AskDefine | Define moonshine

Dictionary Definition



1 the light of the moon; "moonlight is the smuggler's enemy"; "the moon was bright enough to read by" [syn: moonlight, moon]
2 whiskey illegally distilled from a corn mash [syn: bootleg, corn liquor] v : distill (alcohol) illegally; produce moonshine

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The light of the moon; moonlight.
  2. Illegally distilled liquor, so named because much of the manufacturing process often is conducted without artificial light at night when the moon is shining.
    They watered down the moonshine.
  3. nonsense
    He was talking moonshine.
  4. A branch of pure mathematics.


shine of the moon
illicit liquor

Extensive Definition

Moonshine is a common term for home-distilled alcohol, especially in places where this production is illegal.
The name is often assumed to be derived from the fact that moonshine producers and smugglers would often work at night (i.e. under the light of the moon) to avoid arrest for producing illegal liquor. The 1811 edition of the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose, defines "moonshine" as follows: "A matter or mouthful of moonshine; a trifle, nothing. The white brandy smuggled on the coasts of Kent and Sussex, and the gin in the north of Yorkshire, are also called moonshine." It has been suggested that the term might derive from smugglers' explaining away their boxes and barrels as "mere moonshine" (that is, nothing).


Moonshine is made by yeast fermenting a sugar source to produce ethanol and then separating the alcohol from the fermenting mixture (the mash) through distillation using a still. Because of its illegal nature in many states and simple production, moonshine is usually not aged in barrels as are other, similarly-produced liquors such as whisky or bourbon, and it sometimes contains impurities, off flavors, and toxins such as methanol. The off flavors came from improper brewing, while the methanol was added by unscrupulous moonshiners to increase the apparent proof. In popular culture, moonshine is usually presented as being extremely strong and in North America is commonly associated with the Southern United States and Appalachia.
Moonshining is done using small-scale stills. Usually, diy-stills are used which are cheap and can be made yourself (avoiding the legal aspects of obtaining a still commercially). Popular DIY-designs include pot stills, crockpot-type stills, diy refluxes, worm-type stills. Lately, diy-still designs have become widely available on the internet.


Usually, small scale distillation is practiced for the purpose of making ethanol for drinking , yet it may also practiced for creating biofuel .

Product safety

Sloppily-produced moonshine can be contaminated with toxins, mainly from materials used in construction of the still. Despite the well-known hazards, it is claimed that stills using car radiators for a condenser are still used. The lead used in soldering radiators often contaminates the moonshine, and in some cases, glycol products from antifreeze used in the radiator can appear as well. Both are poisonous and potentially deadly. However, when moonshine is created well (eg by applying carbon filtration), no danger may be involved.
Although the total amount of methanol does not normally increase due to distillation, its concentration can still potentially rise to dangerous levels in amateur conditions, especially when the distillation is performed for a large batch.
Any alcohol over 100 US proof (i.e. 50% ABV) is flammable. This is especially true during the distilling process in which vaporized alcohol can accumulate in the air if there is not enough ventilation. This fact is referenced in John Sturges' The Great Escape: to celebrate the Fourth of July, Virgil Hilts and two other Americans brew moonshine from potato skins. While dispensing the drink, Hilts advises the other POWs not to smoke while or after drinking it.


Occasionally moonshine is deliberately mixed with industrial alcohol-containing products, including methanol and other substances to produce denatured alcohol. Results are toxic, with methanol capable of causing blindness and death.
In the past moonshine has been mixed with beading oil or lye, to fool people into believing that it is of a higher proof. This is because when shaken, bubbles form on the surface relative to the alcoholic strength (known as "the bead"). Large bubbles with a short duration indicate higher proof.


A common "folk" quality test for moonshine was to pour a small quantity of it into a metal spoon and set it alight, the theory being that safe distillate burns with a blue flame, but tainted distillate burns with a yellow flame. Practitioners of this simple test sometimes held that if a radiator coil had been used as a condenser there would be lead in the alcohol, which would give a reddish flame. This led to the phrase: "Lead burns red and makes you dead."and "what burns blue will make your blues go away" These tests are NOT reliable to test the purity of moonshine or other distilled alcohol, since the flame test, while able to detect fuel oils, does not detect methanol.
Another test used for moonshine is to "proof". A small amount of gun powder is poured in a dish with the moonshine. It is ignited and if the mixture starts to flame it is "proofed." In other words if it lights then it contains a good amount of alcohol, but if it does not flame the moonshine has been diluted.

Moonshine worldwide


The Armenian name for moonshine is aragh (the word comes from Arabic araq عرق, meaning "sweat" or "juice"), but the Armenian word oghee is used more often. The production of oghee is widespread in Armenia. White mulberry, grape, cornelian cherry, plum, and apricot moonshine are especially popular, particularly in the countryside.


Home-distillation of alcohol is illegal in Australia, but the law is rarely enforced. The sale of stills up to 5 litre capacity and other distilling equipment, including yeasts, flavourings and other ingredients specific to distillation, is legal. Brewery supply stores have permission to sell stills up to 25 L.


In Brazil there is a long tradition of home distilling, especially in the rural areas. Artisanal liquors (specially cachaça and wine made in small farms) tend to be of good quality and are prized by collectors.
One form that can be qualified as moonshine is known as "Maria Louca" ("Crazy Mary"). It's aguardente made in jails by inmates. It can be made from many cereals, ranging from beam to rice, using improvised and illegal equipment.


The national spirit in Bulgaria is called "Rakia" [ракия], from Turkish "rakı". It is usually made from grapes, but other fruits are used as well, such as plum, raspberry or peach. Rakia is the most popular drink in Bulgaria along with wine. Like wine, it is often produced by villagers, either in a community owned (public) still, or in more simple devices at home. Home made Rakia is considered to be of better quality and "safer" than Rakia made in factories, since there were, especially during the 1990s, many counterfeit products in stores. By tradition, distilling a certain amount of Rakia for home use is free of taxes. In connection with Bulgaria joining the European Union in 2007, there were government decisions to raise taxes on home made spirits. This led to protests in late 2006 and early 2007. With respect to local traditions and the usually poor performance of state institutions in Bulgaria, there is little risk that the new taxes will actually be paid. In Bulgarian tradition, drinking ракия is accompanied by eating little dishes (called mese [мезе]), usually some kind of salad, e.g. Shopska salad.


The common name for home-made alcohol is Moonshine. Early versions were probably made from potato skins due to the large amount of potatoes produced on PEI but now most home producers use molasses as a sugar source. However, it is not very common as police curtail home distilling, while the creation of wine and beer is legal.
A legal version of Moonshine is now available around Canada in most stores, it is distilled the same way illegal moonshine is and about the same proof.


In Colombia moonshine is called "Tapetusa" or "Chirrinchi" and is illegal. However, it is quite popular in some regions and has been traditional for hundreds of years. The cost of tapetusa is a fraction of the heavily taxed legal alcoholic beverages. The aborigines used to make their own version of alcoholic drink called "Chicha" before the arrival of Europeans. Chicha is usually made of corn, which is chewed and spat in an earthen container that was then buried for some time (weeks). The latter is a special kind of alcoholic beverage, and similar to that made by Chilean Indians (Mapuches), but in Chile a legal version of Chicha, made of fermented apples, is sold in September.
On the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the Wayuu tribe produces the "Chirrinche" which is both for local consumption and trade with tourists. Chirrinche is regarded to be very strong and often produces a severe hangover.


In Croatia homemade liquor, known as rakija, is legal. "Loza" meaning "from the grapevine", when made from left over wine.
Lower quality home-made rakija is often colloquially called "brlja" (meaning approximately "a mess")

Czech Republic

The staple Czech liquor is traditionally made from distilling plums and is known as 'slivovice (pronounced "slivovitza")'. Traditionally produced in garages and cellars, nowadays it is produced by specialist distillers. It is found especially in the region of Moravia and is popular at celebrations, including weddings.


In Denmark, moonshine is referred to as hjemmebrændt (home burnt).

Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, moonshine is called cleren in the towns near the border with Haiti and Pitrinche in the eastern towns. It is made from sugar or fermented sugar cane. Its production is illegal but the law is rarely enforced. Also, there is Berunte, fermented from either corn (which is the most common), rice, melon, pineapple or wheat.


In Ecuador, moonshine is often distilled from sugarcane, and referred to as Puro, Spanish for pure.


Finnish moonshine is home-made vodka, usually made from any fermentable carbohydrates, most commonly grain, sugar or potato. The most common name is pontikka. It is said that this name came about due to the poor quality French wine from Pontacq. Other names are kotipolttoinen (home burnt), ponu (an abbreviation of pontikka), ponantsa (another abbreviation of pontikka, and a joke of Bonanza), tuliliemi (fire sauce), moscha (the most common Finland-Swedish term, which in fact is "Swenglish" for moonshine. The term was first used by emigrants who had returned home from America. The word moscha is nowadays integrated in the Swedish dialect in southern Ostrobotnia on the mid-west coast of Finland.), korpiroju (wildwood junk) or korpikuusen kyyneleet (tears of wildwood spruce) as stills often are located in remote locations.
Unlicensed moonshining is illegal in Finland, but it is often considered a challenge or hobby. In practice prosecution follows only if the authorities become aware that the product is being sold. Most Finnish moonshiners use simple pot stills and flash distillation. Some have constructed sophisticated reflux or rock stills for fractional distillation, containing plate columns or packed columns, with reflux filling components of Raschig rings, crushed glass, nuts, glass pellets or steel wool. The city of Kitee is the most famous Finnish "moonshine-city". A legitimate brand of vodka called "Kiteen kirkas" ("Kitee's Clear") is available commercially.
The entrance of Estonia into the European Union in 2004 has increases import, since it is legal to buy almost any amount there for personal use, at least 10 litres, and Estonia also has much lower alocohol taxes. The ferry regularity has increased to more than 20 per direction per day. This has decreased Moonshine consumption in southern Finland.


Eau de vie, gnôle, goutte, lambic, fine, or more generically the simple name of the fruit they were distilled from -- poire (Pear), prune (Plum), mirabelle (Mirabelle) -- there is a wide variety of terms in French to speak of strong alcohols, which also reflects the wide variety of recipes and ingredients available to make them. There are strong local traditions depending on the provinces: lambic or calvados is distillated from cider in Brittany and Normandy, mirabelle, prune and kirsch are mainly produced in the East (Alsace, Lorraine, Bourgogne, Champagne), and every wine-producing region has, to some extent, a tradition of making brandy, the most famous being Cognac and Armagnac.
Unlicensed moonshining was tolerated in France up to the late 1950s. Having an ancestor who fought in Napoleon's armies automatically conferred the right to distill the equivalent of 10 liters of pure alcohol a year for home consumption. Since 1959 the right can no longer be transferred to descendants, and only a few bouilleurs de cru are still exercising their right. Owning a registered fruit orchard or a vineyard still gives the right to have the production distilled, but is no longer free, and a licensed distiller must be utilized. The excise amounts to 7.50 € per litre of pure alcohol for the first 10 litres, and 14.50 € per litre above that limit.


In Georgia the traditional grape moonshine is called chacha. Recently, with modernized distilling and aging technology, chacha is promoted as "Georgian brandy" or "Georgian vodka", and is compared to grappa.


In Germany, moonshine is called Schwarzgebrannter. The term is very often translated "black burned" since the word schwarz means black, but in this case schwarz means illegal (as in black market). A more accurate translation is "liquor burned illegally". Generally, home-distillation of alcohol is illegal in Germany, but there are exceptions. Ownership and use of very small stills up to 0.5 litre capacity is legal. Such stills are only used by hobbyists, and the products of them are not available on the black market. The ownership of larger stills must be reported to fiscal authorities, otherwise it is illegal, and the use of these stills requires a licence. The German market for moonshine is limited, in part because legal alcohol is relatively inexpensive, compared to some other Western European countries and in part because controls are generally effective. German home-distilled alcohol is in most cases a type of traditional German schnaps, often a type of fruit brandy. There are many legal and often very small distilleries in Germany. Most of these small distilleries are located in Southern Germany, located on farms and are home-distilleries. These producers of distilled beverages are called Abfindungs-Brennerei and the operation of these small distilleries requires a special type of licence. The number of such licences is limited and it is difficult to obtain one, since in most cases all licences are in use. An Abfindungs-Brennerei is only allowed to produce a limited amount of pure alcohol per year and the operation of the still is limited to some months of the year. There are tight controls of these limitations. The products of an Abfindungs-Brennerei, although in many cases home-distilled, are not considered to be Schwarzgebrannter since they are taxed and legal.


In Greece moonshine is referred to as Raki (Greek:ρακή) in the island of Crete, Tsikoudia (Greek:τσικουδιά) and Tsipouro (Greek:τσίπουρο) in other parts of the country.


The broadest term for Guatemalan moonshine is cusha. It is popular in large regions of the countryside, where it is made by fermenting fruits, particularly for Mayan festivities. If forbidden, nobody is prosecuting its manufacture. Cusha is also a valuable for shamans, who consume it during cleansing ceremonies and spit their "patients" with it.


In Haiti moonshine is called clarin. It is made from sugar or fermented sugar cane. Its production is illegal but the law is rarely enforced.


Hungarian moonshine is called [házipálinka] (pálinka is a Hungarian spirit, házi means 'from home') because it is homemade. It is mostly made in rural areas where the ingredients, usually fruit, are readily available. Its production is considered illegal if distilled at home, since the distillation process constitutes a tax fraud if not carried out at a licensed distillery.


Icelandic moonshine (Landi) is largely made by hobbyists as a protest against high liquor taxes. Due to the lack of natural cover and harsh weather conditions, most "moonshining" activity occurs indoors in a controlled environment. Although potatoes are the most common constituent of Icelandic moonshine, any carbohydrate can be used, including stale bread. Landi is often drunk by teenagers who can't purchase liquor at stores.


Locally produced moonshine is known in India as desi, desi daroo, tharra, dheno, mohua, chullu, Narangi, kaju and santra, among other names. It is made by fermenting the mash of sugar cane pulp in large spherical containers made from waterproof ceramic (terra cota) up to near 100% alcohol. However, it is dangerous, mainly because of the risk of alcohol or copper formaldehyde poisoning. In South India, moonshine is any alcoholic drink not made in distilleries. Toddy and arrack are not synonyms or Indian names for moonshine liquor. Toddy is an alcoholic beverage made from the sap of palm trees, and arrack refers to strong spirits made traditionally from fermented fruit juices, and the sap of the palm tree. In the Indian state of Goa, a locally produced cashew flavoured drink Feni is popular among locals and the tourists.


Grain or potato based moonshine made illegally in Ireland is called poitín. The term is a diminutive of the word pota 'a pot'.


Clandestine distillation of alcohol was common in the once poor eastern parts of Italy, but with tighter control over the supply of distillation equipment its popularity has slumped. Nowadays, the supply of production equipment larger than three litres is controlled, and anything smaller must bear a sign stating that moonshine production is illegal.
On the island of Sardinia, one can still find local varieties of grappa which are dubbed 'filuferru', the local pronunciation for 'iron-thread'; this peculiar name comes from the fact that grappa stills were buried to hide them from authorities with iron-thread tied to them for later retrieval.


In Japan, cloudy homemade sake is called doburoku. While it is not a distilled liquor, it has a reputation for being quite potent, and is sometimes compared with moonshine. Before World War I, it was commonly brewed at home, but present liquor control laws forbid homebrewing of beverages containing over 1% alcohol.


Illegally distilled alcohol is widely made in Kenya, known as "Changaa", "Kumi kumi" or "Kill me quick". It is mostly made from maize and produced with crude stills made from old oil drums. Costs are typically Ksh. 50 per glass. It has been known to cause blindness and death. This may be caused by unscrupulous adulteration by sellers who want to give the beverage more 'kick', for example, adding battery acid. It may be caused by impure distillation. Because use is so widespread in Kenya the government has little control and has considered legalization to avert deaths.


In Laos (Lao People's Democratic Republic) the home distillation of spirits is technically illegal, although this law is rarely enforced. 'Lao Lao' is the name given to home-produced liquor, and it is drunk openly especially in rural areas, with many small villages operating a communal still. Usually brewed from rice, it varies from well produced, smooth tasting liquor to very rough spirit with a lot of impurities.


In Malawi moonshine is commonly brewed and distilled by women in townships and villages. Known as "katchasu" in Chichewa, various sources of starch may be used including potatoes, sugar cane or maize. Although technically illegal, there is no social stigma attached to moderate consumption.


In the state of Sarawak in Malaysia moonshine is called 'Langkau'. This is made from fermented rice wine (tuak) and cook in a barrel with a little hose hanging from the top of the barrel. Some rural folks like to drink 'Langkau' at a festival and most of the time during leisure hours. In Sabah, a similar version to 'Langkau' is called 'Montaku'.

Republic of Macedonia

The Republic of Macedonia is a country where moonshine is not only legal, but is also the liquor of choice. Typically, the moonshine is made out of grapes, which are the leftovers from the production of wine, but also made from plums (Slivovica). Macedonian moonshine is highly popular because it is commonly used for medicinal purposes. This process usually uses diluted moonshine with caramelized sugar, and the liquor is then boiled and consumed while still hot. Commonly is known as Rakia [ракија] and widely consumed in all parts of Macedonia.


In some parts of Mexico, particularly in the Copper Canyon region, lechuguilla is fermented to make a clear moonshine called, fittingly, lechuguilla. It is consumed openly, especially by the residents at the bottom of the canyon.


Myanmar has several forms of moonshine. Although it is illegal, moonshine has majority share of the alcohol market especially in rural areas of the country. In the country side, moonshine shares the alcohol market with what some call palm wine.


Nepal has a home-brewed liquor, rakshi, which is distilled from the grain millet. It is clear in colour, and can cause blindness when not prepared properly. It is not uncommon for Nepalese to tell outsiders that the concoction does not exist. The Nepalese often add rakshi to hot tea, calling the mixture ‘Jungle Tea’.

New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the few western societies where home distillation is legal. In New Zealand, stills and instruction in their use are sold openly. Hokonui Moonshine was produced in Southland by early settlers whose (then) illegal distilling activities gained legendary status. Hokonui Moonshine is now produced legally and commercially by the Southern Distilling Company which has recently started to export it.


In Nigeria, home based brewing is illegal. Moonshine is variously called 'ogogoro', 'kainkain', 'abua first eleven', 'agbagba', 'akpeteshi', 'aka mere', 'push me, I push you', 'crazy man in the bottle', or 'Sapele water' depending on locality.


Due to the very high taxation of alcohol, moonshine production primarily from potatoes and sugar continues to be a popular, albeit illegal, activity in various parts of the country. Moonshining occurs in the Mid- and North-Norwegian regions, and is most prominent in rural areas. Norwegian moonshine is called "Hjemmebrent" or "Heimebrent" (which translates into English as "home-burnt") and sometimes also "Heimkok" (meaning "home-cooked") or "Heimert" (slang) in Norwegian, and the mash is called "Sats". In the county of Telemark mash is also referred to as "Bæs". In the old days on Finnskogen they called the mash Skogens vin ("The Wine of the Forest"), a name used by poorer people without access to distilling equipment. When talking to foreigners, some Norwegians use the term "something local" about their moonshine. In Norway, moonshine is commonly mixed with coffee, and sometimes a spoon of sugar. This drink is known as Karsk, and has a special tie to the mid-Norwegian regions, but is also enjoyed elsewhere. A common joke is that the traditional mixture was made by brewing the strongest, blackest coffee possible, then putting a 5 Øre piece (a copper coin of size and color of a pre-decimalization English penny, no longer in circulation) in a cup. Add coffee to the cup until the coin can no longer be seen, then add Hjemmebrent, straight from the still until the coin can again be seen. (If the coin is covered with a dark fluid like coffee it won't be visible again, regardless how much colorless fluid is mixed in, because the amount of pigment between the coin and the surface remains the same.
While brewing is permitted in Norway, distillation is not. Possession of equipment capable of distilling is also illegal.§ 8-5. The enforcement of this law is irregular at best.


Alcohol is strictly licensed or otherwise illegal in Pakistan, nevertheless unregulated production in rural areas thrives. Products include tharra and its variants including what is ironically known as "Hunza water" and rudimentary beers made from barley,rye and other grain mixtures. Some brandy is also produced in the north where fruit is more readily available. Methanol contamination is a serious problem in some regions.


Peru is one of the few countries where moonshine is completely legal. The production and sale of homemade alcoholic drinks is entirely unregulated and their consumption is common in daily meals. Pisco is one of the most common alcoholic drinks in Peru, although different types of chicha, with their generally low alcohol content, are the most popular alcoholic drinks in the country, with regional variations common in all areas. Even small children enjoy chicha as commonly as children in other countries may drink juice. This is especially true of the non-alcoholic chicha morada (violet chicha), loved by both children and adults. The low alcohol content rarely causes drunkenness or dependence, even in small children. Chicha was also consumed by the ancient Peruvians, before the Incas' empire; it was apparently consumed by Chavin De Huantar, one of the first cultures in Peru.


The Polish name for moonshine is bimber; although the word samogon (from Russian) is also used. Far less common is the word księżycówka, which literally means moonshine. The tradition of producing moonshine might be traced back to the Middle Ages when tavern owners manufactured vodka for local sale from grain and fruit. Later, other means were adopted, particularly those based on fermentation of sugar by yeast. Some of the moonshine is also made from distilling plums and is known under the name of śliwowica. The plum moonshine made in area of Łącko (Southern Poland) called Łącka Śliwowica gained nationwide fame, with tourists travelling long distances to buy one or two bottles of this strong liquor. Because of the climate and density of the population, most of the activity occurred indoors.
In Poland, the simplest recipe for producing moonshine by fermentation of yeast with the use of 1 kilogram of sugar, 4 liters of water, and 10 dag (= 100 g) of yeast is jokingly abbreviated as 1410 - the year of the Battle of Grunwald, most famous victory of Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and their allies over the Knights of the Teutonic Order in the Middle Ages.
It is illegal to manufacture moonshine in Poland, as confirmed by the Supreme Court’s ruling of 30 November 2004. Selling home-made alcohol is also a tax offence as there is an excise imposed on sale of alcohol, and there is no provision for those manufacturing alcohol illegally to pay this duty if they want to. In reality the law is not consistently enforced, one example being the authorities' toleration of large scale manufacture and sale Śliwowica Łącka. The small sets for home distillation can also be easily purchased in any chemical glass shop with no control whatsoever.

Puerto Rico

The common Puerto Rican term for moonshine rum is pitorro, from the Andalusian term "pintorro", given to a white wine (or rum, near the rum-producing sugar cane fields of Málaga) of inferior quality which has some grape (in the case of the wine) or molasses (in the case of rum) coloring in it. Other terms are pitrinche or pitriche, cañita (based on the thin copper tubing of the alembic in which it is produced), lágrima de monte (mountain tears), and lágrima de mangle ("mangrove's tears" since many artisan distillers refine their product near coastal mangroves, to conceal it from police). Cañita is a common term so popular that at least two legal brands of rum have used the name, including the current brand, "Cañita Cura'o". Pitorro is an integral part of Puerto Rican culture, and musical odes to it or its production (such as the plena "Los Contrabandistas", popularized by Puerto Rican singer Daniel Santos) are part of local folklore.
Pitorro is usually much stronger than commercial rum. At times its alcohol content surpasses the common 80- or 90-proof (40% or 45% alcohol per volume) mark. Some raids have led to confiscation of rum that is up to 80% alcohol per volume (165 proof). Recipes abound, but common practices include "curing" the distilled product by burying jugs of pitorro in the ground, as well as placing grapes, prunes, breadfruit seeds, raisins, dates, dried prunes, mango, grapefruit, pineapple, cheese, raw meat and other fruits in them.
Puerto Rico is known for its production of legal rum, and since it is a major revenue-generating operation, the Puerto Rican police force, as well as agents from the local Departamento de Hacienda (Treasury Department) tend to pursue moonshine producers fervently, particularly around the Christmas season. A town famous (or infamous) for its pitorro production is Añasco, Puerto Rico.


In Romania, plum brandy is called ţuică (tzuika) or palincă (palinka), depending on the region in which it is produced. It is prepared by many people in rural areas, using traditional methods, both for private consumption and for sale. Although this is illegal, and the drink is technically moonshine, the government tolerates these practices, and does not consider this bootlegging, due to the nature of the drink. Most ţuică is sold in markets, fairs and even roadside, bottled in unlabeled PET bottles. Some communities have acquired licences and legally produce ţuică.


The Russian name for any home-made distilled alcoholic beverage is called samogon (ru: самого́н), literally translated as "self-distillate". The most popular source for samogon is sugar as it is quite effective. Other sources include beets, corn, and even plywood. Samogon of one distillation only is called pervach (ru: первач), literally translated as "the first one" - it is well known for its impressive smell. The production of samogon is widespread in Russia. It is legal only for personal use, and sale is prohibited. Samogon often has a strong repulsive odor but, due to relatively cheap and fast production and ability to personalize the flavor of the drink, it is of relative popularity. It was common during the Soviet era, when products were scarce and supply unstable.

Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, the name for black-market alcohol is "siddique" (friend in Arabic). Distilled from fermented sugar water, it is well known and remembered by expatriates who have spent time in the otherwise dry Kingdom.


Illicitly produced whisky from Scotland is called peatreek. The term refers to the aroma (or reek) infused in the drink by drying the malted barley over a peat fire.


Probably the most common moonshine in Slovakia is slivovica, sometimes called plum brandy in English. It is notorious for its strong but enjoyable smell delivered by plums from which it is distilled. The typical amount of alcohol is around 50% (it may vary between 40-60%). The homemade slivovica is highly esteemed. It is considered a finer quality spirit compared to the industrial products which are usually weaker (around 40%). Nowadays this difference in quality is the primary reason for its production, rather than just the economic issues. A bottle of a good home made slivovica can be a precious gift, since it cannot be bought. The only way to obtain it is by having parents or friends in rural areas who make it. Slivovica is sometimes used also as a popular medicine to cure the early stages of cold and other minor aches. Although illegal, small scale home production seems to be tolerated by the government. Several other fruits are used to produce similar home made spirits, namely pears - hruškovica and cherries - čerešňovica. Another traditional Slovak moonshine is called borovička, distilled from juniper berries or pine. Its flavor resembles gin and can reach 50-70% alcohol.


In Slovenia, especially in the western part, moonshine is distilled from fermented grapes remaining from wine production, and sugar if necessary. It is called tropinovec (tropine, means squeezed half-dried grapes, in the west of the country) or Šnops. Because it has around 60%-70% of alcohol is often mixed with boiled water to make it lighter (vol. 50%). Tropinovec is rarely drunk in large quantities. It is often mixed with fruits (cherries, pears, etc.) to cover the strong odor and taste, or herbs (Anise, Wolf's bane, etc.) for alternative medical treatment. Home distilling is legal in Slovenia. Still owners are obliged to register and pay excise duties (approximately 15 USD for 40-100 l stills and 30 USD for stills larger than 100 l). There were 20,539 registered home distillers in 2005, down from over 28,000 in 2000.

South Africa

In South Africa moonshine made from fruit (mostly peaches or marulas) is known as mampoer (named after the Pedi chief Mampuru). The equivalent product made from grapes is called witblits (white lightning. In Afrikaans the letter w is sounded as the letter v in English, so the word is pronounced 'vitblits'). Witblits has a long history in the Cape Province (over 200 years) and many producers take great pride in their product. Most witblits is of a very high quality compared to typical moonshine world-wide. Even though it is illegal to distill one's own alcohol in South Africa, it is widely available from liquor stores and at farmer's markets. Skokiaan is a low-grade (often dangerous), fermented brew of variable composition widely consumed amongst poorer people in southern Africa. Although it is often referred to casually as a form of 'moonshine', this is a misnomer because it is not a distilled product.


The most common moonshine in Sweden (hembränt in Swedish; literally "home burnt") is made of potatoes and/or sugar. Typically of the 90 -96% ABV variant. Common nicknames are skogsstjärnan ("forest star"), garagenkorva (a wordplay on "garage" and "Koskenkorva") and Chateau de Garage (a pun on French wine brands). The production and sale of moonshine is illegal, but there are several loopholes that may be used to avoid prosecution. For instance, selling a still in parts may be legal and it may be sold for legal purposes like making your own distilling water for car batteries. Stores selling home-brewing equipment also sell products that indicate they are intended for the use of making moonshine, for instance flavorings, activated carbon, and special yeasts. The making of mash is legal, but distilling it is not. Distilling is often done with simple distillation, but sometimes freeze distillation is used, especially to make calvados or other drinks with lower alcohol content. Due to relaxed import regulation since 2005, business has declined. Moonshine is most socially accepted in the countryside.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, home based brewing is illegal. However, this is a lucrative underground business in most parts of the island. Illicit brew is known by many names; 'Kasippu' (this is the most common and accepted name), 'Heli Arrakku' (archaic term means, Pot-Liquor), 'Kashiya' (which is a pet name derived from more mainstream term Kasippu), 'Vell Beer' (means, beer of the paddy field), 'Katukambi', 'Suduwa' (means, the white substance) depending on locality. The raw meterials used in the production are mainly common white sugar (from Sugarcane) manufactured in Sri Lanka, yeast, and urea as a calayst.


In Switzerland, absinthe was banned in 1910, but underground distillation continued throughout the 20th century. The Swiss constitutional ban on absinthe was repealed in 2000 during a general overhaul of the national constitution, but the prohibition was written into ordinary law instead. Later that law was also repealed, so from March 1, 2005, absinthe is again legal in its country of origin, after nearly a century of prohibition. Absinthe is now not only sold in Switzerland, but is once again distilled in its Val-de-Travers birthplace, with Kübler and La Clandestine Absinthe among the first new brands to emerge, albeit with an underground heritage.


In Thailand, home-brewed alcohol, most commonly distilled from glutinous rice, is called lao khao (เหล้าขาว; literally "white liquor") or officially sura khao (สุราขาว). It is sometimes mixed with various herbs to produce a medicinal drink called yadong (ยาดอง; literally "fermented herb (in alcohol)").
Yadong is prepared by mixing lao khao with many kind of herbs and keeping the mixture for 2-4 weeksbefore it can be used. Some people said that it help them regain strength. Today there is instant herb for making yadong, which shorten time for making it.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom it is illegal for any person to manufacture spirits by any means, unless they hold an excise licence for that purpose. If found guilty one could face a penalty of £1,000 and have their spirit making equipment confiscated. However home brewing of any quantity and strength of beer or wine is legal for ones own domestic use or for consumption by farm labourers employed by said person in the course of their employment.

United States

Moonshine continues to be produced in the U.S., mainly in Appalachia. The product is often called "white lightning" because it is not aged and is generally sold at high alcohol proof, often bottled in canning jars ("Mason jars", see photo). A typical moonshine still may produce 1000 gallons per week and net $6000 per week for its owner. in November 2001 to legalize home distillation in much the same way as home brewing of wine and beer were legalized in 1978. This bill had a single sponsor and did not make it out of the committee. Despite the illegal status, home distillation is growing in popularity in the U.S. with ready availability of instructions, materials and support. As early as prohibition, there have been stories of moonshiners using their product as a powerful fuel in their automobiles, usually when evading law-enforcement agencies while delivering their illegal product. The sport of "stock car" racing got its start when moonshiners would modify their automobiles to outrun federal government revenue agents. Junior Johnson, one of the early stock car racers in the mountains of North Carolina who was associated with running moonshine, has even "gone legitimate" by marketing a legally produced grain alcohol moonshine, which is made by the only legal liquor distiller in the state. Stokesdale, a town not far from where the distillery is located, has a moonshine still on its official town seal to reflect the corn liquor's history in the town's past.

Moonshine in popular culture


  • In Patrick Dennis' fictional biography First Lady, the early years revolve around a moonshine called "Lohocla" (alcohol spelled backwards) produced by the father of protagonist Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield. As time passes in the story the concoction is less prominent, until the time of World War II, when the now-aged Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield donates her father's original formula for Lohocla to the United States government, which uses it in the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.


  • In the movie Stalag 17, featuring William Holden as prisoner of war Sgt. Sefton, Sefton's still is one of his more "profitable" ventures. Of its product, made from potato peels and a few strings from Red Cross packages, he says the house "only guarantees you won't go blind."
  • The TV series The Dukes of Hazzard (and the 2005 feature film), in which various members of the Duke family are involved in the production and distribution of moonshine.


  • George Jones' 1959 chart-topping song "White Lightning" tells the story of a North Carolina moonshiner. "Well in North Carolina, way back in the hills, lived my ol' pappy and he had him a still. He brewed white lightning 'til the sun went down. Then, he'd fill him a jug and he'd pass it around. Mighty mighty pleasin', pappy's corn squeezin'."
  • Robert Mitchum recorded a song in 1958 titled "The Ballad of Thunder Road," in which a moonshiner and his son run the stuff in a truck and the "revenooers" never catch him. At the end the son goes too fast--"He left the road at ninety," says one line. The last line of the chorus goes, "The Law they never got him 'cause the Devil got him first!"


  • Granny from the 1960s television series The Beverly Hillbillies runs a moonshine still by the Clampett family swimming pool (also referred to as the "cement pond") and refers to the product as rheumatism medicine and as an ingredient in her "spring tonic" and claims to drink only a thimbleful at a time. Several subplots of the show's episodes focused on a humorous situation involving Granny's liquor. Every cast member of The Beverly Hillbillies was seen drinking moonshine at one point in time during the show's history. It was also used occasionally to power the family truck, though Uncle Jed felt it was hard on the engine.
  • The Waltons featured the elderly spinster Baldwin sisters, who, in memory of their dear departed father, keep alive the knowledge of "The Recipe." Unbenownst to them, their father was a bootlegger, and the concoction they lovingly produce from "The Recipe" is in fact moonshine whiskey.
  • In the Sanford episode "In the Still of the Night", Calvin (Dennis Burkley) sets up a still in Fred Sanford's kitchen, which he uses to make his special home brew. Sanford is outraged until he has a taste of the liquor, then becomes opportunisitc and gains keen ambitions to sell the formula to a big time distiller for a huge sum of money. Unfortunately his plans and dreams fall through once it becomes revealed that the moonshine liquor causes temporary baldness.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer is pondering alone on a hill near the SPRINGFIELD sign when Chief Wiggum comes by and states "nothing like moonshine from your own still", and then, surprised upon seeing Homer, throws the jug he is holding only to have it burst into flames.


  • Moonshine is often portrayed in the media in a clay jug marked only with XXX. Supposedly, the moonshiner would inscribe a single X on the jug each time the mixture passed through a still. This image of a jug or bottle marked XXX is used in comic strips and cartoons to depict an intoxicating beverage. For example, Drinky Crow is often shown drinking from one of these stereotypical jugs.
  • Moonshine runners on the weekends use to race against each other on tracks and this was the beginning of NASCAR.
  • An old Appalachian proverb explains the prevalence of whiskey/bourbon/moonshine distillation in the region, describing the proclivities of the early settlers: "Where the English went, they built a house; where the Germans went, they built a barn; where the Scots-Irish went, they built a whiskey still."

See also


External links

moonshine in German: Schwarzbrennerei
moonshine in Lithuanian: Samanė
moonshine in Dutch: Zelfgemaakte sterkedrank
moonshine in Japanese: 密造酒
moonshine in Norwegian: Hjemmebrent
moonshine in Norwegian Nynorsk: Heimebrent
moonshine in Polish: Bimber
moonshine in Russian: Самогон
moonshine in Finnish: Pontikka
moonshine in Swedish: Hembränning
moonshine in Ukrainian: Самогон

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

BS, argument, argument by analogy, argumentum ad baculum, argumentum ad captandum, argumentum ad hominem, bad case, balderdash, balls, baloney, bathtub gin, begging the question, bilge, black-market, black-marketeer, blague, blah, blah-blah, blather, blatherskite, blether, blockade, bootleg, bootleg liquor, bop, bosh, brew, bull, bullshit, bunk, bunkum, circular argument, claptrap, con, crap, crowd-pleasing argument, distill, drivel, empty words, eyewash, fallacy, fence, flam, flapdoodle, flimflam, formal fallacy, gammon, garbage, gas, guff, gup, hogwash, hoke, hokum, home brew, hooch, hooey, hot air, humbug, humbuggery, hysteron proteron, insincere argument, jiggery-pokery, jive, line, logical fallacy, malarkey, material fallacy, mere rhetoric, moonbeam, moonglow, moonlight, mountain dew, non sequitur, paralogism, petitio principii, philosophism, piffle, poppycock, pseudosyllogism, push, rot, rubbish, scat, shine, shit, shove, smoke, solecism, sophism, sophistry, stuff and nonsense, taradiddle, tommyrot, tripe, twaddle, verbal fallacy, weak point, white lightning, white mule, wind
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