What is Moonshine?
Moonshine is the historical name for illegally produced alcohol and is derived from the term “moonrakers” which was used to describe the 18th century English smugglers and illegal Appalachian distillers. While technically moonshine refers to illegally made alcohol of any kind, most commonly, it refers to un-aged Whiskey, i.e. alcohol distilled from fermented grain.
In other words, moonshine is just the Whiskey version of silver Rum or silver Tequila. It is an un-aged or barely aged version of brown Whiskey.
Does Moonshine only come from the Southern United States?
No. Moonshine has been made wherever grain is grown because it was most commonly a way for farmers to make money off of crops that they were not able to sell. In other words, instead of allowing extra crops to spoil and become worthless, farmers could ferment and then distill whatever they grow into moonshine, which they could then sell at any time. Because this was so useful to farmers, people all across the United States have made moonshine from everything from peaches in Georgia to Rye in Pennsylvania to apples in Washington.
Moonshine became associated with the Southern United States primarily because illegal alcohol production and distribution (bootlegging) was most prevalent there. Some scholars believe that this is because limited infrastructure in the Appalachian areas made it more costly to transport large quantities of crops from farms to markets or wholesalers. Instead, by distilling crops down to moonshine, farmers could reduce the mass and volume of product and make shipment less expensive.
Is Moonshine Dangerous?
Un-regulated or home-distilled moonshine is dangerous, because if made incorrectly, it can have high levels of methanol, a byproduct of fermentation that is poisonous when ingested in even low quantities and is the chemical that would make people go blind.
Legal moonshine, on the other hand, is just as safe as brown Whiskey or any other liquor.
Is all Moonshine or White Whiskey harsh tasting and high-proof?
No. Historically, most moonshines and un-aged Whiskeys were made with high alcohol content so there was less volume to transport, making bootlegging more profitable. In other words, were they to dilute the alcohol content with water, as people do with brown Whiskey, they would have more liquid to transport. This means that moonshine was not high-proof by necessity or because of the way it is made, but because it was cheaper for bootleggers to transport.
In terms of the taste, moonshine or White Whiskey are the same as all other liquors: they are as good or as bad as the craftsmanship they are made with and the ingredients that are used.
What makes Manhattan Moonshine different?
Manhattan Moonshine is made with higher quality ingredients, a balanced four-grain blend instead of simply using one grain, and a much more sophisticated distilling process. As a result, Manhattan Moonshine is the highest rated clear Whiskey in the world, according to Whisky Advocate.