Friday, October 02, 2009

Moonshine growing in national popularity as one Appalachian community cuts its 'revenuers'

Moonshining is experiencing a resurgence, but not where you might expect. A new generation of moonshiners, some who prefer to be called craft distillers, are popping up from California to New York, Catherine Price of reports, and the next-generation stills are in suburban backyards instead of secluded mountains. Make no mistake, distilling homemade spirits without a license is a felony, but that hasn't stopped the new next-gen moonshiners.

Moonshing is often associated with prohibition and Appalachia, but today that definition is becoming less accurate, Price writes: "Since states' own priorities rarely involve busting people for 3-gallon stills of whiskey, most small-time moonshiners don't get caught." Distillers aren't likely to be poisoned or go blind either, since the make-it-quick haste of the prohibition era is gone. "It's more about culinary experimentation than it is about cheap hooch," Camper English, author of the cocktail and spirit blog Alcademics, tells Price. "They're trying to make something you can't find on store shelves." Laws against moonshining are unlikely to change anytime soon, Price writes, "If they want legalization, they have to show their faces." (Read more)

The emergence of national moonshining comes as one Appalachian community has cut the once vibrant Illegal Whiskey Unit of its police force. The unit, based in Franklin County, Va., has seen its staff of five full-time agents to one part-timer, Rex Bowman of The Roanoke Times reports. The cuts leave "southwest Virginia's elusive moonshiners without a full-time, dedicated foe for the first time in decades." Retirements and budget cuts have left the unit with no rebound in sight, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control feels it can control moonshining by charging all agents to pursue their own cases.

"I think the whiskey business is something in the past," former Franklin County Sheriff W.Q. "Quint" Overton told Bowman. "The drugs pretty much took over." Chris Goodman, the ABC agent in charge of the Roanoke office, says that may not be the case: "We're starting to see and get more information about some stills. It appears there's an uptick, and we're trying to address it." (Read more)

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