Despite its reputation as a product of ramshackle stills hidden away in the Appalachian Mountains, moonshine has a long and storied global history. No matter where you go on earth, there is a local bootleg liquor, whether it’s white lightning, chang’aa, or hjemmebrent.
In Moonshine: A Global History (Reaktion Books/University of Chicago Press), Kevin R. Kosar tells the colorful and, at times, blinding history of moonshine, which features a crazy cast of crusading lawmen, clever tinkerers, sly smugglers, ruthless gangsters, pontificating poets, mountain men, beleaguered day-laborers and foolhardy frat boys.
Taste of the Industry is always a highlight of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Convention. It’s a chance for marketers to showcase emerging brands in front of key decision makers at the major distribution outfits across the country. It’s impossible to even come close to trying everything in the hall in two hours—it’d be tough to do so if they dedicated an entire day to the event. But among the beverages I did manage to try, there were quite a few standouts. Here’s my shortlist, in no particular order.
Sugarlands Distilling Company has unveiled Hazelnut Rum as the newest addition to its spirits line. The East Tennessee distillery partnered with distilling legends Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes from the hit series Moonshiners to develop the spirit.
Hazelnut Rum sports aromas of toasted hazelnut and brown sugar. The full-bodied spirit blends flavors of vanilla, cinnamon and honey. At 80 proof, it finishes with a sweet, oaky kick.
Ramsey and Manes created Hazelnut Rum while filming for the Discovery Channel program. The duo combined real hazelnuts and rum in their backwoods still to create a one-of-a-kind flavored spirit.
Apple Pie & Apple Rye from two prominent Tennessee moonshine makers and New Belgium goes Citradelic all year long are the stars of the latest edition of The Drinkable Week.
Bootleggers Distillery, in the heart of eastern Tennessee moonshine country, is quite likely the smallest legally operating distilleries in the U.S. It’s also one of the newest, having opened earlier this year. In addition to a white dog whiskey, Bootleggers makes a Charred version, aged for several months with wood. The distillery also produces a number of fruit-infused moonshines, as well as a Hot Toddie, all packed, of course, in mason jars.