1969 The Moonshine War - tax stamp question

Fairly good movie with a young Alan Alda in a serious role supporting Patrick McGoohan and Richard Widmark. Alda has produced and hidden 150 barrels of moonshine and everyone else from thugs to the government wants it. The 1932 elections are coming up and they expect prohibition to be repealed. It is stated that one could buy a tax stamp for the moonshine and make serious money being among the early sellers of liquor.

But would they have been able to actually do that - retroactively stamping alcohol that was illegally produced? Plus, from what I gathered the few times I watched a couple of the moonshine shows a few years back, the whole process of producing alcohol had to be inspected and regulated.

Highly recommended for the coverall crowd. Costuming the whole cast must have cleaned out the Sears stores in several counties.


Haha too true.

I’ve often seen “customer” misspelled as “costumer”, but this time I guess it was both at once. :slight_smile:

No they wouldn’t because whats considered "real"moonshine has never been legal to sell in the first place between being too strong and the various dubious production methods and ingredients they use to make it………
Im told what they call “moonshine” in liquor stores is sort of like the “absinthe” you can buy in some places ……. its ersatz …

Has anybody tried that stuff? I had the blueberry one and it tasted like something you’d put on pancakes.

I’m told by someone in the booze business that today the term “moonshine” as used for whats sold in the stores just means it’s unaged. Not sure if he’s correct or not.

If Wiki is to be believed, he’s correct: Legal in the United States since 2010, moonshine is defined as “clear, unaged whiskey”

Reminds me of this article (1997) and this one (2000), which indicate that moonshine used to be a real industry in certain states but was already somewhat obsolete; it was illegal because untaxed and definitely not available in stores. The New York Times article says

“Moonshine” isn’t what’s sold in stores. Moonshine is by definition the illegal stuff made in secret. But if they are marketing fake moonshine by manufacturing primitive unaged liquor, and if people are buying it and liking it, then I’m not going to argue too much. :slight_smile:

My roommate and I made moonshine in college. Nasty.

A common misconception is moonshine is more potent than it really is. Moonshine is usually nothing more than corn whiskey that’s not been aged in a barrel. Some where around 35 to 40% alchohol. I’ve made it myself. Here in N.C. you can make a limited run for personal use. The problem becomes if you’re the government a bad still can cause health problems especially if you don’t know what you’re doing or use improper equipment, or their not getting their sweet, sweet tax money according the the people who showed me the equipment and process…

Is it all like that? Because I’ve had “cask strength” (genuine) Scotch whisky that was at least 60% alcohol in the bottle. So what is there to stop an enterprising moonshiner from distilling to 50%, 70%, or even 90%?

Once you get up in the 90%-ish range, the answer is that chemistry and physics start to catch up with you.

I think the high-potency misconception probably originates at least partly from the fact that it often tastes harsh and disagreeable. Especially if your process or your equipment are imperfect.

I’ve never been brave enough to sample moonshine, but the strongest normal alcohol product I have bought has been 96% (presumably azeotropic). You can soak some fruit in it for a few weeks, then filter and dilute.

So that is the limit, but it still leaves a huge potential range when making moonshine. The percentages of methanol and fuselol are also of great interest.

ETA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glQjCKAI4gA (Can anyone estimate the strength and quality of their product?)

Mostly it is because it is young, higher proof, run hard, or into the heads and/or tails.

The process is pretty easy and the equipment isn’t as critical as the marketing material claims but adjuncts to matter a lot.

If “purity” was the best Skyy vodka would be considered the best in the world as the use RO for water and get train cars of commercial ethanol shipped in.

I did a lot of work on starting a distillery before one of my business partners flaked out and the venture failed but there are only 4 things in any booze.

Water, ethanol, flavorings, and bullshit.

Grey Goose as an example, which is considered an upmarket vodka is mostly smooth because they skate the legal line for “adjuncts” to make it smoother.

In rectified spirits like vodka, especially vodka like Skyy which is typically distilled in 90+ plate stills there isn’t many fusel oils like butanol, isoamyl isobutyl, or n-propyl but there will be more in any other spirit that isn’t as pure like any whiskey.

But most of the serious flavorings really require attempts to *add *like:

smoky: guaiacol, 4-ethylguaiacol, 4-vinylguaiacol
sweet smoke: syringol and syringaldehyde
clove: eugenol, isoeugenol
bandages: pcresol

Funding and scale size for barrel storage is the main blocker for aged liquors, but in the case of white spirits like white lightning or vodka it is more about energy consumption and hiding the acrid true pure alcohol flavor.

Economics, production velocity and marketing are a large portion of this, and while the information is proprietary, *moonshine * as a “product type” and not a description of non-tax paid spirits is just unflavored, unaged whiskey or rum.

Consistency is the hardest part obviously, but as the BS (aka marketing) in the industry is the rule and not the exception here is a book that will reliably go over the implications and causes of flavors.

The Alcohol Textbook: A Reference for the Beverage, Fuel and Industrial Alcohol Industries

They big boys have nothing over the simplest moonshiner setup even one using pressure cookers and copper pot scrubbers for unaged pot still booze.

actually when the history channel had a special thing on it the history culture ect

they found the most dangerous thing in it was some of them had high qualities of lead ……… one of the old sellers said "well hell ya gotta make sure they use steel……….like everyone knew that