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 2018

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 12 moonshines with a panel of 16 judges. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. The moonshines were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. Each of the moonshines 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

Tennessee Legend White Lightning Tennessee Moonshine
Tennessee Legend Distillery (Tennessee)
Distilled from 100% Corn. - 100° proof

Nose: Fresh pear, Asian pear, lychee, fall fruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, lime, bubblegum, vanilla, corn, dough, fennel, mint, licorice, fresh new wood.
Palate: Caramel, crème brulee, creamy, vanilla, lemon custard, pear, apple, lime, touch of citrus, lemon rind, orchids, elderflower, cucumber, mint, wintergreen, mixed nuts, toasted bread, corn malt, spicy, cedar, smooth, savory.
Finish: Stone fruit, powdered sugar, mild lime continues through clove, herbal, spearmint, anise, black licorice, spice, salty, well-balanced, super yummy, delicious.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Tennessee Legend White Lightning Tennessee Moonshine



The Agronomist New York State Corn Whiskey
Ellicottville Distillery (New York)
Distilled from 100% Corn - 80° proof

Nose: Ripe banana peel, sugarcane, sweet corn, popcorn, clean malt, doughy, fresh bread, vegetal, herbal, grassy, fresh-cut hay, white pepper, vodka-like, clean.
Palate: Vanilla, sugarcane, powdered sugar, honey, citrus, melon, mint, breadfruit, corn, green pepper, nutmeg, very mild sage, toast, white bread, fresh and clean, balanced, exceptionally smooth, would make amazing cocktails.
Finish: Corn, corn husks, berries, creamy, nutty, anise, herbal, sage, bright, clean, smooth, easy, wow.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



The Agronomist New York State Corn Whiskey



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Kick Back Cove Moonshine
Red Bordner Distillery (South Carolina)
Distilled from Cane, Corn & Barley. - 103° proof

Nose: Vanilla, white chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, corn, mild corn, basmati rice, berries, citrus, chili, mild sage, cinnamon, pine, unfiltered sake, wet stone, very clean, crisp.
Palate: Toffee, buttery, pancakes with syrup, milk chocolate, white chocolate, vanilla, honey, sweet creamy corn, lemon, concord grape, dried dates, almonds, toasted pine nuts, rice, malty, sorghum, ice wine, dirty martini, briny.
Finish: Lemon peel, grape, light agave, grass, nutty, cardamom, spicy, peppery, balanced, nice, clean, stays with you.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Kick Back Cove Moonshine



Villa Hillbillies Original Moonshine
Second Sight Spirits (Kentucky)
Distilled from Corn & Cane. - 100° proof

Nose: Melon, cantaloupe, very light figs, sugarcane, honey, butter, cream, clotted cream, pastry, sweet popcorn, herbal, basil, cilantro, crisp, clean.
Palate: Vanilla, cream, honey, corn syrup, blueberry, plum, pineapple, citrus, lemon, verbena, sweet pickle, minty, spicy, white pepper, briny, oily, toasted popsicle stick, smooth, balanced.
Finish: Dates, figs, bitter orange, hot vanilla sugar, whipped cream, licorice, corn syrup, hint of sweetness, clean, easy, nice, soft, pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Villa Hillbillies Original Moonshine



Mamma's Moonshine
Twin Spirits Distillery (Minnesota)
Distilled from local Minnesota Honey. - 100° proof

Nose: Cantaloupe, honeydew, melon, crème de cacao, cocoa, powdered sugar, simple sugars, faint subtle vanilla, corn, fresh-cut white corn, nutty, wet stone, menthol, super-soft.
Palate: Vanilla, powdered sugar, creamy, sweet fresh corn, melon, cantaloupe, citrus, mint, bay leaf, rosemary, maritime, an American Blanco, smooth, very balanced.
Finish: Sweet corn, creamy almond, vanilla, cocoa, white pepper, green fruits and apples, simple sugar, light charcoal, nice, mild.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Mamma's Moonshine



Tenn South All Mighty Shine
Tenn South Distillery (Tennessee)
Distilled from Corn & Cane. - 140° proof

Nose: Lemon, lemon zest, orange peel, lime, soft citrus, lemongrass, light blueberry, corn, hops, mash, ginger, mint, thyme, sage, faint grass.
Palate: Lemon, sharp lime, orange, citrus, blueberry, corn, almond, clove, mint, spice, pepper, brine, huge pine, powerful rum, hair of the dog.
Finish: Lime, vanilla, honey, almonds, grass, pickle, spicy, angel dew.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Tenn South All Mighty Shine



Howlin' Hounds Moonshine
Missouri Ridge Distillery (Missouri)
Distilled from Cane & Grain. - 100° proof

Nose: Corn, green banana, white grape, vanilla, vanilla bean, oatmeal, summer flowers, briny, maritime, salt water.
Palate: Toffee, sweet caramel, creamy, vanilla, grapes, sweet Muscat grapes, berry, grapefruit, citrus, dried pineapple, raisins, cola, almond, celery, sour cucumber water, grain, straw, peppery, roots, light wood, sake, pure, smooth, bright, way better than expected, delicious.
Finish: Toffee, caramel, powdered sugar, vanilla, sweet corn, almond, warm spices, white pepper, light oak, clean, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Howlin' Hounds Moonshine



Friday Night Red Eye Corn Whiskey
White River Distillery (Arkansas)
Distilled from 100% Corn. - 90° proof

Nose: Grapefruit, citrus, whipped cream, cane sugar, light cocoa, French toast, corn, sweet corn, hazelnut, wheat, grain, hay, grass, bay leaves, earth, lovely.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, honey, lemon, citrus, corn, rye bread, wheat, breadfruit, hazelnut, thyme, sage, peppery, white pepper, bamboo, salty, toasty, nice, smooth.
Finish: Creamy, clotted cream, simple sugar, honey, bread, hazelnut, straw, grass, olive juice, salty, peppery, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Friday Night Red Eye Corn Whiskey



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Twin Creeks 1st Sugar Moonshine
Twin Creeks Distillery (Virginia)
Distilled from Sugar Cane & Rye. - 90° proof

Nose: Plums, dried apricots, corn, sweet corn, corn mash, popcorn, malt, rye bread, wheat, grain, millet, wet grains, strong pickle, mustard, light oak, light wood, balanced.
Palate: Apricot, grape, citrus, dried fruit blend, sugar, vanilla, cucumber, breakfast cereal grains, fresh-baked bread, wheat, fermented corn mash, bready mash, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, cashew, spicy, clove, oak, smooth.
Finish: Corn, lovely sweet corn, sweet roll, dried flowers, herbal, basil, cilantro, mint, cinnamon, nice, clean.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Twin Creeks 1st Sugar Moonshine



Total Eclipse Moonshine Casey’s Cut
Casey Jones Distillery (Kentucky)
Distilled from Corn & Cane. - 110° proof

Nose: Fresh-cut apples, banana, huckleberry, lemon, lime, citrus peel, orange marmalade, vanilla, sweet corn, buttered popcorn, grains, grass, mint, thyme, jalapeno, pickle, briny, fresh.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, buttery, candied citrus, lemon, pineapple, grapes, light corn, fermented corn, mint, pepper, wood, iron, mineral, Pisco, an American blanco tequila, soft, smooth.
Finish: Lemon, lemon curd, cream, butter, beautiful flowers and Muscat grapes, sweet corn, popcorn, bitter almond, pepper, charcoal, pine, nice, easy, surprising finish.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Total Eclipse Moonshine Casey’s Cut



Whiskey Hollow Double Thumper 151 Moonshine
Whiskey Hollow Distillery (Texas)
Distilled from Corn, Barley & Wheat. - 151° proof

Nose: Butterscotch, caramel, treacle, cocoa, butter, sweet vanilla, cotton candy, strawberry LifeSavers, creamy berries, overripe orange, sweet corn, buttery popcorn, almond biscuit, barley, green apple, sour mash, briny, cotton.
Palate: Sweet corn, burnt sugar, green apple, lemongrass, grassy, mint, licorice, cardamom, spice, brine, pickle, strong.
Finish: Sweet corn, citrus, wheat, straw, mint, anise, hot pepper, nice burn, high proof, sharp, good, lovely.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Whiskey Hollow Double Thumper 151 Moonshine



Black Bear MountainShine
Black Bear Distilling (Colorado)
Distilled from Ute Mountain Corn & Colorado Grain. - 87° proof

Nose: Apple cider, citrus, banana, toasted coconut, butterscotch, vanilla, sweet corn, roasted corn, white bread, straw, fresh-cut grass, green olive, iodine, earth, musty.
Palate: Vanilla, creamy, powdered sugar, cherry, melon, banana, dried fruit, sweet corn, almond, olives, dried flowers, thyme, mint, white pepper, fermented apple cider, American blanco, briny, smoky, slight smoky burn, delicate.
Finish: Apple, sour cherry, tangerine, light citrus, olive, corn, sage, mint, spicy, light smoky, balanced, smooth, silky, mellow.


Silver Medal
Silver medal



Black Bear MountainShine

 

 

 

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