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TAPrice

Legal "moonshine"

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I been deeply dubious about the whole legal "moonshine" thing. It reeks of a drink born in the marketing department. They're selling bad boy Southern attitude in a bottle. Not to mention that I don't understand how it can been moonshine if I can buy it at the Winn Dixie.

But I was willing to withhold judgement. I figure it was unaged corn whiskey, which could be ok.

I got samples of Midnight Moon and Catdaddy at Tales. I cracked them open tonight.

Midnight Moonshine: the label says grain neutral spirits. It's got an old time hot rod on the mini-bottle. At least it says produced in North Carolina, so they're not just buying bulk netural spirits. Taste like cheap vodka. Unpleasant.

Catdaddy: this is the moonshine bottled in a bottle that looks like crockery. I suppose when it's empty you can use it for those jug band gigs with Jethro and Jimbo in holler. Label says grain neutral spirit with natural and artificial flavor. Taste like vodka with sugar and fake vanilla flavor.

So both of these really suck. And the maker, Piedmont Distellers, must realize they suck. In the little recipe book that came with the samples, most of the cocktail mix the moonshine one to one with other spirits (bourbon, gin and even vodka).

Here is my question: what is moonshine? Is there a legal definition? And what flavor are they going for?

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I've sampled a homebrewed potato vodka made by an acquaintance of mine who lives in upstate New York, and it was a smooth and complex thing, which isn't a kind of flavor I'd associate with "moonshine," though I suppose any artisanal spirits might meet a legal definition of that term.

This acquaintance mentioned that he followed a homemade spirits discussion forum (is it "moonshine," if it's got an internet discussion board?), and one of the more active members there took pride in making spirits from discarded stale breakfast cereal, like Froot Loops, and it was surprisingly good. Froot Loops Vodka definitely sounds like moonshine to me.


Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)

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Since the term literally refers to clandestinely produced liquor, ie by the light of the moon so the smoke from the still is not visible, then in my mind once it is being produced legally it ceases to be moonshine. If any unaged funky distillate qualifies then grappa, Wray & Nephew Overproof, all manner of snaps and eau de vie, pisco, etc would qualify. In other words, No.

On a related note, had the priviledge to samepl Makers Mark 'white dog' recently. Fascinating stuff, if it were available for sale I could see myself craving it on occasion. Smells like a mix of grappa and creamed corn (which I guess it sort of is).

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There seem to be quite a few of these unaged spirits coming to market now, although some similar products have existed for some time.

The website I work for has sold US unaged corn whiskey Georgia Moon (guaranteed less than thirty days old) for several years. It comes in a jamjar and we sell a reasonable amount of it to bars for its novelty value. Some use it as a cocktail ingredient.

In the last year or two we have seen a steady trickle of unaged or very young Scotch malt spirit (which can't be called whisky as it isn't aged three years). These products are usually from new or under-new-ownership distilleries that need to raise funds while their whisky matures.

Bruichladdich has been selling their product X4 for about a year (the name refers to the fact that this particular spirit is distilled four times). Kilchoman distillery (also on Islay) has been selling their new make spirit to visitors for a couple of years, although it hasn't been widely available through retailers.

Now Glenglassaugh has also started to market a new-make spirit under the sobriquet 'The Spirit Drink That Dare Not Speak Its Name'. The distillery name is not mentioned on the packaging in case people mistake it for a whisky.

I have no problem with any of these products in principle but I think that some are rather more fairly priced than others. Essentially most of them differ very little if at all from a vodka.

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I forgot to add to my earlier post that I've heard a rumour that Buffalo Trace might be looking at doing a 'white dog' style product in the fairly near future as well.

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Todd,

What's the proof on these products?

They're both 80 proof.

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Todd,

What's the proof on these products?

They're both 80 proof.

That seems awfully weak for 'shine. I generally associate illegal spirits with proofs up in the 150 to 190 range - everclear territory.

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I went to the lunch at Tales that was put on by Piedmont Distillers and we tried both the Moonshine and the Cat Daddy - straight and then in cocktails. I wasn't in love with the Moonshine but I have to say - I loved Cat Daddy with it's cardamom undertones. I look forward to using it in cocktails.

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Is the potcheen (sp?) stuff made in Ireland similar to what we're thinking of when we think of moonshine? I believe that was recently made legal and is now available everywhere. Similar situation?

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Is the potcheen (sp?) stuff made in Ireland similar to what we're thinking of when we think of moonshine?  I believe that was recently made legal and is now available everywhere.  Similar situation?

When I was working in Ireland building a running a brewery, guys used to stop by and, just like over the years, in Louisiana, at Abita , they would eventually getting around to mentioning that they might have a little poteen in their car. Sure enough, it's pretty much just like American shine-meaning it might be delicious, it might be not much, and it might taste like estery gasoline. Nevertheless, as with all home distillers, they always thought that their stuff was the best in the land.

In Ireland, as opposed to the US, Poteen is mostly still made just because they know how and for the historical ties. In the US, though most people don't realize it, there is still a market for illegal brew. And a surprisingly big one, at that.

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Real (ie illegally-distilled) Irish poteen is similar to the old 'shine in that it's illegal and made from whatever they get their hands on.

The legal poteen that you can buy from specialist retailers and off-licenses in the UK is similar to the other products mentioned in that it is unaged spirit.

However, I believe most poteen is made from potatoes, sugarbeet or grain, the first two of which which would make it dissimilar to the unaged grain moonshine or malt spirit mentioned above. Even with the poteen made from grain, the strength that it is distilled to would suggest it more as a high-strength vodka than an unaged whisky.

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