Moonshine
 

 

Best Moonshine
- Liquid Americana

 

Moonshine is intrinsically linked to American history. There’s no other liquor on the shelves that has had a bigger impact on our country’s heritage.

Distilleries were common in early America. In the 1810 census there were more than 3600 distilleries operating in the state of Virginia alone. At its time Washington’s distillery was one of the largest whiskey distillery in the country. In 1799 the Distillery had five copper pot stills and fifty mash tubs, producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year. It was not the custom of the day to age the whiskey, so Washington’s whiskey was not bottled or branded. The whiskey coming from the distillery was poured into wooden barrels, usually 31 gallons in size, and shipped to nearby merchants. The whiskey cost about 50 cents per gallon.

In the 1830 thru 1860′s the Scot-Irish settled the Virginian Highlands since the region reminded them of home. They brought the distilling skills with them. People discovered they could make a living off producing corn whiskey — mainly because the liquor could be produced and sold quickly, as it didn’t require years of aging in barrels. By the 1900′s there where over 15,000 registered stills in the U.S.

Then Prohibition happened in 1919, but consumers wanted their whiskey. So once again moonshining became big business. Many people in the Appalachian states were still making moonshine as a means to make ends meet, and suddenly millions of gallons of hooch were sold. The small family stills were not enough to supply the large demand, and moonshine stills popped up across the country. As we know, not all were quality product and some were even deadly.

When alcohol became legal again, the moonshine trade plummeted. But not for the people in the Appalachia states where distilling moonshine had been a way of life for generations, and the excise taxes became so high it was worth the risk to make it. Moonshine production continued to flourish in the backwoods Appalachia, including North Carolina, Tennessee, & Virginia. However, Franklin County Virginia is considered the moonshine capital of the world.

Moonshine is basically unaged corn whiskey. Distilling moonshine is a very simple process, requiring four main ingredients: corn, sugar, yeast, and water. Corn can be substituted with various ingredients, including barley, rye, or fruit, but corn is most often used because it is cheap and easy to obtain. Some moonshiners even use hog feed. The XXX on moonshine jugs is a classic symbol. It signifies how many times the moonshine batch had been run through the pot still. Three X’s indicated that it had been run through 3 times and that the shine was high, almost pure alcohol, above 80% ABV (or over 40 prf).

Moonshine brings to mind images of hillbillies tramping through the Appalachian backwoods, making white lightning in illegal copper stills and peddling mason jars filled with shine. The main difference with modern-day moonshine is that the people distilling it aren’t operating outside the law. Moonshine is now generally used as a catchall term for unaged white whiskeys – also referred to as white lightning, hooch, white dog and corn liquor. For decades, most people had never even seen a jar of moonshine, let alone tasted it. These days you can find it at stores, bars and restaurants around the country thanks to loosened liquor laws and changing consumer preferences. There are now more than 400 distilleries legally producing moonshine across the United States.

Moonshine is a truly authentic "craft spirit" — literally handcrafted in small batches and hand-packed in a very traditional fashion. Shine on moonshine!

 

 

The Fifty Best Moonshine & Unaged American Whiskey Tasting of 2018

 

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a "blind" tasting of moonshine whiskies with sixteen members of our spirits judging panel. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the moonshines were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the highest. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Bronze medals awarded for this tasting. The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The distilleries, states of origin, and alcohol proofs are identified for each brand.

 



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNER

Stillwrights Traditional Recipe Moonshine
(Flat Rock Spirits, OH)
Distilled from cane & corn. – 104.7° proof

Nose: Lemon, lemon peel, citrus, hints of berries, white flowers, caramel, molasses, vanilla, sweet candy, dough, cereal, corn, popcorn, coffee, cocoa spice, herbal, peppery, lake greens, wet stone, mineral, clean.
Palate: Cane sugar, cotton candy, vanilla, creamy, sweet corn, raw potato, mocha, spicy coffee, lemon peel, lemon zest, citrus, spearmint, grassy, green pepper, pepper, oregano, Mexican oregano, thyme, cardamom, white peppercorn, balanced, crisp, smooth, complex.
Finish: Caramel, dark chocolate, cocoa, grain, coffee, citrus, herbaceous, mint, lemon pepper, chili, thyme, oregano, lingering spice, white peppercorn, mineral, limestone, touch of sweetness, balanced, bright, lively.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal




 Stillwrights Traditional Recipe Moonshine



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Last Shot Moonshine
(Skaneateles Distilleries, NY)
Distilled from 100% New York State corn. – 100° proof

Nose: Corn, roasted corn, Corn Pops cereal, cookie dough, wheat, vanilla, sugarcane, honey, cherry, orange peel, lemon, vegetal, grassy, dill, minty, clove, wet wood, sawdust, cedar, smoky.
Palate: Toffee, butter, vanilla, mocha, corn, fig notes, raw beans, citrus, wheat, light hay, straw, grassy, fennel seed, eucalyptus, mint, warm cinnamon, fire-y spice, white pepper, mineral, sour mash, strong char, creamy mouth feel, balanced, tangy, bright, crisp.
Finish: Corn, vanilla, honey, cookie dough, doughy, grain, straw, menthol, spearmint, cinnamon, clove, spicy, white pepper, salty, slow burn, sweet rush of heat, fire-y, wet stone, smooth, bright.

Gold Medal
Gold medal




Last Shot Moonshine



Howlin’ Hounds Moonshine
(Missouri Ridge Distillery, MO)
89% Cane, 11% Grain. Ozark Mountain water. – 100° proof

Nose: Toffee, creamy, chocolate, chocolate mint, Andes mint, Jr. Mint, white sugar, preserved orange, pineapple, lychee, raspberry, hints of grapefruit, citrus, fermenting grapes, lemongrass, grassy, wintergreen, herbal oil, almond, rye, barley, malty, dry leaves, perfume-y, rice sake.
Palate: Caramel, cream, chocolate, honey, cherry cola, pineapple, lychee, green apple, grapes, lime skin, orange peel, corn, sweet grains, ginger, agave, vegetal, spearmint, cinnamon, clove, sweet spice, spicy, perfume-y, lemon oil, deep oils, mineral, saline, peat, earthy, dry leaves, sake, rice liquor, Mizu Shochu, round mouthfeel.
Finish: Dark cocoa, dry cocoa, creamy, mocha, raisins, pineapple, lychee, grapes, lime skin, anise, roasted agave, spearmint, grass, olive, salty, mineral, fire, lasting bitterness, clean, soft, smooth, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal




Howlin’ Hounds Moonshine



Boldt Clear Whiskey
(Alchemy Distillery, CA)
Distilled from locally grown and freshly milled grains. – 96° proof

Nose: Corn, corn husk & silks, roasted corn kernels, cocoa, butterscotch, cane sugar, honey, banana, banana peel, dried cranberry, white flowers, flower pistons, mint, light cinnamon, mineral oil, mineral, briny, maritime, pine wood.
Palate: Toffee, nougat, creamy, vanilla, corn, strawberry, pear, citrus notes, lime skin, hint of lime, wheat, rye, grain, fennel, vegetal, peppermint, spearmint, minty, cinnamon gum, pepper, hot pepper, forest floor, lake water, mineral, limestone, oak wood.
Finish: Vanilla, banana, rye, lime skin, green pepper, grassy, light mint, cinnamon, light spice, spicy, white pepper, mineral, new oak, woody, buttery mouthfeel, powdery smooth, soft, velvety.


Gold Medal
Gold medal




Boldt Clear Whiskey



SILVER MEDAL WINNER

Steamboat Springs Territorial Moonshine
(Steamboat Whiskey Co., CO)
Distilled from Colorado corn & oats. Rocky Mountain water.
100° proof

Nose: Dried cherries, grape candy, lime, citrus, rose petals, honeysuckle, fermented corn, creamed corn, wet walnuts, vegetal, aloe, fennel, anise, licorice, mint, Thai basil, straw, chalky, clay, musty, earthy.
Palate: Marzipan, creamy, vanilla, corn, Good & Plenty candy, strong anise, fennel, juniper, lemon, lemongrass, floral, marjoram, tarragon, herbs, Thai basil, light spice, chalky, clay, earthy, peat, woody, sherry barrel, clean.
Finish: Saltwater taffy, corn, buttered popcorn, slight almond, rose water, light floral, licorice, tarragon, spicy, white pepper, clay, vermouth, heat, soft.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Steamboat Springs Territorial Moonshine

 

 

 

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