Get Drunk the Liberty-Loving Way With 'Freedom Moonshine'

Freedom Moonshine/FacebookFreedom Moonshine/FacebookWant to get drunk and celebrate liberty at the same time? Introducing Freedom Moonshine. Three varieties of the unaged rye whiskey—red cherry, white rye, and blueberry—will hit the market in May. 

Made by Chattanooga Whiskey* founders Tim Piersant and Joe Ledbetter, Freedom Moonshine is aiming to compete with Gatlinburg, Tennessee-based Ole Smokey Moonshine, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press., which also details the state of the "legal moonshine" industry.  

Existing entrants into the fast-growing legal moonshine market have grown sales by distributing through Walmart and other mainstream retailers, rather than purely through liquor stores. Such mainstream acceptance of a drink that for decades has remained off limits to law-abiding citizens has caught the attention of larger distillers such as Jim Beam, which in 2013 released Jacob's Ghost, its own version of the unaged rye whiskey.

The term moonshine is now used to describe any high-proof distilled spirits, though it once connoted illegal status (the Merriam-Webster definition of moonshine is "a kind of alcohol that people make illegally"). Moonshine made by licensed distillers following relevant state whiskey protocols is now legal; moonshine made in your kitchen or mine or is not. 

Freedom Moonshine/FacebookFreedom Moonshine/Facebook

I used to make moonshine in my kitchen, or at least help my then-boyfriend make it after he grew bored with homebrewing. We had a tiny, lovely copper still from Portugal. I proudly posted pictures of the process online until a friend warned me to stop if I didn't want to get arrested.

I'd had no idea we were breaking the law—we had just legally brewed beer in our hallway. We weren't selling the moonshine we made. But under federal law, even making spirits for your own consumption is illegal. "Only with the right permits may a person make ethanol," NPR notes

Folks selling stills and other distilling supplies told NPR that sales have been up recently. But much like head shops must pretend to be selling products "for tobacco use only," places selling distilling equipment must pretend customers are making perfumes or perhaps herbal tisanes, not rye and grappa and vodka. They're also prevented from giving customers distilling advice. 

Some states do permit home moonshining, though their laws are in conflict with federal laws. In Missouri, adults of legal drinking age can make up to 100 gallons per year for personal use without a permit. In 2009, many counties in Tennessee opened up to the production of "legal moonshine."

But in most places, home distilling remains illegal, and it is prosecuted. Last week, 200 gallons of moonshine were seized in Alabama. An article from North Carolina's Indy Week says state agencies there prosecuted 76 illicit liquor cases in 2011 and 2012, collecting $41,507. (For more on the war on moonshine, see this 2010 segment from Reason TV.) I look forward to trying some of Chattanooga Whiskey's Freedom Moonshine—the flavors are intriguing, and I like its marketing and packaging. But under antiquated federal alcohol laws, real "freedom moonshine" is the kind you make in your backyard/garage/kitchen. I may have to break out my still again soon...

** Though Freedom Moonshine comes from the founders of Chattanooga Whiskey, it is not a Chattanooga Whiskey product. Brand manager Ashley Danford described it as collaboration between the distillery Tennessee Stillhouse and sales agency TMIC. 

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  • ||

    I used to make moonshine in my kitchen, or at least help my then-boyfriend make it after he grew bored with homebrewing. We had a tiny, lovely copper still from Portugal.

    Nice. Good for you, Elizabeth.

  • Brett L||

    I have one of those stills. And an entirely different apparatus meant for purifying water through vaporization that may or may not have been used to drive excess ethanol out a corn beer I made a couple times with some super-efficient yeast.

  • ||

    I made most of a still in college, but I never got around to completing it, mostly because I was too drunk and stoned. There's a lesson there, but I don't know what it is.

  • ||

    That you realized the economic efficiency of the middleman?

  • ||

    Yes. I discovered Yankee Spirits. (The one in Sturbridge.)

  • ||

    I was too drunk and stoned

    It's a shame Afroman beat you to publishing your life story.

  • ||

    It's because I got high.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Want to get drunk and celebrate liberty at the same time?

    So, what you're asking is do I want to continue living my daily life?

  • ||

    +1 and well said.

  • ||

    I totally want to do this, and got a neat tip on a still from a fellow commenter a couple of weeks ago. So if I don't turn up after a few weeks this summer you all may assume I was either killed by the explosion or blinded and rendered insensate by the methanol.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    OR caught by the moonshine police!

  • ||

    Well, I'm in Massachusetts so that is sort of a certainty. But screw it, Freedom knows no bounds and all that.

    For full disclosure, I do however refuse to make fruit-flavored rye. Which should be an abomination unto the Lord.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    I'm hoping it's subtle.

  • Brett L||

    Try this, but obviously don't use it to separate ethanol from water. But if you do, remember to pour off the first 1oz per liter of total liquid in the vessel to get rid of any methanol that may have polluted your product.

  • Brett L||

    Ooh. Here's a pretty one with an infuser. You can make gin and spiced rums. I mean, you wouldn't because that's totally illegal. But...

  • Brett L||

    Explosion? What the fuck are distilling? Gasoline?

  • ||

    I am under the impression that if one does not properly seal the thing then leaking vapor might ignite, rather easily. Is that not a concern?

    And this was the link some wonderful commenter pointed me at.

  • Brett L||

    I wouldn't worry about it. If you're really careful in a column like this to control your temperature, you can probably max out at 160 proof, but will come in about 135 proof for the run, if you put your tails through a second run. Venting alcohol and water vapor into the open air isn't a good recipe for explosion. Your ignition fuel is coming off the top of the column, your ignition source should be at the bottom. I'm sure it happened once to somebody in a little shed with a big fire, but its more of a theoretical than immediate danger.

  • Brett L||

    That said, I recommend not doing this in a closed space. Mostly because if you get the seals too tight, a pressure buildup followed by a unscheduled excursion event is worse for you than a brief ethanol flareup.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I had a pretty big fire in college from distilling box wine. Alcohol vapor is very flammable.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    We had no idea what we were doing, though. I'm sure it's safe if you do what Brett L is recommending.

  • Brett L||

    How did you get a vapor buildup? No condenser? The one at the link has a water chilled condenser. And that's why we have ocndensers. Because alcohol liquid is far less flammable.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I didn't know what a condenser was at the time, so no, there wasn't one.

    I was 17 and had no fake id. I apologize for nothing.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Before distilling your first batch, I'd recommend reading The Blue Flame. http://www.expats.org.uk/featu.....flame.html

    Written by ARAMCO ChE's, it provides the basic process safety info you absolutely need to know. Yes, 190 proof ethanol poses fire, intoxication, and even explosion hazards, but these can be managed if you know what you're doing.

  • CatoTheElder||

    Before distilling your first batch, I'd recommend reading The Blue Flame. http://www.expats.org.uk/featu.....flame.html

    Written by ARAMCO ChE's, it provides the basic process safety info you absolutely need to know. Yes, 190 proof ethanol poses fire, intoxication, and even explosion hazards, but these can be managed if you know what you're doing.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Try making rice whiskey. Done right, it's smooth with a massive kick.

  • Idle Hands||

    SF'D

  • From the Tundra||

    My great-grandfather used to make grappa. It was awesome! Even better to know he was an outlaw, too.

    Hmmm, maybe time to carry on the tradition...

  • Almanian!||

    Looking forward to trying this new entry. We still have a case or so of the Ole Smokey left from our last trip to KY/TN (try the Apple Pie - it is EPIC).

    And, clearly, I need to get a still...for scientific research purposes, of course...

  • ||

    But have you put the Apple Pie in the freezer? It's just the right alcohol content to become an extremely boozy slushy consistency.

  • Jordan||

    But under federal law, even making spirits for your own consumption is illegal.

    Duh! That's obviously interstate commerce. Just ask that Wickard fellow.

  • sarcasmic||

    I believe that dates way back to our first president.

  • Jordan||

    As an avowed hater of alcohol, I actually liked the strawberry moonshine I tried quite a bit.

  • Paul Spomer||

    Yeah, it's funny that "Freedom" moonshine has to be licensed. It still looks pretty good though. Can't wait to try it.

  • ||

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Sorry. It might be white dog or "mountain dew" but if it ain't illegal, it ain't "moonshine." Words still have meaning. Now you kids get off my fucking lawn.

  • ||

    WHITE LIGHTNING BITCHES

  • Brett L||

    Wikipedia -- not only mentions the Archer fascination, but critiques it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Doesn't Archer move on from Burt after, well, you know?

  • Brett L||

    I think yes.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah. Stupid hipsters.

    I haven't really tried much of the commercial stuff (I had some actual moonshine, which was weird but not entirely unpleasant) so maybe I'm missing something. But why would you want unaged whiskey? Wood is good.

  • sarcasmic||

    But why would you want unaged whiskey?

    Why would you want vodka?

  • Zeb||

    To make bloody marys.

  • kinnath||

    Wood is good.

    wink wink, nudge nudge

  • Brett L||

    Protip: Buy some oak smoking chips, wrap in foil and roast in your oven for an hour, then pour into your unaged whiskey. Swirl your mason jar once a day, and in six weeks you have much smoother whiskey. The flavor the wood imparts depends on the temperature you roast it at. See here. I do recommend pouring the raw spirit through a charcoal filter, too.

  • kinnath||

    Or you could just buy French or American oak chips or spirals already toasted to perfection ;-).

  • Brett L||

    Apparently, pressure is also a way of speeding the aging process.

    For pressures of 500 psi to 1000 psi for 2 weeks, a beverage with 50 percent ethanol can be aged with oak and produce a drink that tastes like a beverage aged 10 to 30 years. Rum drinks work very well at 500 to 1000 psi for 2 weeks with pecan wood to create a smooth beverage.

    500-1000 psi is dangerous. Do not try without equipment rated to that level.

  • CatoTheElder||

    500 psi? For the price of the necessary equipment you could buy a lifetime supply of whatever you like best.

  • Zeb||

    Or I could just buy real whiskey. Unaged stuff doesn't seem to be a lot cheaper.

    If I were making my own, I would do just what you have suggested.

  • sarcasmic||

    Midnight Moon cranberry is quite good.

  • Brett L||

    Hey, ENB, latest update in the SB 1714 fight in FL is that the Senate President's office was deleting anti posts from his official FB site and blocking posters. They appear to have stopped now. Or maybe they just gave up. Dont' know if you can see this.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    after he grew bored with homebrewing.

    does... not... compute...

  • sarcasmic||

    I could see growing bored of extract brewing, but not all grain.

  • kinnath||

    All-grain beer; mead; wine; cider; perry; growing hops; planting trees; planting vines; . . .

    There's plenty to do before a still is your last option.

  • Brett L||

    Yeah, but I'd hate to waste all those Separations classes now that I don't do chemical engineering as a profession.

  • kinnath||

    Understandable.

    But as a middle-aged engineer with a big house, several nice cars, and a 401K, I really don't need the risk of FedGov getting pissed at me.

    And since I live in Iowa, I can always make cider in the fall and accidentally leave it in the garage in January and get a pail of applejack.

  • kinnath||

    Marty Feldman's Eyes

    + one Frau Blucher

  • ||

    It is charming the way moonshine is typically sold in Mason jars, isn't it?

  • CatoTheElder||

    I bought some a while back just to see if it measured up to the high quality stuff that was made in the great sandbox. It wasn't bad, but 3/4's of jar has languished on the shelf for the past six months. Friends don't think much of it, and I prefer a proper Islay single malt.

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