Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enough With The 'Legal Moonshine' Already.

Tennessee's Short Mountain Distillery announced today that it has signed agreements with "three living legends of moonshine making."

This is not a cause for celebration.

The young micro-distillery movement is exciting for everyone who enjoys quality distilled spirits with an artisan's touch, but for this new, small distillery (and others) it appears to be all about the perpetuation and exploitation of myths, stereotypes, and misrepresentations.

Short Mountain presents a confusion of moonshining, bootlegging, and Tennessee whiskey that does a disservice to everyone in this industry who is trying to produce an honest, quality product and sell it in an honest, sincere and straightforward way.

Just a couple of specific points.

Since moonshine is any distilled spirit produced illegally, and not a distilled spirit type, there can be no such thing as 'legal moonshine.'

Bootleggers are people who sell alcohol illegally, although the alcohol they sell may be either legally or illegally produced, and most actual bootleggers today sell legal alcohol illegally.

In the local news story about them, one of the participating moonshiners talks about hauling "sugar and corn meal" back to the still site. Unless the sugar was for his coffee, that means he wasn't making whiskey.

Most moonshine is made from cane sugar and is not, therefore, whiskey, which must be made from grain. The proper name for it is 'sugarjack.' The official name for it is rum.

Tennessee whiskey is, according to the Federal government, "straight bourbon whiskey produced in Tennessee." Nothing in this project involves Tennessee whiskey so their headline about writing "a new chapter in Tennessee whiskey history" is a misrepresentation on its face.

Short Mountain will probably counter that they are just having some fun for the tourists, but illegal alcohol production and illegal alcohol sales are serious crimes that do a lot of harm, both to people and to the reputations of respectable alcohol makers and sellers.


M Lange said...

Chris Watman's book "Chasing the White Dog," though often sympathetic to moonshiners, does a good job of showing the dark side of modern moonshine and the possible consequences. It is indeed not something to take lightly.

M Lange said...

My memory slipped. Make that Max Watman.

Tim Dellinger said...

You're fighting a losing battle here, Chuck. The court of public opinion has spoken: we like gangsters (Goodfellas, the Godfather, Nucky Thompson, Capone, Nelson, etc. etc.). We like elevating the formerly-outlaw to become mainstream or even high art (biker culture, graffiti, etc. etc.).

American whiskey already has a reputation for having a little bit of a bite to it. A little burn.

To sell alcohol, you need a story, and this is a story that consumers embrace. They vote with their dollars...

T Comp said...

At one time they had David Pickerell as part of their "team" and were touting their stewardship to the land. And now this is the best they can come up with? Unfortunately Tim Dellinger's court of public opinion comment is true and hopefully this too shall pass.