REMEMBER MOONSHINE? IT NOW GOES BY THE NAME
“WHITE DOG,” AND IT’S MAKING INROADS AT THE BAR.
BY DEBORAH GROSSMAN
oonshine is starring in movies, on TV and in
bars across the country. When did this once illegal
spirit move from ignominy to fame?
Paul Tuennerman has observed the rebirth of
moonshine as co-owner of the Tales of the Cocktail festival held
annually in New Orleans. He first spotted bartenders taking note
of moonshine at Tales in 2010 when Piedmont Distillers, Madison, N.C., presented Catdaddy and Junior Johnson’s Midnight
The resurgence of moonshine is a unique phenomenon, says
Tuennerman. “While I personally view moonshine as more of a
novelty, white whiskies such as Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash
#1 have some application in today’s emerging cocktail scene.”
Kris Comstock, marketing director of Kentucky bourbon
producer Buffalo Trace, reveals the reality of white whiskey
sales compared with overall whiskey volume. “We began selling
White Dog Mash #1 as a gift shop item at the distillery to educate
our visitors about how this spirit transforms into bourbon after
eight or nine years in barrels,” says Comstock. “Though White
Dog Mash #1 is growing at 30% a year, sales are a teeny fraction
of overall production. We spill more Buffalo Trace bourbon than
we make White Dog.”
More craft distillers produce white whiskey and pack his-
torical lore into the brands. Bartenders are finding classic and
creative ways to pour the storied liquor. Following the craze for
mixing new tastes, flavored white whiskey is gaining traction.
“Moonshine was simply illegal, untaxed raw whiskey. It was
taboo,” says Comstock. “Now you can buy it, take a shot, pass it
around and ask your friends, ‘Do you have the guts to try it?’”
Moonshine remains the common name for the formerly illicit
hooch. Originally a slang term used by distillers, “white dog”
has evolved into a popular name for the raw spirit.
The Scots and Irish call it “new make,” for newly
made whiskey. “White lightning” is a Prohibition-era name referring to high-proof moonshine.
“White whiskey” is a relatively new term
that reflects how distillers comply with the
law. “Moonshine” on the label means it must
be made from 80% corn and be labeled corn
whiskey. If not, the whiskey must rest in a
wood barrel for at least 24 hours to be
called white whiskey.
Recently, moonshine has become
the darling of the entertainment industry. Written by Matt Bondurant,
the grandson of an Appalachian
moonshine maker, the movie Lawless,
released this summer, showcases the