Thursday, May 31, 2018

Moonshining is on the Rebound “It's Something to Do”

This Still Can be Ordered New on Line

     What is interesting is that you can own a still as long as you don't use it to make liquor.  You can distill water, a water maker if you will to desalinize sea water, or making alcohol for fuel, or reductions for cooking.  The catch is you can not make alcohol for consumption. There is a lot of lobbying going on to give hobby distillers the same right to make liquor for personal use like beer and wine makers can do legally.

      'It's something to do' _ Illegal liquor is making a comeback. says Sidney Smith,  a 77 year old, has been making moonshine in the rural Sand Hill community of Rankin County for many years, after learning the craft from his now late uncle.  Smith was recently busted by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents. ".    Yeah, I've been caught making this before. They know me. They got to do their jobs."  After a four-week operation led by ABC Special Agent Tony Ingram, agents destroyed the back-woods still, seized 22 gallons of moonshine and arrested Smith on a charge of possession of alcohol in a dry county.   Smith likely will also face a felony charge of possession of a still, said ABC enforcement Chief Rusty Hanna, but is likely to get probation and fines, not jail or prison time. Smith's was a relatively small operation, and courts and jails have bigger fish to fry, Hanna said.   Smith's operation in the woods near his home was gnarly and unsanitary: dirty barrels, buckets and jugs, bugs floating in the "mash" and God-knows-what in the final product. One wrong step by a moonshiner or a few degrees in temperature can produce poisonous methanol instead of high-test ethanol.   "You don't know what you're drinking," Hanna said as he and agents viewed Smith's still. "You don't know what was in these barrels before - chemicals? There's bugs in the mash. This is very primitive. It's not what you picture. TV has glamorized it, as clean, neat, pretty. This is nasty. Very unsanitary." 

Classic Prohibition and Forty's Moonshine Operation
     State Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson and Hanna said illegal moonshining has increased in recent years, waxing with the popularity of the TV show "Moonshiners" a television series on Discovery Channel.   Although ABC agents can't focus large amounts of time or manpower to moonshine, they've been busting six to seven stills a year, and have already reached that mark this year. Hanna said stills have gotten harder to find - many of them indoors under lock and key instead of out in the woods where people can see and report them.  Frierson said many moonshiners will sell to underage drinkers and that some even market their product toward them, adding "snow-cone" flavorings to the liquor.   "They add the snow-cone syrup - pina colada, all kinds of flavors," Frierson said. "They try to make it taste good, because if moonshine isn't aged, it tastes terrible ... We're even seeing people selling fake moonshine, taking “Everclear” or vodka and diluting it or adding flavors and saying it's moonshine so kids will buy it."

State and federal taxes and fees can total nearly $20 a gallon on liquor, revenue lost with moonshine. Frierson said his office does not have a good overall estimate on money lost to moonshiners.  Smith's operation, agents said, could have produced up to 50 gallons a week at full tilt. If sold at $30 a gallon, it could have grossed $1,500 a week. ABC has busted much larger operations.   Smith's operation, where he had been busted years before for making moonshine, was primitive, But agents were impressed with one aspect of it: He had three condensers running into separate barrels to collect the final product instead of the usual one or two.  Smith, who sat calmly on a truck tailgate as agents began destroying his still, cheerfully explained the three condensers.   "It's faster," he said. "It doesn't take you so long to sit there and wait."