(NaturalNews) Once operated in heavily secluded areas by men prepared to inflict harm on anyone who happened to discover them, the old-time "moonshine" production and "bootlegging" is becoming a much more mainstream operation.
According to a report in the Western Farm Press, moonshining "has moved uptown to Main Street," even though there are still as many as 200 "dry" counties around the country - counties that don't permit any alcohol sales:
Moonshine has moved uptown to Main Street. Even with 200 dry counties still on the books across the United States, moonshine has jumped from the deep woods to the shelves of Walmart. And producers, once with a perpetual ear to the ground, are no longer running from the feds. In short, the bootlegger's son has gone legit.
Get it at your local store
The report notes that just 12 years ago, federal agents "brought the hammer down" on moonshining and made the biggest bootlegging bust in U.S. history, shuttering 27 outlaw producers from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. That network alone produced a staggering 1.5 million gallons of "shine," from which the federal government lost out on some $20 million in tax receipts.
Nevertheless, even in regions like eastern Tennessee or the Missouri Ozarks, where shinin' is a tradition, "the white lightning stigma is gone," says the report. In the name of "laissez faire, history" and an interest in bolstering tax revenues, many state legislatures have "made it easier for small companies to get a distillery license," said the report.
The fact is, lawmakers know, that folks are going to engage in certain behavior if you let 'em - gambling and drinking, hence the proliferation of casinos and, now, the rise in the number of distilleries.
"The only difference is that we're not hiding anything now. It's the same drink, the same spirit, only we don't have to look over our shoulders," the founding partner of one of the new small distilleries, Joe Baker, told The Wall Street Journal.
In North Carolina, Piedmont Distillers' "Midnight Moon" - which was fronted by bootlegging "legend" Junior Johnson, is currently in the number one sales spot in overall moonshine volume in the U.S.
"In 1956," reports the Western Farm Press, "Johnson was sentenced to two years in prison for bootlegging; served 11 months, and was later pardoned by Ronald Reagan. In a scenario ready-made for a Dukes of Hazzard script, Johnson went on to use his high-speed bootlegging skills on the NASCAR circuit and tallied 50 wins by his retirement in 1966."
All across the so-called "bootlegger belt," local farmers have also benefited from the boom in moonshine distilleries. The author of "Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw's Adventures in Moonshine," Max Watman, told National Public Radio recently that the connection between farmers and distillers is growing - and thriving. It's even helped some producers during the lingering recession.
Buying moonshine - legally
"It's a market that's very focused on staying local. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard about peach farmers' crops being knocked down by a storm and the local distillery buying up that fallen crop, because they don't care what the peaches look like," he said.
More from Western Farm Press:
Once mocked as the drink of rednecks and hillbillies, moonshine has gained a new respect - certainly from the angle of historical folklore. Moonshine has flowed through the cracks of federal surveillance for a few hundred years.
The federal government first began taxing liquor way back in 1791 - and that's when brewers and distillers first began shielding their operations. In the 13 years of Prohibition (1920-1933), the moonshine industry, though covert and much of it run by the Mafia, thrived.
"Americans are buying into the moonshine folklore - and more importantly for a new breed of distilleries - are buying the legal moonshine," the report said.
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