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Is Smoky Mountain Moonshine Real Moonshine?

Moonshine was once illegal and made only during the cover of night to avoid detection. This high-proof alcohol has come a long way from the backwoods stills of yesteryear, and is even readily available in stores throughout the United States. You may be wondering, however, is Smoky Mountain moonshine real moonshine since you can purchase it legally?

What exactly is moonshine?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, moonshine is an “intoxicating liquor, especially illegally distilled corn whiskey”. If you go by that definition, then it would seem that Smoky Mountain moonshine isn’t real moonshine. But is the answer really that clear?

Is Smoky Mountain moonshine real moonshine?

The answer to the question “is Smokey Mountain moonshine real moonshine” is a hard one since, by part of the definition, it is moonshine, but personal opinion varies. Smoky Mountain moonshine is high-proof clear alcohol made from corn, which is what moonshine is.

Some argue, however, that it isn’t moonshine because, while the alcohol proof is high, it isn’t higher than 100 percent, and real moonshine is known to have a much higher proof. Furthermore, some people feel that if it is legal, then that automatically disqualifies it from being true moonshine.

With that said, there is no hard and fast rule that requires moonshine to be a certain proof, nor that it has to be made illicitly in order to be real.

What is Smoky Mountain moonshine?

When referring to Smoky Mountain moonshine, most people are speaking about Ole Smoky Tennesee Moonshine, which is moonshine made by Ole Smoky Tennessee Distillery.

Located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Ole Smoky Mountain Distillery was the first federally licensed distillery to open in east Tennessee. It has two working copper stills, and allows the public to come in and see the ins and outs of the distilling process, as well as learn about the history of moonshine.

They offer a few different types of moonshine, ranging from 100 proof down to 35 proof. They also offer various flavors of moonshine, as well as other types of alcohol, including whiskey and canned cocktails.

Is legal moonshine real moonshine?

Along the lines of whether or not is Smoky Mountain moonshine real moonshine, some question whether or not legal moonshine is actually real moonshine. This is because the entire history and conception of moonshine comes from making it illegally. Historically, the term moonshine would refer to clear, unaged whiskey made illegally.

In fact, the name moonshine comes from the act of creating alcohol at night under the light of the moon to help avoid detection. However, the word “moonshine” has become so popular that commercial producers sometimes slap the name on their label to draw attention to their product.

If you speak to veteran moonshiners, they will tell you that commercial moonshine made legally isn’t authentic moonshine. However, commercial moonshiners will counter argue that that reason is based on the technical definition of the legal status of the alcohol.

They will also state that moonshine is a cultural term that goes beyond the legal status of the drink. So whether or not legal moonshine is real moonshine depends on who you speak to.

Why was moonshine illegal?

Moonshine has a long history in the United States, and is known as an extremely high-proof alcohol that is produced illegally. It was most prevalent in the Appalachian area of the United States.

In Scotland and Ireland, it was once made with barley, while those in the United States would use corn mash. The popularity of moonshine increased during the Prohibition era, and continued even after the total ban on alcohol production was repealed.

Even after prohibition ended, the act of making moonshine, or any alcohol, without a permit (or the government’s permission) continues to be illegal. This is because the producers of the alcohol are not following state or federal laws regarding manufacture, sale, licensure, and/or taxation of the distilled spirits.

What proof is real moonshine?

Moonshine made illegally is over 100 proof and more near the 150 proof range, but there isn’t a rule stating it has to be a certain percentage. Smoky Mountain moonshine is available in proofs as high as 100 and as low as 35.

What potential hazards are there with illegally produced moonshine?

Moonshine that is made illegally does pose certain hazards beyond the legalities of the whole process. For those making the moonshine, the distilling process creates alcohol vapors that are flammable, and these vapors can cause explosions if in a confined space.

moonshine still | Image by inkflo from Pixabay

For those who are merely consuming the illegal moonshine, the still the moonshine was made in can cause issues since older stills sometimes use vehicle radiators and they can contain lead soldering or antifreeze residue. Both of which can contaminate the moonshine.

Methanol contamination is another potential issue that can occur with illegally produced moonshine. During the distillation process, the first liquid that is produced contains methanol, which can lead to serious and potential life threatening issues. While most moonshiners know about this danger and they know not to use those first drippings, not all will take that precaution.


The answer to “is Smoky Mountain moonshine real moonshine” should be left to each individual person. However, if you want to get technical, legal moonshine wouldn’t be real moonshine since it isn’t made illicitly. That doesn’t mean you should run out and purchase illegal moonshine, since it carries its own set of potential hazards.

As long as you are enjoying Smoky Mountain moonshine, it shouldn’t matter whether it is technically real moonshine or not.

Written by Mark Stone

Mark is a native Tennesseean that frequently visits the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg area. He enjoys exploring National Parks, writing, and spending time with his family.


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