Moonshine, the fiery Southern Spirit, has gone legit. Here are some of our favorites to come out of the woodwork.
The South is no stranger to small-batch spirits. Moonshiners were microdistilling long before such a word existed. The clear (often questionable) spirit was available only if you knew someone who knew someone. But the landscape of legal moonshine has changed dramatically. Now, this grain distillate sits conspicuously in stores—all taxes paid. And according to the American Distilling Institute, the number of craft distilleries is growing by 30% each year. Here are some of our favorite “moonshines” to come out of the woodwork. And they actually taste good.
Best Legal Moonshines
1. Troy & Sons Platinum (Asheville, NC) This is one of the few whiskeys made with Appalachian spring water and heirloom corn, specifically Crooked Creek, an open-pollinated white corn from the 1840s. The resulting product is smooth, with hints of oaky vanilla—unusual in an un-aged spirit. ashevilledistilling.com
3. Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1 (Frankfort, KY) The strongest of the lot, at 125 proof, this raw whiskey—which grows up to become Buffalo Trace bourbon—delivers an authentic moonshine burn punctuated with notes of sweet corn and malt. buffalotrace.com
4. Platte Valley Corn Whiskey (Weston, MO) This one’s clean, light, and bright, with a subtle pear and vanilla finish. Though sometimes hard to find, it’s easy to recognize on the shelf: it comes in a distinctive earthenware jug. mccormickdistilling.com
5. Virginia Lightning (Culpeper, VA) With a chewy sweetness, it’s like corn right off the cob. We think this one goes especially well in cocktails. virginiamoonshine.com
6. Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon (Madison, NC) Based on the legendary ’shiner and NASCAR legend’s family recipe, it’s triple distilled and cut to 80 proof for a smooth, vodka-like sipping spirit. piedmontdistillers.com
7. Stills Crossroads Alabama Shine (Union Springs, AL) The first legal distilled spirit in Alabama since Prohibition, this 100-proof ‘shine—distilled in a former horse barn—has a subtle sweetness. highridgespirits.com
8. Popcorn Sutton’s Tennessee White Whiskey (Nashville, TN) Made using the recipe of fabled ‘shiner Popcorn Sutton, this 93 proof corn and sugar “likker” hits the sweet-spicy balance with a punch. It’s what we hope really, really good backyard moonshine used to be. popcornsuttonswhiskey.com