Contact Author Source Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton may have been a hillbilly but he was also an entrepreneur who surprisingly knew much about marketing. He was descended from a long line of moonshiners and considered it his heritage to produce it.
External links 6 History The word "moonshine" is believed to be derived from the term " moonrakers " used for early English smugglers and the clandestine nature of the operations of illegal Appalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey.
This white whiskey most likely entered the Appalachian region in the late 18th century to early s. Scots-Irish immigrants from the Ulster region of Northern Ireland brought their recipe for their uisce beatha, Gaelic for "water of life".
The settlers made their whiskey without aging it, and this is the same recipe that became traditional in the Appalachian area. As a study of farmers in Cocke County, Tennessee, observes: One horse could haul ten times more value on its back in whiskey than in corn. In modern usage, the term "moonshine" ordinarily implies that the liquor is produced illegally; however, the term has also been used on the labels of some legal products as a way of marketing them as providing a similar drinking experience as found with illegal liquor.
Safety Poorly produced moonshine can be contaminated, mainly from materials used in the construction of the still. Stills employing automotive radiators as condensers are particularly dangerous; in some cases, glycolproducts from antifreezecan appear as well.
Radiators used as condensers also may contain lead at the connections to the plumbing. These methods often resulted in blindness or lead poisoning for those consuming tainted liquor.
Although methanol is not produced in toxic amounts by fermentation of sugars from grain starches, contamination is still possible by unscrupulous distillers using cheap methanol to increase the apparent strength of the product.
Moonshine can be made both more palatable and less damaging by discarding the "foreshot"—the first few ounces of alcohol that drip from the condenser.
The foreshot contains most of the methanol, if any, from the mash because methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than ethanol.
The foreshot also typically contains small amounts of other undesirable compounds such as acetone and various aldehydes.
This is especially true during the distilling process when vaporized alcohol may accumulate in the air to dangerous concentrations if adequate ventilation has not been provided.
Former West Virginia moonshiner John Bowman explains the workings of a still.
American Folklife Center Tests A quick estimate of the alcoholic strength, or proof, of the distillate the ratio of alcohol to water is often achieved by shaking a clear container of the distillate.
Large bubbles with a short duration indicate a higher alcohol content, while smaller bubbles that disappear more slowly indicate lower alcohol content.
A common folk test for the quality of moonshine was to pour a small quantity of it into a spoon and set it on fire. The theory was that a safe distillate burns with a blue flame, but a tainted distillate burns with a yellow flame.
Practitioners of this simple test also held that if a radiator coil had been used as a condenser, then there would be lead in the distillate, which would give a reddish flame. This led to the mnemonic"Lead burns red and makes you dead. A hydrometer is used during and after the fermentation process to determine the potential alcohol percent of the moonshine, whereas an alcoholmeter is used after the product has been distilled to determine the volume percent or proof.The Heritage and Science of Moonshine Essay The Heritage and Science of Moonshine David Hinson Mount Olive College The Heritage and Science of Moonshine Moonshine has long existed as a secret part of American culture.
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