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 hillbillies 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.

Volume sales of moonshine during the last six years were up an average of 150 percent. 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 be attributed to the growing number of available brands and variations, including flavors. There are now over 300 distilleries legally producing moonshine all across the United States. Shine on moonshine!

 

 

 

The Fifty Best Moonshine & Unaged American Whiskey Tasting of 2018

 

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a "blind" tasting of 14 moonshine whiskies with nineteen members of our spirits judging panel. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. The higher proof spirits (100+ prf) were tasted after the lower proof moonshines. Each of the moonshines were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. here 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 distilleries, states of origin, and alcohol proofs are identified for each brand.

 




DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Hetterley's Prohibition Corn Spirits
Shot in the Dark Craft Distillery (Washington)
Distilled from cane & grain. Barrel finished with American oak chips. - 80° proof

Nose: Caramel, cream caramel, crème brulee, butter, cream, vanilla, maple walnut hot fudge sundae, milk chocolate, butterscotch, buttered rum, honey, banana, creamed corn, corn, sweet grains, cereal, toasted almonds, hazelnut, nutty, tannins, wood, white pine wood, oak barrel, oak, great nose.
Palate: Caramel, caramel corn, dark chocolate, vanilla, butter, light brown sugar, honey, apples, raisins, corn nuts, corn, tea biscuits, bread, toasty, rye grain, sweet coffee, pepper, leather, a little chalky, smoky, woody, wood barrel, sweet oak, Canadian Club—smooth with touch of brash, good body.
Finish: Toffee, creamy, buttery, vanilla, corn, raisins, mint, pepper, wood, wood chips, oaky, whiskey, gets complex, sneaks up on you, well-balanced, well-structured, great weight, nice, pleasant, smooth and easy.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal




Hetterley's Prohibition Corn Spirits



Stone Carver White Whiskey
Sandstone Distillery (Washington)
Distilled from Washington-grown wheat and malted barley. - 86° proof

Nose: Sugarcane, burnt sugar, white Karo syrup, cotton candy, raw honey, crème brulee, corn pops, honeycomb cereal, peanut butter, Reese’s cups, vanilla, chocolate, baked apple, apple, pear, tangerine, tropical fruit, raisins, vaguely fruity, vegetal, sweet onions, cactus, herbs, tarragon, spice, white peppercorn, canola oil, pine, gin, bourbon, rain, clean dew.
Palate: Apple, green apple, peach, baked pears, tropical fruit, bananas, sugarcane juice, citrus, floral, herbs, mint, vegetal, grain, cacao, almonds, a little spicy, pink peppercorn, salty, cedar, creamy, gin-like, balanced, approachable, ultra-smooth, richly sumptuous.
Finish: Apricot, bananas, elderberry, citrus, touch of burnt sugar, minty, juniper, pink peppercorn, cedar, dusty, earthy, seawater, fiery, develops well, balanced, smooth, easy, great finish, excellent neat, delicious.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal




Stone Carver White Whiskey



The Underground Moonshine
The Mob Museum Distillery (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Distilled from 100% corn. - 100° proof

Nose: Toasted corn, cooked corn, creamed corn, raw potato, Quaker Oats cereal, wheat, bread, green apples, mint, cinnamon, fresh hay, straw, bamboo, fairgrounds.
Palate: Pineapple, corn, Amish friendship bread, rye, cucumber, grassy, cut grass, silk, leather, earthy, fresh, bright, balanced.
Finish: Corn, bread, creamy, white pepper, spicy, mineral, pine, barnyard, cigar smoke, fresh, clean, nice, easy, soft, smooth, a breath of fresh air.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal




The Underground Moonshine



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Five Mile Sweet Mountain Moonshine
Five Mile Mountain Distillery (Virginia)
Distilled from corn & barley. - 100° proof

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, pineapple, lemon, green beans, cooked corn husks, cabbage, vegetal, grainy, sweet grains, cereal, Alpha-Bits cereal, milk thistle, dandelion, herbal, white pepper, iodine, mineral, musty, funk, earthy, woody, incense.
Palate: Chocolate, honey, peach, apple, sweet flavorful corn, toasted bread, grainy, Provence-type herbs, herbal, mint, sandalwood, vegetal, green leaves, coriander, spice, white peppercorn, stone, wet stone, mineral, iodine, smoky, tree bark, wood, oaky, clarified añejo, balanced.
Finish: Marzipan, sweet cream, milky, corn, sweet pepper, vegetal, mint, herbal, white peppercorn, peppery, maritime, iodine, peat, woody, cedar, flavorful, great balance, complex, rich, smooth, tequila-esque, very interesting, love the finish.

Gold Medal
Gold medal




Five Mile Sweet Mountain Moonshine



Blackbird's Straight Shine
Blackbird Distillery (Pennsylvania)
Distilled from 98% local corn & 2% honey. - 115.7° proof

Nose: Chocolate malt, graham cracker, cookie, butter, coconut cream, vanilla, cream, roasted apple, apple, pear, tropical fruit, corn, popcorn, fermented corn, kombucha, white pepper, meaty, pork, aged meat, classic moonshine.
Palate: Butterscotch, creamy, café-au-lait, honey, cotton candy, oxidized red apple, orange, dried sweet corn, dried fruit, juniper, floral, herbal, mint, tea, coffee, malt, clove, spice, black peppercorn, hot pepper, pickled, meaty, aged meat, woody, iodine, whiskey-like, savory, bold.
Finish: Pear, orange peel, herbal, grassy, cinnamon, clove, spicy, white pepper, black peppercorn, peppery, meaty, aged meat, stone, woody, pine, well balanced, full mouthfeel, sharp bite, nice burn, stays with you, interesting.

Gold Medal
Gold medal




Blackbird's Straight Shine



Loup River Howard Hooch
Unaged Corn Whiskey

Loup River Distilling (Nebraska)
Distilled from corn. - 80° proof

Nose: Toffee, banana bread, bubblegum, cream, vanilla, peaches, light banana, orange, citrus, cucumber, white mountain flowers, rosewater, floral, white peppercorn, linen, fresh water, creek water.
Palate: Sweet cocoa, pastry dough, vanilla, clear corn syrup, Juicy Fruit gum, Gala apples, pear, orange peel, banana, fresh shucked corn, popcorn, vegetal, white flowers, dried grass, hay, spice, white peppercorn, coffee grinds, gin without the juniper, balanced.
Finish: Vanilla, citrus, corn syrup, dried fruit, cinnamon dusted corn, vegetal, mint, tall grass, hay, thyme, pepper, white peppercorn, stone, forest, woody, nice burn, touch of sweetness, balanced, clean, soft, very pleasant.


Gold Medal
Gold medal




Loup River Howard Hooch Unaged Corn Whiskey



KIN White Whiskey
Still Assets   (Oregon)
80° proof

Nose: Apple, green apple, orange, orange peel, tangerine, banana, sugarcane, cola, bubblegum, candied celery, raw corn husk, tomato, vegetal, olive, olive oil, grass hay, straw, almond, musty, woodsy, earth, sake, clean.
Palate: Pear, Bosc pear, pineapple, banana, green apple, orange zest, cola, V8, turnip, olive, vegetal, grassy, juniper berry, herbal, toasty, hay, rye, cinnamon, nutmeg, briny, salty, smoke, cedar, unaged Agricole, soft, fresh, very upfront, lots of depth, nice mouthfeel.
Finish: Green apple, raspberry juice, citrus, banana, dark sugar, creamy, dried fruit, chamomile, lightly spiced, smoke, toasty, woody, limestone, very clean, touch of sweetness, soft, smooth, pleasant, very interesting.

Gold Medal
Gold medal




KIN White Whiskey



Iron Vault Old School Recipe Moonshine
Iron Vault Distillery (Ohio)
Distilled from cane, grain & molasses. - 95° 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




Iron Vault Old School Recipe Moonshine



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

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

Nose: Cake frosting, sugar cane, chocolate, milk shake, butter, vanilla, caramelized stone fruits, dried fruit, apricot, banana, pear, corn, lilac, white flowers, mushroom, bread, pistachio shells, salinity, clean.
Palate: Apples, raspberry, pear, orange, vanilla, cake, creamy, corn, cereal, sourdough, wheat, herbs, herbaceous, mint, spearmint, nutty, white pepper, nice pepper, peppery, woody, mineral, clean, complex.
Finish: Crusty bread, vanilla, pear, citrus, anise, grassy, nutty, spice, peppery, burnt corn on the cob, light smoke, oak, wood, soft, easy, flavorful, pleasant.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Howlin' Hounds Moonshine



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

Nose: Vanilla cream, buttermilk, powdered sugar icing, chocolate, maple, banana, cut pears, pear, lemon, lime, dried stone fruit, Captain Crunch, corn, kettle corn, butter on grits, grain, fresh-cut flowers, yellow flowers, menthol, light mint, salty roasted nuts, white peppercorn, right before a summer storm.
Palate: Cake batter, smooth brown butter, cotton candy, Juicy Fruit Gum, honey, dried fruit, sweet corn, charred corn, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, dry hay, straw, herbs, clove, spice, baking spices, peppery, cedar, cedar fumes, smoky, fire.
Finish: Bitter herbs, vegetal, mint, nutmeg, cinnamon, spicy, crushed red pepper, peppery, toast, cedar, well-balanced, balanced against heat, smooth with a briny twang.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Sugarlands Shine Silver Cloud Moonshine



Skunk Brothers Moonshine
Skunk Brothers Spirits (Washington)
Distilled from Washington-grown corn. - 100° proof

Nose: Ripe strawberries, cooked strawberries, apricot, pineapple, pear, melon, banana peel, sugarcane, toasted sweetness, corn, corn mash, vegetal, bamboo, fresh-cut grass, green tea, black tea, lavender, straw, white pepper, dusty, new wood, pine, waxy candles, clean.
Palate: Fresh pear, apple, cherry, agave, vegetal, plantain, corn, creamy, cooked corn, cornbread, oats, walnut, grass, ginger, juniper berry, sweet pepper, clove, slight spice, pink peppercorn, white pepper, peat, woody, pine, oaky, funky, oily, wax, lightly sweet, bold.
Finish: Cookie dough, corn, wheat, ginger, cloved orange, palm fronds, vegetal, allspice, pink peppercorn, white pepper, leather, woody, cedar, pine, oaky, light fire, balanced, smooth, easy, big and bold.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Skunk Brothers Moonshine



Old KT Shine Moonshine
MKT Distillery (Texas)
Distilled from local grain, cane & apples. - 80° proof

Nose: Butterscotch, burnt toffee, cane sugar, vanilla, mallow mars, coconut, banana, cherry, orange, light tropical, violets, rosewater, honeysuckle, corn, oatmeal, dough, grain, vegetal, grass, sharp dried grass, green peppers, minty, menthol, black pepper, deep earth, leather, oak, white oak, new wood, rain, fresh water, interesting.
Palate: Caramel, chocolate, mocha, sweet cane, cherries, tropical fruit, green apple, citrus, lime zest, ginger, jasmine, green tea, grassy attack, vegetal, bell pepper, white pepper, black pepper, limestone, salty, earthy, forest, bark, pine wood, clean melted snow, complex, smooth, very approachable.
Finish: Caramel, turbinado sugar, honey, lime zest, lime skin, floral, olive juice, dirty martini, clove, warm spice, long white pepper, hot pepper, soft pepper, earth, develops some dandelion bitterness, woodiness, flavorful, structured, balanced, smooth, pretty, pleasant.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Old KT Shine Moonshine



DikinDurt Mohawk Valley Moonshine XXX
DikinDurt Distillery (New York)
Distilled from cane & grain. - 90° proof

Nose: Toffee, caramel, 65% cocoa, soft cookie dough, whipped cream, vanilla, Bazooka Joe, corn, crackers, lychee, faint green fruit, citrus, olive, cucumber, black tea, eucalyptus, menthol, peppery, briny, new rain, fresh linens, pleasant.
Palate: Toffee, caramel, molasses, sugarcane, powdered sugar, fruit cocktail, apples, orange, vegetal, corn, barley, rice, grain, mixed nuts, dry hay, ground coffee, mint, menthol, cayenne, spicy, white pepper, black pepper, overpowering pepper, earthy, leathery, balanced.
Finish: Powdered sugar, salty licorice, apple, citrus, citrus astringency, toast, malt, ground coffee, vegetal, peppery, hot pepper, too spicy, wood, pine, oak, white lightning, rich, creamy, smooth.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




DikinDurt Mohawk Valley Moonshine XXX



Black Bear MountainShine
Black Bear Distillery (Colorado)
Distilled from Ute Mountain corn & Colorado grain. - 87° proof

Nose: Vanilla, egg custard, cream, sweet corn, corn pops, banana, banana peel, sweet melon, fresh-cut red delicious apples, apple juice, plum, citrus, lime, violets, floral, grassy, dried grass, herbal, peppermint, anise, spice, peppery, wet stone, toasty, clean, fresh laundry.
Palate: Sweet corn, toasted corn kernels, Creamsicle, peach, honeysuckle, melon, citrus, apple-flavored gin, herbal, grass, mint, green pepper, cinnamon, spice, white pepper, cedar, popsicle stick, peaty, earthy, charcoal, smoke, heat, lightly sweet, rich, clean, soft, pleasant.
Finish: Corn, white sugar, pineapple, orange juice, light citrus, basil, spicy, peppery, white peppercorn, wet moss, earthy, mineral, earthy, creamy, sweet, smooth, easy.


Silver Medal
Silver medal




Black Bear MountainShine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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