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Who's making moonshine

Gone are the days when the likes of Popcorn Sutton or any bib-overalls wearing moonshiner distilled alcohol up in `dem der hills.’




Currently, 20-year olds and 30-year olds enjoy the process of distillation in the comfort of their own homes. These home distillers buy moonshine still online and enjoy the process for its own sake. A select few distill because they are intent to make high-end quality whiskey.



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In an article on the website, a 28-year old Culinary school graduate and café manager shares his passion – but not his real name for fear of federal prosecution (today’s version of revenuers) – for home brewing.

Technically, moonshine stills are not illegal as they could be used for general distilling, e,g. essential oils or water.  However, in the absence of an appropriate permit, distilling alcohol is illegal. Yet this fact did not stop suburban dwellers from doing their own distilling. Mostly, these enthusiasts are similarly interested in fine food and a good drink.

The changing mindset and demographic also shows a change in how distillation is done. No longer are car radiators used in the process. Campfires are not anymore considered as a reliable heat source.

The current generation of moonshiners learn distilling through online forums, websites, books and word-of-mouth usually from friends. No recipe is passed down from one generation of moonshiners to the next. Moonshine recipes are simply downloaded online, googled or shared via email. There are those who experiment using absinthe, brandy or anything else that is unconventional yet safe and not lethal.

Distilling conferences held in Cornell University focus on commercial distillers and dedicated moonshiners who are happy to do their distilling privately. These moonshiners also have the freedom to craft their own whiskey, brandy or drink.

For instance, this manufacturing company owner based in Chicago – Carl Pincher – happily makes his own apple brandy using his own homemade 32-quart pot still. He also uses tips he culled from the internet and advice he received from a friend who makes cherry schnapps. Pincher admits he merely dabbles but he looks forward to a time when he could make a seriously delectable and drinkable concoction.

The new breed of home distillers believe that distilling as an illegal activity is simply “stupid.”

Cooking school instructor Ben Andrews distills brandy via a rotary evaporator and believes that his efforts are a “labor of love.” Other hobbyists believe that those who think distilling is risky simply base their information on unsafe practices and old tales of stills that blew up.

However, this possibility does not occur as long as common sense is used. According to Lance Winters, Hangar One’s head distiller based in Emeryville California, the distillation process doesn’t put anyone’s life and limb at risk. Any hazard is due to the heat source used.

Urban home distillers swear by the fact that they are not doing this for the money but simply to further their art and craft. They could only wonder why that would even be considered a crime?

Posted by Jason Stone on

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