Best Moonshine
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Best Moonshine
- Liquid Americana

Moonshine is intrinsically linked to American history. There’s no other liquor on the shelves that has had a bigger impact on our country’s heritage.

In the 1830 thru 1860′s the Scot-Irish settled the Virginian Highlands since the region reminded them of home. They brought the distilling skills with them. People discovered they could make a living off producing corn whiskey — mainly because the liquor could be produced and sold quickly, as it didn’t require years of aging in barrels. By the 1900′s there were over 15,000 registered stills in the US. Then came Prohibition.

In 1919 Prohibition became law, but consumers wanted their whiskey. So once again moonshining became big business. Many people in the Appalachian states were still making moonshine as a means to make ends meet, and suddenly millions of gallons of hooch were sold. The small family stills were not enough to supply the large demand, and moonshine stills popped up across the country. As we know, not all were quality product and some were even deadly.

When alcohol became legal again, the moonshine trade plummeted. But not for the people in the Appalachia states where distilling moonshine had been a way of life for generations, and the excise taxes became so high it was worth the risk to make it. Moonshine production continued to flourish in the backwoods Appalachia, including North Carolina, Tennessee, & Virginia. However, Franklin County Virginia is considered the moonshine capital of the world.

Moonshine is basically unaged corn whiskey. Distilling moonshine is a very simple process, requiring four main ingredients: corn, sugar, yeast, and water. Corn can be substituted with various ingredients, including barley, rye, or fruit, but corn is most often used because it is cheap and easy to obtain. Some moonshiners even use hog feed. The XXX on moonshine jugs is a classic symbol. It signifies how many times the moonshine batch had been run through the pot still. 3 X’s indicated that it had been run through 3 times and that the shine was high, almost pure alcohol, above 80% ABV (or over 160 prf).

Moonshine brings to mind images of hillbillys tramping through the Appalachian backwoods, making white lightning in illegal copper stills and peddling mason jars filled with shine. For decades, most people had never even seen a jar of moonshine, let alone tasted it. These days, you can find it at stores and restaurants around the country thanks to loosened liquor laws and changing consumer preferences. Even the industry’s biggest distilleries are experimenting with moonshine. The main difference with modern-day moonshine is that the people distilling it aren’t operating outside the law. Today, moonshine is generally used as a catchall term for unaged white whiskeys – also referred to as "white lightning", "hooch", "white dog" and corn liquor.

Approximately 300,000 cases of moonshine were sold in 2012, a jump from 50,000 in 2010. Volume sales of moonshine during the last three years were up an average of 150 percent. The millennial generation is helping to drive the growing acceptance of moonshine. Consumers in the 21-35- year age group are embracing the spirits category, and have developed an affinity for products that are more commonly associated with older generations – respecting what their grandfathers or their great-grandfathers drank. Craft spirits are on the rise, and moonshine is definitely a craft spirit since it’s made in small batches, literally handcrafted and hand-packed in a very traditional fashion.

The rapid growth of moonshine can also be attributed to the growing number of available brands and variations, including flavors. There are now over 250 distilleries legally producing moonshine all across the United States, from Vermont to Washington and from Florida to California. Shine on moonshine!

 

The Fifty Best Moonshine & Unaged American Whiskey Tasting of 2017

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 19 moonshines and unaged American whiskies with a panel of 18 judges. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. The moonshines and unaged whiskies were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Each of the moonshines and unaged whiskies were evaluated and scored separately. Only ice water, neutral unflavored crackers and chips were available to cleanse the palate.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the best. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no bronze medals awarded for this tasting. The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The states of origin, distilleries and ABV are identified for each brand.



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Friday Night Redeye Corn Whiskey
White River Distillery (Arkansas)
90° proof

Nose: Toffee, sugar syrup, caramel apples, cream, vanilla, dark chocolate, cherry, lemon peel, dried fruit, corn, sweet grains, gardenia, sourdough mash, spicy, oak.
Palate: Toffee, cream, vanilla, cocoa, lemon peel, dried fruit, corn, biscuit, barley, oats, hazelnut, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, coffee, tobacco, salinity, iodine, peaty, woody, savory, well rounded.
Finish: Vanilla, biscuit, heather, almond, coffee, clove, basil, spice, peat, soft, smooth, mellow.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Friday Night Redeye Corn Whiskey



White Dog New Make Spirit
Kozuba & Sons Distillery (Florida)
Distilled from 100% Rye - 80° proof

Nose: Pommes, dried apricot, raisins, oatmeal, wheat, toasted wheat, grains, grass, overcooked nuts, corn, vegetal, potatoes, tobacco, wet leather, limestone, earth, oak.
Palate: Caramel, creamy, vanilla, raisin, plantain, corn, crackling oat bran, oatmeal, sweet grains, malt, yeasty, almond, ripe nuts, briny, new wood, clean, mellow, easy-drinking.
Finish: Vanilla, cream soda, pineapple, nutty, peppery, soft, smooth, nice, fresh, wow.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Kozuba White Dog New Make Spirit



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Arctic Ice Moonshine
Anchorage Distillery (Alaska)
Distilled from Grains. Glacial water. - 80° proof

Nose: Butterscotch, toffee, caramel, cream, sugarcane, light brown sugar, vanilla, papaya, corn, roasted corn, vegetal, nuts, pecans, spice, malt, grains, tobacco, like a blanco tequila.
Palate: Sticky toffee pudding, creamy, vanilla, sugar syrup, banana, dried fruit, almond, spice, sweet mash, soft grain, cereal, malt, cocoa, cigar box, oak, smooth, delicate.
Finish: Caramel, creamy, honey, raisins, cracklin’ oat bran, nutty, nutmeg, cinnamon, mint, peppery, coffee, mild cedar, oak, smooth, clean, delicate.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Anchorage Arctic Ice Moonshine



Old Forge Distillery
Miller's Blend Moonshine

(Tennessee) Distilled from Corn, Wheat, Barley, Sugar - 100° proof

Nose: Toffee, treacle, chocolate, cream, vanilla, dried cherry, corn, coffee cake, cake mix, grain, walnut, nutty, malty, cinnamon, herbal, tobacco, coffee grounds, wet stone, pine sap.
Palate: Honey, vanilla, creamy, chocolate, cherry, unripe apples, lime, citrus, corn, vegetal, grass, herbal, spearmint, nutty, cherry pit, coffee, peppery, spicy, tobacco, peaty, light cedar, oak, silky, mellow, smooth.
Finish: Treacle, corn, wheat-field, spearmint, minty, spicy, black pepper, tobacco, cedar, rye, easy, smooth, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Old Forge Distillery Miller's Blend Moonshine



Old Forge Distillery
Distiller's Blend Moonshine

(Tennessee) Distilled from Corn, Rye, Barley, Sugar - 100° proof

Nose: Toffee, creamy, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, brown sugar, pear, mango, lemon, citrus, floral, nutty, peppery, tea, bacon, oily wood, fresh maritime.
Palate: Caramel, creamy, vanilla, molasses, honey, jellybean, pear, citrus, raisins, corn, popcorn, malty, nutty, minty, ginger, nutmeg, spicy, light pepper, peppery, coffee, sour mash, rum, wood, oaky, balanced, smooth.
Finish: Caramel, pear, mint, baking spice, nutty, peppery, dry cedar, oak, well-balanced, flavorful, silky, smooth, graceful.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Old Forge Distillery Distiller's Blend Moonshine



Kentucky Mist Moonshine Corn Mist
(Kentucky) Distilled from Cane & Grain - 100° proof

Nose: Toffee, caramel, creamy, cocoa, roasted corn, corn mash, honey, pear, orange, raisins, bubblegum, rose petals, floral, herbal, hay, juniper, licorice, peppery, brine.
Palate: Jellybean, cotton candy, chocolate, corn, creamy, fiery fruit, lemon, lemon peel, grass, cereal grains, coffee, nutty, pink peppercorn, peppery, licorice, cedar, pine, lake water, smooth, mild, silky.
Finish: Vanilla, herbal, clove, nutty, spicy, peppery, rich, nice, soft, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Kentucky Mist Moonshine Corn Mist



Monadnock Moonshine
New England Sweetwater Distillery (New Hampshire)
Distilled from Corn, Cane & Tomato - 100° proof

Nose: Treacle, maple, apple, citrus, grapes, lemon zest, orange peel, apple blossom, jasmine, juniper, floral, spice, pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutty, walnut husk, moss, mushroom, wormwood, mineral, cedar, pine, cigar, musty, earthy.
Palate: Toffee, caramel, creamy, vanilla, maple, honey, apples, juniper, nutty, filbert, spicy, pepper, Bourbon, coffee, forest floor, earth, peaty, musty, oaky, wood.
Finish: Dark fruits, creamy, floral, nutty, spice, baking spice, pepper, dry cedar, woody, earth, soil, balanced, flavorful, elegant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Monadnock Moonshine



Long Island Old Tymer Moonshine
Twin Stills (New York)
Distilled from Corn - 100° proof

Nose: Toffee, butterscotch, caramel, brown sugar, cotton candy, vanilla cake, cake batter, cookies, yeasty dough, toast, buttered popcorn, corn, apple skin, floral, blossoms, violet, nutmeg, cinnamon, grassy, earthy.
Palate: Butterscotch, caramel, molasses, cream, butter, vanilla, mocha, savory fruit, black cherry, orange peel, floral, lavender, thyme, tarragon, spearmint, spice, peppery, anise, pastis, coffee, oak, smooth, savory.
Finish: Citrus, ginger, floral, rose petal, mint, basil, spicy, pepper, charred oak, smooth, sweet and sour.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Long Island Old Tymer Moonshine



Manhattan Moonshine 'Prohibition-Style'
Manhattan Moonshine Company (New York)
95° proof

Nose: Dark fruit, berries, dried fruit, raisins, orange essence, 7-Up, floral, grain, spearmint, juniper, quinine, sherry, essential oils, sap, resin, cedar, pine, savory.
Palate: Cane sugar, dark sugar, black cherry, peach, sour fruit, citrus, lemon, raisins, dates, dried fruit, corn, grain, malted cereal, eucalyptus, pine, wood, bark, charred oak barrel, ocean, complex.
Finish: Fudge, honey, black cherry, cherry, dried mango, clove, sap, oak, smoky, balanced, flavorful, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Manhattan Moonshine Prohibition-Style



Old Forge Distillery
Unaged Corn Moonshine, 1830 Original

(Tennessee) Distilled from Sugar & Corn - 100° proof

Nose: Toffee, caramel, honey, vanilla, dried fruit, fruit peel, raisins, agave, corn, grain, pecan, nutty almond, mocha, floral, moss, essential oils, oak.
Palate: Caramel, creamy, vanilla, dark berries, apples, citrus, agave, sweet corn, grain, malty, almond, spice, pepper, allspice, woody, toasted oak, cedar, balanced, instant bang.
Finish: Dried fruits, corn, sweet grain, almond, light citrus, mint, spicy, nutmeg, clove, woodsy, oak, pine resin, flavorful, fresh.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Old Forge Distillery Unaged Corn Moonshine 1830 Original



Standard Rye & Corn
Heart Cut Moonshine

Standard Spirit (Brooklyn, New York)
90° proof

Nose: Toffee, orange peel, raisins, agave, vegetal, dried cotton, doughy, floral, nutty, macadamia, iodine, briny, peaty, wood barrel, light cedar, very subtle.
Palate: Vanilla, chocolate, cream, butter, sugar, honey, black cherry, banana, citrus, agave, dried fruit, peach pit, roasted corn, cracklin’ oat bran, coffee, green chilies, spice, silky, complex.
Finish: Toffee, dates, peach pit, mole, vegetal, mint leaves, spice, cinnamon, peppery, sweet and sour, smooth, very approachable.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Standard Rye & Corn Heart Cut Moonshine



Drumlish Poteen Carolina Whiskey
Great Wagon Road Distilling Co. (North Carolina)
100° proof

Nose: Cotton candy, burnt honey, cherry candy, peach, pear, apricot, lemon zest, sweet floral, rice, paraffin, grass clippings, wet leaves, wet soil, earthy, slate.
Palate: Cherry, red Lifesaver, peach, citrus, orange peel, corn, mushrooms, jalapeño, vegetal, oolong tea, grain, coffee, nutty, spice, wood, oak, earthy, wet soil, musty, complex, silky.
Finish: Peach, bay leaves, pine, earthy, saline, lamb biryani, smooth, mellow, lovely.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Drumlish Poteen Carolina Whiskey



Sugarlands Shine Silver Cloud Moonshine
Sugarlands Distilling Co. (Tennessee)
Distilled from Cane & Grain - 100° proof

Nose: Dark chocolate, dark sugar, citrus, dried fruit, spearmint, toasted cereal grain, rye, pepper, leather, spice, brine, cork, pine, cedar, wood barrel.
Palate: Bitter chocolate, mocha, coffee, creamy, honey, corn, barley, malted grain, green apple, mint, white pepper, cinnamon, spicy, heavy oak, pine, cigar box, rye, bright, silky.
Finish: Cocoa, creamy, rye, clove, mint leaves, grass, spicy, woody, cedar, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Sugarlands Shine Silver Cloud Moonshine



Blue Dog Corn Whiskey
Disobedient Spirits (Pennsylvania)
Distilled from Hopi Blue Corn - 90° proof

Nose: Honeydew, banana, corn, grain, malt, floral, violet, vegetal, spice, mineral, brine, smoky, woody, cedar, oak, pine, clean, soft, delicate.
Palate: Toffee, dark sugar, butter apple, corn, grain, wheat, barley, almond, floral, lilac, sweet spice. bitter herbs, mint, grassy, gin-like, licorice, wood, oak, pine, earthy, mead-like mouthfeel, mid-power, very smooth, savory, delicious.
Finish: Toffee, caramel, dried leaves, grainy, walnut, peppery, clove, old wood, light smoke, some heat, soft, smooth, silky, best of class.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Blue Dog Corn Whiskey



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Fog's End California Moonshine
Fog’s End Distillery (California)
Distilled from 50% Corn & 50% Sugar - 90° proof

Nose: Butterscotch, caramel, cream, butter, molasses, vanilla, honey, jellybean, lemon custard, tropical fruit, coconut, banana, corn, buttered popcorn, covered popcorn, cereal, graham crackers, nutty, almonds, brine, wood.
Palate: Butterscotch, molasses, coconut, sweet corn, corn mash, popcorn, wheat, grainy, citrus, mint leaves, grassy, cinnamon, earthy, pine, oak, light cedar, woodsy, smooth, complex.
Finish: Butterscotch, toffee, butter, honey, vanilla, popcorn, movie popcorn, mint, pepper, clove, coffee, tobacco.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Fog's End California Moonshine



Howl At The Moonshine
Springbrook Hollow Distillery (New York)
Distilled from Corn, Rye, Malted Barley - 100° proof

Nose: Toffee, tropical fruit, guava, candy, cake mix, tapioca, whipped cream corn, sweet corn, blue corn, vegetal, floral, licorice, anise, cinnamon, amaretto, sea moss, briny, mineral, almost like sake.
Palate: Toffee, caramel, cocoa, cream, vanilla, black cherry, elderflower, minty, basil, nutty, spice, pepper, brine, oily, wet stone, oaky, woody, savory, subtle.
Finish: Caramel, cream, wintergreen, licorice, pepper, jalapeño, woody, wet stone, clean, easy, smooth.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Howl At The Moonshine



Sweet Mountain Moonshine
Five Mile Mountain Distillery (Virginia)
100° proof

Nose: Lime, banana, sour berry, sweet dried fruit, bubblegum, corn, vegetal, dough, yeasty bread, floral, lavender, herbal, lemongrass, black tea leaves, grass, oak.
Palate: Vanilla, citrus, corn, bread dough, mash, black walnut, perfume, chamomile tea, black tea leaves, dried leaves, white pepper, peppery, briny, woody, light, airy, smooth.
Finish: Lemon peel, nutty, yeast, spicy, white pepper, peppery, oak, woody, smooth, lovely.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Sweet Mountain Moonshine



Cooper's Clear White Whiskey
Cooperstown Distillery (New York)
Bourbon Mash - 90° proof

Nose: Fig, date, orange peel, stewed cherry, mulled wine, prune, plum, corn, corn husk, aged grain, vegetal, nutty.
Palate: Dried fruit, sweet corn, vegetal, sautéed kale, artichoke, herbal, anise, mint, spicy, red pepper, white pepper, clove, hay, wood, cedar, cream, chalky, dry mouthfeel.
Finish: Honey, dried fruit, corn, vegetal, wintergreen, wood, cedar, creamy, salty, soft.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Cooper's Clear White Whiskey



WHEAT WHISKEY

DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNER

Weaver's American Light Whiskey
Weaver's Spirits (Colorado)
90° proof

Nose: Butterscotch, toffee, caramel, vanilla, molasses, honey, maple, Werther’s Original, lemon, lemon Jell-o, tutti frutti, dried fruit, sweet corn, nutty, walnut, mixed nuts, barley, rye, sweet grains, cocoa, nutmeg, cinnamon, mint, rum, bourbon, Crown Royal, smoke, fresh wood.
Palate: Caramel, creamy, sugarcane, cane juice, honey, lime, orange peel, nutty, barley, sweet grains, baking spice, licorice, bourbon, peaty, cigar box, wood, cedar, oak, smooth, balanced, like drinking a candy bar, luscious, just right.
Finish: Dark chocolate, buttery, cane sugar, sugar, nutty, toasted barley, rye, clove, cinnamon, allspice, spice, pepper, rum-like, Connecticut tobacco, cigar box, wood, very interesting, rich, smooth, savory.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



   Weaver's American Light Whiskey

 

 

 

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