Tennessee Moonshine

Why Is It Called Moonshine?

Have you ever wondered how moonshine got its name? Why is it called moonshine?


Normally made from corn, moonshine is a whiskey that is un-aged. You may wonder then why not name it corn whiskey or grain whiskey? How did it come to achieve the name moonshine which is now a household name? The answer to this is focused on the illegal state associated with it. Usually containing a very high content of alcohol, moonshine is whiskey that is distilled illegally at home. The name moonshine originated from the way it was distilled during the night “Using the moonlight”.

The name originally came from Britain where the verb moonshining was used. Initially, this verb meant conducting any activity in the night but the name got a new significance when it reached America.

Moonshiners began illegally making their alcohol the time the US enacted a high tax on high-distilled spirits made by its citizens to fund the civil war. The whiskey was not made just for fun but to feed families. Due to the hard times at that time, it was beneficial to get some extra income. Paying the high taxes meant less cash income to feed their families. This was intolerable for the moonshiners who were hard-working farmers. Every penny they earned was very crucial to them and they had to keep it so they instead went on making their alcohol illegally to avoid the hefty taxes that they were required to pay.

The moonshiners began to undertake their activities in the deep of the backwoods where it was hard to locate them to avoid being caught by the authorities. Since they made their liquor very late at night, the only source of light they had to use was the moonlight. This is how the name moonshine came to be born.

What comes to mind every time the word moonshine is mentioned is whiskey that is not aged and made from corn mash. Well, this is partly true although any illegally made alcohol is also known as moonshine. They began producing alcohol batches with white sugar instead of the normally used corn mash to produce a cheaper product and generate more profits. This was however not whiskey but rum. Grains were also switched with fruits sometimes. This alcohol was termed moonshine because it was produced illegally and late at night using the moonlight.

The US government legalized spirit distillation for a few selected distillers in particular locations to make and sell moonshine legally. Then the big question remains; is the legalized alcohol still referred to as moonshine although the term moonshine is given to alcohol which is illegally distilled? Although the moonshine found in the stores has been legalized, the methods and recipes used in distilling the illegal moonshine are still the same making it the same product with the same experience hence retaining the term moonshine.


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