e., by the light of the moon) produced and distributed whiskey.

Production

Moonshine is any distilled spirit made in an unlicensed still
Still
A still is a permanent apparatus used to distill miscible or immiscible liquid mixtures by heating to selectively boil and then cooling to condense the vapor...

. As with all distilled spirits
Distilled beverage
A distilled beverage, liquor, or spirit is an alcoholic beverage containing ethanol that is produced by distilling ethanol produced by means of fermenting grain, fruit, or vegetables...

, yeast
Yeast
Yeasts are eukaryotic micro-organisms classified in the kingdom Fungi, with 1,500 species currently described estimated to be only 1% of all fungal species. Most reproduce asexually by mitosis, and many do so by an asymmetric division process called budding...

 ferments
Ethanol fermentation
Ethanol fermentation, also referred to as alcoholic fermentation, is a biological process in which sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose are converted into cellular energy and thereby produce ethanol and carbon dioxide as metabolic waste products...

 a sugar source to produce alcohol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

; the alcohol is then extracted through by means of distillation.

Because of its illegal nature, moonshine is rarely aged in barrels like proper whiskey, and it sometimes contains impurities and off flavors. On rare occasions, it may contain dangerous levels of toxic alcohols such as methanol
Methanol
Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH . It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol...

. The off flavors may come from improper mashing, fermentation and/or distillation, and unsuitable storage containers. In popular culture, moonshine is usually presented as being extremely strong and in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 is commonly associated with the Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

, Appalachia
Appalachia
Appalachia is a term used to describe a cultural region in the eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York state to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in the U.S...

 and Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Canada is the region of Canada comprising the four provinces located on the Atlantic coast, excluding Quebec: the three Maritime provinces – New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia – and Newfoundland and Labrador...

.

Moonshining is usually done using small-scale stills. Typically, the still is built by the moonshine producer, thus avoiding the legal ramifications of obtaining a still commercially. The pot still
Pot still
A pot still is a type of still used in distilling spirits such as whisky or brandy. Heat is applied directly to the pot containing the wash or wine . This is called a batch distillation ....

 is made of copper or stainless steel, and a water filled barrel with a copper tubing coil for a condenser, is the traditional type of still, being popular with early moonshine producers due to its simplicity and ease of construction. More efficient Reflux stills are available to the modern moonshiner, either self-built, assembled from a kit, or purchased fully assembled. Lately, do-it-yourself still designs have become widely available on the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

. "Moonshine" and "Still Making Moonshine" are two documentaries that depict the life of a modern Appalachian moonshiner: the making of a three-stage still from sheets of copper, putting up corn mash, and running whiskey.

Prevalence

Varieties of moonshine are produced throughout the world.

Uses

Usually, illicit distillation is associated with the making of ethanol for drinking; however, it is also practiced for creating biofuel
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

.

Safety

Poorly produced moonshine can be contaminated, mainly from materials used in construction of the still. Stills employing used automotive radiator
Radiator
Radiators are heat exchangers used to transfer thermal energy from one medium to another for the purpose of cooling and heating. The majority of radiators are constructed to function in automobiles, buildings, and electronics...

s as a condenser are particularly dangerous; in some cases, glycol products from antifreeze used in the radiator can appear as well. Radiators used as condensers also may contain lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 at the connections to the plumbing. Both glycol and lead are poisonous and potentially deadly.

Although methanol is not produced in toxic amounts by fermentation of sugars from grain starches, 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 less damaging by discarding the "foreshot"—the first few ounces of alcohol that drip from the condenser. The foreshot contains most of the methanol, if any, from the mash. Methanol may be present because it vaporizes at a lower temperature than ethanol. The foreshot also typically contains small amounts of other undesirable compounds such as acetone and various aldehydes.

Any alcohol that is at least 80 US proof (i.e. 40% alcohol by volume) is flammable. This is especially true during the distilling process in which vaporized alcohol can accumulate in the air if there is not enough ventilation.

Mixtures

Moonshine has sometimes been mixed with an adulterant
Adulterant
An adulterant is a chemical substance which should not be contained within other substances for legal or other reasons. Adulterants may be intentionally added to more expensive substances to increase visible quantities and reduce manufacturing costs or for some other deceptive or malicious purpose...

 (e.g. methanol
Methanol
Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or wood spirits, is a chemical with the formula CH3OH . It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to, but slightly sweeter than, ethanol...

, lye
Lye
Lye is a corrosive alkaline substance, commonly sodium hydroxide or historically potassium hydroxide . Previously, lye was among the many different alkalis leached from hardwood ashes...

, or beading oil) with the intent of increasing its apparent alcohol content. Moonshine that has been adulterated in this way will form bubbles on its surface. Large bubbles with a short duration would indicate a higher alcohol content. This practice has sometimes resulted in a toxic
Toxicity
Toxicity is the degree to which a substance can damage a living or non-living organisms. Toxicity can refer to the effect on a whole organism, such as an animal, bacterium, or plant, as well as the effect on a substructure of the organism, such as a cell or an organ , such as the liver...

 mixture that can cause blindness or death. Although poisoning incidents are rare, particularly in developed nations, they are a cause for concern about the safety of moonshine.

Moonshine may be flavored with fruit
Fruit
In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

 or bark
Bark
Bark is the outermost layers of stems and roots of woody plants. Plants with bark include trees, woody vines and shrubs. Bark refers to all the tissues outside of the vascular cambium and is a nontechnical term. It overlays the wood and consists of the inner bark and the outer bark. The inner...

. The mash may be cooked with birch
Birch
Birch is a tree or shrub of the genus Betula , in the family Betulaceae, closely related to the beech/oak family, Fagaceae. The Betula genus contains 30–60 known taxa...

 bark to achieve a mint-like flavor. Fruit flavoring may be added to the product before bottling.

Tests

A common folk test for the quality of moonshine was to pour a small quantity of it into a spoon and set it alight. 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
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 in the distillate, which would give a reddish flame. This led to the phrase, "Lead burns red and makes you dead." Although the flame test will show the presence of lead and fusel oils
Fusel alcohol
Fusel alcohols, also sometimes called fusel oils, or potato oil in Europe, are higher-order alcohols formed by fermentation and present in cider, mead, beer, wine, and spirits to varying degrees....

, it will not reveal the presence of methanol, which burns with an invisible flame.

The traditional test used by British sailors involved gunpowder to "prove" that their brandy was not watered down (contained at least 57% ABV
Alcohol by volume
Alcohol by volume is a standard measure of how much alcohol is contained in an alcoholic beverage .The ABV standard is used worldwide....

.)

See also

  • Bathtub gin
    Bathtub gin
    Bathtub gin refers to any style of homemade spirit made in amateur conditions. The term first appeared in 1920, in the prohibition-era United States, in reference to the poor-quality alcohol that was being made....

  • Bootleggers and Baptists
    Bootleggers and Baptists
    Bootleggers and Baptists, is a model of politics in which opposite moral positions lead to the same vote. Specifically, preachers demand prohibition to make alcohol illegal while the criminal bootlegger wants it to stay illegal so he can stay in business...

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is a federal law enforcement organization within the United States Department of Justice...

     (ATF)
  • Dixie Mafia
    Dixie Mafia
    The Dixie Mafia is a criminal organization based in Biloxi, Mississippi, and operated primarily in the Southern United States, in the 1970s. The group uses each member's talents in various crime categories to help move stolen merchandise, illegal alcohol, and illegal drugs...

  • Moonshine by country
    Moonshine by country
    Moonshine is a generic term for distilled alcoholic beverages made throughout the globe from indigenous ingredients reflecting the customs, tastes, and raw materials for fermentation available in each region...

  • Moonshine in popular culture
    Moonshine in popular culture
    Moonshine is referenced in many works, including books, motion pictures, musical lyrics and television.-Literature:*In Patrick Dennis' fictional biography First Lady, the early years revolve around a moonshine called "Lohocla" produced by the father of protagonist Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield...

  • Poitín
    Poitín
    Poitín , anglicised as poteen, is a traditional Irish distilled, highly alcoholic beverage . Poitín was traditionally distilled in a small pot still and the term is a diminutive of the Irish word pota, meaning "pot"...

     or Poteen
  • Prohibition in the United States
    Prohibition in the United States
    Prohibition in the United States was a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol, in place from 1920 to 1933. The ban was mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, and the Volstead Act set down the rules for enforcing the ban, as well as defining which...

  • Rum-running
    Rum-running
    Rum-running, also known as bootlegging, is the illegal business of transporting alcoholic beverages where such transportation is forbidden by law...


Further sources

  • "Moonshine!" History, current trends, and how-to by Matthew Rowley (2007) ISBN 978-1579906481
  • "Minnesota 13" Stearns County's 'Wet Wild Prohibition Days by Elaine Davis (2007) ISBN 978-0-9798017-0-9
  • Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine by Max Watman (2010) ISBN 978-1439170243
  • "Moonshine -- Blue Ridge Style; An Exhibition Produced by the Blue Ridge Institute & Museum of Ferrum College". Exhibition catalog, 2008, 14pp. www.blueridgeinstitute.org, www.ferrum.edu, and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy, Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Déantús an Phoitín (Poteen Making), by MacDara Ó Curraidhín, is a one-hour documentary film on the origins of the craft.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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