Is Moonshine Whiskey

Is Moonshine Whiskey?

If you have ever seen a Western movie, you’ve likely seen a character talking about or drinking a bottle of moonshine. Due to the prominence of whiskey with these types of movies, it’s natural for people to think that moonshine is a type of whiskey.

But is that the case? Is moonshine whiskey? Well, technically yes. Moonshine however was distinguished from whiskey on the basis that it was produced illegally and tax was not paid on it. 

However, the process of making moonshine and making whiskey are pretty much the same as each other. Of course though, there’s a lot more we need to know.

So, we’ve written this handy guide which explains everything you need to know. We’re going to look at what moonshine actually is, how and why it was produced and what, if any, differences there are between it and whiskey.

Ready to learn more? Then read on! 

What Is Moonshine?

Moonshine is technically a type of whiskey, but its name derives from the fact that it was produced illegally. While there is no exact origins for moonshine, the first moonshine was likely produced during the American Revolution due to high alcohol taxation.

As a result, many people and indeed bars wanted to produce an alcoholic drink without having to pay the outrageously high taxes imposed on them. As time progressed, moonshine was still created for this purpose and often funded a lot of illegal activities.

This was perhaps most notable during the prohibition period of the 1920s. As the United States was dry, alcohol could not be purchased in the usual fashion. As a result, many organized crime groups, like the mob, became heavily involved in its production.

Due to its color, which is incredibly clear, many people might associate it with a vodka or gin – but the clear color is because the alcohol has not been matured in oak barrels, unlike traditional whiskey which is.

It is the barrel that alters the color of whiskey from clear colors to a darker color. Indeed, due to the lack of maturity and other care that goes into traditional whiskey, moonshine can also be very dangerous. 


When it comes to producing whiskey, you begin with a fermented grain mash. This could be barley, rye or wheat – normally this will depend on the location you are in. 

Moonshine on the other hand does not necessarily require grain and can be created by using fruit – however, corn is usually the most common base. As corn is so prominent in many areas in the United States, it’s easy to see why moonshine was so common.

Is Moonshine Whiskey (1)

Normally, after this, the alcohol would undergo both a storage period and then an aging process. However, moonshine does not require an aging process. This is another reason why moonshine was so popular.

As there is no need for an aging process and moonshine can be made with ingredients that are highly abundant, moonshine creation flourished throughout the United States, especially in the poorer areas and certainly during the prohibition era.

Having said this though, many makers of moonshine chose to store their moonshine for around 3 weeks to 3 months. 

The Dangers Of Moonshine 

Unlike whiskey which has a lot of rules and regulations and is highly checked before being sold – moonshine was created outside of the legal channels. What this meant was much more danger to the consumer. 

Indeed, whiskey has an alcohol by volume requirement, along with the basics like aging period, color etc. However, it is the ABV (alcohol by volume) requirement that is essential to note here.

This is because while whiskey is checked to ensure that the alcohol percentage is not too high for human consumption, moonshine was not. As a result, moonshine became very dangerous to some people.

Without proper care, moonshine could kill people, make people blind or extremely sick. Not only this, during times where moonshine was rapidly created – even the most basic checks were not carried out, which only increased the chances of significant dangers.

Moonshine Taste 

Unlike whiskey which often can be smooth with fruity or smoky flavors and aromas, moonshine has a very strong flavor to it. This is more likely to be due to the high alcohol percentage that moonshine contains.

Of course, it is also due to the lack of an aging process. When whiskey is barreled and aged, it absorbs well with the wood and other flavors – providing a very unique drinking experience. 

Additionally, moonshine taste is pretty much the same, whereas many whiskeys can taste different due to their creation process, the ingredients used and how long they were aged for (see also ‘What Does Whiskey Taste Like‘). 

Is Moonshine Legal Today?

This is an area where people often get very confused. You may see in your local store, a bar or even abroad, a drink that says “moonshine” on the label. However, that particular drink will have been produced, regulated and taxed appropriately.

Making any alcohol and not paying tax on it, selling it illegally and selling unregulated or unchecked products is always illegal. So, if you’re asking if “authentic” moonshine is legal, then the answer is no.

However, there is no law that says you cannot consume moonshine, as in a drink produced using the same methods (but safely of course!). 

Other countries have different laws regarding alcohol, however the majority of countries have strict laws on selling products without paying the appropriate tax on them, and if you are caught – you could face severe penalties and even prison sentences.

Final Thoughts 

Moonshine is technically a whiskey, but in reality it is a drink on its own with a long history of illegal manufacturing and illegal criminal activities. Whilst you can still buy moonshine, it will not be the same as you may have expected hundreds of years ago. 

We hope this helped! 

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