Your Complete Guide to Moon Shine

Your Complete Guide to Moon Shine

Moonshine has gone from an underground indulgence to a mainstream spirit. But how do you legally make, enjoy and serve this high-proof spirit? Read on. 

What is Moon Shine?



Moonshine is a term that refers to any illegally produced, homemade, or unregulated alcoholic spirit, typically made in small quantities.

The term "moonshine" comes from the practice of producing spirits at night, under the light of the moon, to avoid detection by law enforcement. 


While moonshine may have received a recent surge of popularity, it is actually a long-standing tradition around the world. 


Moonshine has a rich cultural history in the United States, particularly in regions like the Appalachian Mountains and the Franklin County of Virginia, where moonshine production has been a part of the local heritage for generations. Pioneers distilled their excess grain and used the resulting spirit for trade or even as legal tender. 

Moonshine is often associated with homemade alcohol production, often done in remote areas or hidden locations away from authorities. However, this was not always the case.

It was only when the newly formed United States government found themselves in need of additional tax revenue to pay for the revolutionary war that citizens were no longer allowed to make their own spirits. 

Instead, the government decided to place a ‘whiskey tax’ on the spirits to generate some much needed funds. This, of course, was met with backlash, and a whiskey rebellion in which many lost their lives. 

Making whiskey was soaring in popularity at the time because it was made using simple equipment and ingredients, such as American corn, real pickles, or a blend of apple brandy. 

History of Moonshine




Moonshine has a rich and storied history in the United States, with its roots tracing back to the early settlers who brought their distilling knowledge to the New World. These settlers, primarily of Scots, Irish, and German descent, brought with them the traditions of distilling whiskey and other spirits. 

Moonshine quickly became a way for these settlers to preserve surplus crops and create a valuable commodity.

However, in the late 18th century, the US government began imposing taxes on homemade moonshine, leading to protests and the famous Whiskey Rebellion. 

This rebellion, which took place in the late 1700s, saw farmers and distillers refuse to pay the taxes, leading to clashes with federal forces. Although the rebellion was ultimately quashed, it highlighted the deep-seated opposition to government interference in the production of moonshine.

Fast forward to the early 20th century and the era of Prohibition, when the production and sale of alcohol were banned. 

Moonshine flourished during this time, as individuals and organized crime groups alike turned to illegal liquor production to meet the demand for alcoholic beverages. Homemade stills were hidden in remote areas, ensuring a steady supply of moonshine for those who sought it.

Today, moonshine has evolved from its illicit past and has become a regulated industry. Craft distilleries produce high-quality moonshine, often flavored with a variety of fruits and herbs. 

Moonshine is no longer just a symbol of rebellion and bootlegging, but rather a celebration of American distilling traditions and ingenuity. With its rich cultural history and enduring popularity, moonshine remains an iconic part of American folklore.

It is important to check the moonshine laws in your area in order to protect yourself.



Check out: Is Moonshine Illegal? 


Check out: Home Distilling Laws by State



Underground Moonshine Bootlegging & Smuggling



Underground bootlegging and smuggling played a significant role in the history of the moonshine industry. During periods of prohibition and restrictions on alcohol production, individuals turned to illegal means to produce and distribute moonshine.

To produce moonshine illegally, individuals used various methods and techniques. These included setting up hidden stills in remote areas to evade law enforcement, using homemade distillation equipment, and sourcing ingredients such as corn or fruit to ferment and distill into alcohol. Moonshiners often operated at night to avoid detection.

Distribution of moonshine was often done through underground networks and secret channels.


This involved smuggling the illicit alcohol to customers through hidden compartments, disguised containers, or even elaborate tunnels.


Moonshiners relied on word-of-mouth referrals and trusted contacts to maintain their operations.

Engaging in moonshine bootlegging carried serious legal consequences. Offenders faced the risk of fines, confiscation of equipment, and even imprisonment.

In addition, the production and distribution of illegal moonshine had a societal impact. It contributed to the rise of organized crime, corruption, and health hazards due to the lack of regulation and quality control.

Although moonshine production and consumption have become legal in many places today, the history of underground bootlegging and smuggling remains an intriguing and important part of the moonshine industry's cultural and historical legacy.


Types of Moon Shine



Moonshine is a term used to refer to homemade, high-proof distilled spirits that are typically produced illegally or outside of the regulated alcohol industry. 


While the production and sale of moonshine may be illegal in many regions, its unique flavors and historical significance have made it a beloved part of American culture.


There are several types of moonshine, each with its own characteristics and production methods.


One popular type is American Corn Moonshine, which is made from a blend of corn and other grains. This type of moonshine typically has a strong flavor profile, with a sweet and grainy taste.

Another type of moonshine is Real Pickles Moonshine, which is made by fermenting pickles and distilling the resulting liquid. This unique moonshine has a distinct pickle flavor and is often enjoyed as a novelty drink.

In addition to homemade moonshine, there are also commercial moonshine brands available in the market. Ole Smoky Moonshine, for example, offers a range of flavored moonshine options, including apple and cherry. These commercial moonshines are produced in a legal and regulated manner, ensuring safety and quality.


Check out: Recreate Ole Smoky Moonshine Recipes at Home


Whether you enjoy the traditional homemade moonshine or prefer the flavors and convenience of commercial options, moonshine continues to hold a special place in American culture. Its rich history and unique production methods make it a truly iconic spirit.


Production of Moon Shine



Moonshine production has a rich and storied history that dates back to the early days of the United States. 


Despite being illegal in many regions, the production of moonshine continues to thrive, either underground or in a legal and regulated manner. 


Check out: How to Make Moonshine


The production process begins with sourcing the ingredients, which can vary depending on the desired flavor and type of moonshine.

At How to Make Moonshine, we offer a variety of moonshine grain as well as moonshine grain kits, to make this process simple and easy. 



Check out: The Best Moonshine Recipes for Beginners


Typically, moonshine is made from grains such as corn, barley, or wheat. These grains are then ground and mixed with water and yeast to kickstart the fermentation process


Check out: How to Ferment your Moonshine


After fermentation, the liquid is distilled using a moonshine still to separate the alcohol from the impurities. The alcohol is collected and may be flavored or aged before being bottled and sold.

Moonshine production requires careful attention to detail and knowledge of the distillation process to ensure a high-quality end product.

While legal moonshine brands adhere to safety regulations and quality control, the allure and mystique of homemade moonshine continue to captivate enthusiasts interested in preserving the traditions and flavors of this unique spirit.


Check out: Everything you Need to Know About Distillation

Ingredients Needed For Moonshine Production


As moonshine refers to any spirit that is made illicitly, it is not limited to corn whiskey. However, when people think of moonshine or ‘white lightning’ corn whiskey often comes to mind. 

Moonshine production requires a few essential ingredients to create the unique spirit that has become synonymous with American history and culture. Moonshine is typically associated with corn whiskey, but can actually be made out of almost anything including fruit, vegetables and even plain sugar. 


In corn whiskey the main ingredient is corn, which makes up at least 80% of corn whiskey. 

Other ingredients necessary for this flavor of moonshine include water, yeast, and enzymes. The water acts as a solvent, helping to extract the flavors and sugars from the corn.

Yeast is essential for the fermentation process, as it converts the sugars into alcohol. Enzymes are added to break down complex starch molecules in the corn into simpler sugars, aiding in the fermentation process.

Additionally, moonshine production typically requires a moonshine still kit, like the ones provided by How to Moonshine. These kits are usually essential for the distillation process, ensuring a smooth and flavorful moonshine.

However, there is also an option to make moonshine without a still. 



Check out: How to do Freeze Distillation


The Process of Moon Shine Distillation

Distillation is a crucial step in moonshine production as it allows for the separation and purification of alcohol from the fermented mixture. This process involves heating the fermented liquid, also known as the wash, in a still to produce vapor. The vapor contains alcohol, which has a lower boiling point than water and other impurities.

As the vapor rises, it enters the condenser, where it cools and transforms back into a liquid. This liquid, now known as the distillate, is collected and contains a higher concentration of alcohol compared to the original wash. The impurities and unwanted substances are left behind in the still.

Using copper in the distillation process is essential for several reasons. Copper is a highly conductive material that aids in heat transfer, allowing for efficient and precise temperature control during distillation. Moreover, copper reacts with sulfur compounds present in the wash, helping to remove unwanted flavors and odors.


Furthermore, copper has natural antimicrobial properties that help to eliminate bacteria and other contaminants, resulting in a cleaner and safer end product.


The use of copper during distillation ensures a smoother and more flavorful moonshine, allowing the distinct characteristics of the chosen ingredients, such as American corn, to shine through.

While some may choose to purchase a copper still, others prefer stainless steel. While copper stills have many advantages, they are also expensive, hard to clean and maintain, 

Instead, we suggest using a stainless steel still packed with copper mesh. Stainless steel is also a great conductor of heat but is also easy to clean and maintain. By adding copper mesh to your stainless steel still you can have delicious shine at a fraction of the cost. 

In summary, the process of distillation in moonshine production involves heating the fermented mixture to produce vapor, which is then condensed into a purer liquid. Using copper is essential in achieving quality moonshine, as it aids in heat transfer, removes impurities, and enhances the overall flavor profile of the final product.


Legal Regulations for Production of Moonshine




The production of moonshine, or distilled spirits, is subject to a set of legal regulations and restrictions. These regulations aim to ensure the safety and quality of the product, as well as control the alcohol concentrations involved.

One key aspect of producing moonshine legally is obtaining the necessary licenses and permits. In many countries, including the United States, a distiller must obtain a federal permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) before engaging in production. Local and state permits may also be required.

Furthermore, there are strict regulations regarding the alcohol concentrations in moonshine. The TTB sets limits for the maximum alcohol content that can be achieved through distillation. These limits vary depending on the country and jurisdiction, but they are in place to prevent the production of dangerously high alcohol concentrations.

Historically, there have been periods of time when the production of alcohol, including moonshine, was banned. One notable example is the Prohibition era in the United States from 1920 to 1933. During this time, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages were illegal, leading to the rise of illicit moonshine production.

Producing moonshine illegally can have serious consequences. Offenders may face hefty fines, confiscation of equipment, and even imprisonment. Additionally, the production of illicit moonshine poses significant health risks as the lack of regulation and quality control can result in the production of unsafe and potentially harmful products.


It is important to check the local laws in your area to protect yourself before engaging in the production of moonshine. 


The production of moonshine is subject to legal regulations and restrictions, including obtaining licenses and permits, adhering to alcohol concentration limits, and avoiding illicit production.

These regulations aim to ensure the safety and quality of moonshine and to prevent the risks associated with illegal and unregulated production.

Moonshine Still Kits & Supplies Used In Moonshine Production




Moonshine still kits and supplies play a crucial role in the production of moonshine. They provide the necessary equipment and materials for a successful distillation process. There are several types of moonshine still kits available, each designed to cater to different production needs.

A pot still is a popular option for making moonshine because of its ability to create a flavorful shine. 


The Magnum All-in-One still kit is a popular option for those who want to create great tasting shine. The Magnum has a large 50L capacity, is easy to assemble, and does double duty as both a still and fermentor. 


A column still is another popular option for those who want to make a high proof neutral spirit that is easy to replicate. 


The Standard is a great option for shiners who want an easy to assemble and operate. Unlike other column stills on the market, The Standard is electric, with an easy to operate temperature control. Its column is perfect for copper mesh packing and it also does double duty as both a still and a fermentor. 



Finally, for those looking for a simple still that is compact, the perfect option is an air still. 


The Moonshine Cherry is a simple still that is electric with simple up and down temperature control and automatic shut-off.


The Moonshine Cherry is about the size of a kitchen kettle and just as easy to operate. The Cherry is perfect for the boat, camper, cottage or anywhere you want to make delicious shine at the press of a button. 



In addition to the moonshine stills, other supplies such as fermentation vessels, yeast, hydrometers, and measuring equipment are needed for the moonshine production process. These components and tools are essential for achieving the desired alcohol concentrations and flavors.



At How to Moonshine, we offer a starter kit with everything you need to get started making your first mash. 

Our Starter Kit includes:

  • Five gallon mash pot
  • Mash paddle
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer
  • Cheesecloth




Moonshine still kits and supplies are vital for the production of moonshine. It is important to choose quality materials to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the distillation process.

By using the right equipment and supplies, moonshiners can produce high-quality moonshine that is both safe and enjoyable.

Flavored & Commercial Moonshines


Flavored moonshine has become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a unique twist to the traditional moonshine experience. 

From fruity flavors like apple and cherry to more adventurous options like cinnamon or caramel, these flavored moonshines add a burst of taste and complexity to the distilled spirit. Crafted with high-quality ingredients and combined with the smoothness of moonshine, these flavored variations provide a variety of options for those looking to experiment with their moonshine collection.

Modern Moonshine Culture



Moonshine, a term that once conjured images of secretive distilleries hidden deep in the Appalachian Mountains, has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to the modern moonshine culture. 


This underground practice of producing homemade spirits has evolved into a trendy and innovative movement that celebrates the craftsmanship and creativity behind the production of moonshine. 


With a focus on quality ingredients, unique flavors, and cutting-edge distillation methods, modern moonshine distillers are pushing the boundaries of what was once considered illicit alcohol. 

This contemporary twist on a traditional art form has captivated both connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike, while also paying homage to the rich cultural history and traditions that surround moonshine production. Join us as we explore the fascinating world of modern moonshine culture and discover the allure of this spirited beverage.


Rise in Popularity in Recent Years



In recent years, the popularity of moonshine has been on the rise, with a growing interest and demand for this traditionally illegal distilled spirit. One of the main factors contributing to its increased popularity is the revival of craft distilling.


Just like craft beer and small-batch whiskey, moonshine has captured the attention of enthusiasts who appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship behind creating artisanal spirits.


Additionally, the fascination with DIY products has played a role in the rise of moonshine's popularity. Many people are drawn to the idea of making their own spirits at home, fully immersing themselves in the process and enjoying the fruits of their labor. 

Moonshine provides a unique opportunity for individuals to experiment with different flavors and techniques, creating a personalized and one-of-a-kind spirit.

Furthermore, the appeal of moonshine lies in its distinct flavor profiles. While traditionally made from American corn, modern moonshines can be flavored with a variety of ingredients, such as fruits, herbs, or spices. This versatility allows for endless possibilities and tasting experiences, further adding to its growing popularity.

The rise in popularity of moonshine in recent years can be attributed to the revival of craft distilling, the fascination with artisanal and DIY products, and the appeal of its unique flavor profiles. As more people discover and appreciate the artistry behind moonshine production, its popularity continues to grow.