Friday, August 21, 2009

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Nothing Says "I'm from Here" Like a Jug of Shine

Moonshine has become a point in our identity.
It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m from here.’

~ Anonymous Tennessee moonshiner

Making moonshine in California is not the same as it is in the American South. During the years I spent years tromping through the South, illicit distilling was emerging from its dormancy and becoming an even stronger symbol than it had been of the what it means to be a Southerner. Unlike, say, the Confederate flag, homemade liquor cut across ethnic and class divides. It was a potent symbol of the South that nearly everyone (well, except maybe church folk and other upright citizens) could get behind. College professors, chefs, musicians, publishers, janitors, fishmongers, and farmers agreed: drinking moonshine was part and parcel of being Southern.

Out here in California, the moonshiners are more likely to call themselves “home,” “artisan,” or “small-batch” distillers. The stills they quietly use to crank out whiskeys, brandies, and sugar spirits are often more compact than copying machines; some would fit in a desk drawer. But any Southern moonshiner would know exactly what those little devices do and how to run one.

More and more authors are getting the modern moonshine story right. A handful has stopped writing about the “dying art” of the 1970’s and started writing about what’s going on now. Donovan Webster, in last month’s edition of Garden & Gun magazine, gets it right, including the bit about drinking shine as a shibboleth of Southern identity. Check out his article here.

Photo originally posted at Garden & Gun.



Michael Dietsch said...

Garden and Gun!? Forgive my saying so, but the South is weird.

Matthew Rowley said...

In sometimes magical ways.