In today’s world, moonshine can be found on most liquor store shelves throughout the United States, fully taxed and 100% legal; the question is, is it any better than it was in Prohibition times? The answer is a resounding yes! The spirit has only improved with time and continues to impress us with each new batch and each new distillery that opens its doors. Here are our five favorite (legal) moonshine brands that you can buy in the US right now!
A Little History
Once upon a time, distillers and bootleggers risked everything to make homemade spirits in the South; particularly in notoriously ‘dry’ areas. In fact, the word moonshine itself means “illegally made, untaxed liquor” by definition. Beginning in the 1790s, distillers would brew small batches at night under the cover of darkness to avoid detection, and typically it was only available if you knew someone (or had connections). It was especially popular in the Appalachian area, and by the early 20th century, moonshine had become a real source of income for many Appalachian residents.
Once the federal government caught wind of a product that wasn’t being taxed, they acted swiftly to enact a region-wide law that would collect an excise tax on Appalachian moonshiners. Knowing that a full-fledged rebellion wasn’t a realistic option, the Appalachians turned to illegal activities to circumvent the tax. Eventually, Moonshiners found a solid (and widespread) distribution network in the form of the Mob – and the rest, including moonshine’s rise to fame throughout the rest of the U.S. – is history.
This was one of the first new-generation moonshines to be introduced to the mainstream market. Crafted in single batches from the distillery’s special blend of New York corn (with no added sugar), what isn’t bottled as this clear moonshine is aged in barrels to become the company’s excellent Hudson Baby Bourbon. The whiskey is smooth and round (80 proof), and you can actually smell the corn as you sip. It’s designed for slow sipping, but it mixes well with a dash of lime, fruit juices, and other spirits.
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine
Ole Smoky is bottled in classic mason jars and is made in what was the first federally licensed distillery in East Tennessee. Coming in at a whopping 100-proof, this darkly colored spirit is actually made by a longtime Maker’s Mark distillery and comes in several different (some odd) flavors – including apple pie, which is actually quite good! Regardless, it’s still one of the most popular long-standing moonshines in the U.S. and has definitely earned its claim to fame.
Stillhouse Original Moonshine
Stillhouse Original Moonshine is another long-standing favorite among enthusiasts. Based in Virginia, this is a quadruple-distilled spirit that’s cocktail-friendly and slightly sweet. Each batch is made from estate-grown corn and is distilled in authentic copper whiskey stills then charcoal-filtered for a less bitter, higher quality taste. Now, they’re blending the gluten-free original recipe with natural flavors to make interesting variations, including apple crisp, peach tea, coconut, mint chip, and red hot whiskeys.
Midnight Moon Original Moonshine
Midnight Moon was created by NASCAR legend and former bootlegger Junior Johnson and was actually inspired by his family’s legacy moonshine recipe – which they’ve been distilling since the 1790s. True to its roots, Midnight Moon is made from 100% American corn and handcrafted in small batches. Each batch goes through a triple-distillation process that results in a surprisingly smooth, spicy/nutty, and sweet white spirit. This is a good option for those who are new to moonshine or have only tried it once or twice; the lack of bitterness and overall sweet tones make it an easy-to-sip classic!
Kings County Distillery Moonshine
Growing up in Kentucky, Kings County Distillery founder Colin Spoelman had his fair share of moonshine. Upon moving to New York City, he put his backwoods know-how to work, creating what would become Kings County, Brooklyn’s first distillery since Prohibition. Though the company now makes a range of products from bourbon to chocolate whiskey to rye, their unaged corn whiskey is still their pride and joy. It’s bright and crisp with mellow corn sweetness and comes in at a smooth 80 proof.