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Distilleries Cash in on Moonshine Buzz

 by Ruth Schneider   Posted on September 13 2013

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I spotted jar after jar of moonshine on a recent trip to Costco. That, in itself, seemed wrong. In the same way the phrase "legal moonshine" seems wrong. The two words shouldn't be next to each other, let alone in the same sentence.

But in the interests of journalism, which has a long history steeped in alcohol, I purchased a jar of Junior Johnson's Midnight Moon, the apple pie variety, for about $15. (According to my research, that was a pretty good deal. Many places sell the 750 mL jar for about $19-$22.)

After diligent sampling, I determined I quite liked the taste. And it wasn't too far off from the real moonshine samples I've had in the past. (I'd rather not get into the details relating to how other "real" moonshine samples might have been acquired.)

In the past, moonshine, by definition, meant "illegal spirits". These days, it's gaining a meaning more along the lines of "un-aged whiskey." Laws have changed, too: Now it's legal to distill moonshine in North Carolina (where Junior Johnson's owns his still), as well as Tennessee.

It seems that moonshine is the new black in the whiskey industry. Jack Daniels sells an Unaged Tennessee Rye that sells for about $50 for a 750mL bottle. Jim Beam sells White Ghost, which they label a "white whiskey," for about $25 per 750 mL.

According to Technomic, a food industry research group, the sales of moonshine-like products has increased 60% in the past year. The research firm reported sales of 250,000-285,000 cases of moonshine in 2012.

That probably explains why it's now available on the shelves of Costco and other big-box retailers.


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