Australia, but the law is rarely enforced. The sale of stills up to 5 litre capacity and other distilling equipment, including yeasts, flavourings and other ingredients specific to distillation, is legal. Brewery supply stores have permission to sell larger stills, typically up to 25 L.
In Brazil there is a long tradition of home distilling, especially in the rural areas, which means that the knowledge to produce liquors is relatively widespread. Artisanal liquors (specially cachaça made in small farms) tend to be of good quality and are prized by collectors. One form that can be qualified as moonshine is known as "Maria Louca" ("Crazy Mary"). It's basically an aguardente made in jails by inmates. It can be made from many cereals, ranging from corn to rice, using improvised equipment.
The national spirit in Bulgaria is called "Rakia" (ракия), from Turkish "rakı". It is usually made from grapes, but other fruits are used as well, such as plum, raspberry or peach. Rakia is the most popular drink in Bulgaria along with wine. Like wine, it is very often produced by villagers themselves, either in a community owned (public) still, or in more simple devices at home. Home made Rakia is considered to be of better quality and "safer" than Rakia made in factories, since there were, especially during the 1990s, a lot of counterfeit products in the stores. By tradition, distilling a certain amount of Rakia for home use is free of taxes. In connection with Bulgaria joining the European Union in 2007, there were government decisions to raise taxes on home made spirits. This lead to a series of protest meetings in late 2006 and early 2007. With respect to local traditions and the usually poor performance of state institutions in Bulgaria, there is little risk that the new taxes will be paid in fact. In Bulgarian tradition, drinking ракия always goes hand in hand with eating little dishes (then called mese), usually some kind of salad, i.g. Shopska salad.
In Colombia moonshine is called "Tapetusa" and is of illegal manufacture. However it is quite popular in some regions and has been traditional for hundreds of years. The cost of tapetusa is a fraction of the heavily taxed legal alcoholic beverages. The aborigines used to make their own version of alcoholic drink called "Chicha" even before the advent of Europeans. Chicha is usually made of corn, corn is chewed and spat in an earthen container that was then buried for some time (weeks). The latter is a special kind of alcoholic beverage, and similar to the made by Chilean Indians (Mapuches), but in Chile a fully legal version of Chicha, made of the apple ferment, sells in September.
Additionally, in the Caribbean coast of Colombia, the Wayuu tribe produces the "Chirrinche" which is both for local consume and trade with tourists. Chirrinche is regarded to be a very strong spirit and often produces a severe hangover.
Czech traditionally made from distilling plums and is known as 'Slivovice'. Traditionally produced in many garages and cellars, nowadays it is created by specialist distillers using plums provided by individuals to prevent dangerously high methanol content. It is found especially in the region of Moravia and is a popular part of celebrations including wedding parties.
Finnish moonshine is home-made vodka, usually made from any fermentable carbohydrates, most commonly grain, sugar or potato. The most common name is pontikka. It is said that this name came about due to the poor quality French wine from Pontacq. Other names are kotipolttoinen (home burnt), ponu (an abbreviation of pontikka), ponantsa (another abbreviation of pontikka), tuliliemi (fire sauce), moscha (the most common Finland-Swedish term), korpiroju (wildwood junk) or korpikuusen kyyneleet (tears of wildwood spruce) as stills often are located in remote and inaccessible places.
Unlicensed moonshining is illegal in Finland, but it is often considered a challenge or hobby. In practice prosecution follows only if the authorities become aware that the product is being sold. Most Finnish moonshiners use simple pot stills and flash distillation. Some have constructed sophisticated reflux or rock stills for fractional distillation, containing plate columns or packed columns, with reflux filling components of Raschig rings, crushed glass, nuts, glass pellets or steel wool. The city of Kitee is the most famous Finnish "moonshine-city". A legitimate brand of vodka called "Kiteen kirkas" ("Kitee's Clear") is available commercially.
In Georgia the traditional grape moonshine is called chacha. Recently, with modernized distilling and aging technology, chacha is promoted as "Georgian brandy" or "Georgian vodka", and is compared to grappa.
The broadest term for Guatemalan moonshine is cusha. It is popular in large regions of the countryside, where it is made by fermenting fruits, particularly for mayan festivities. If forbidden, practically nobody is prosecuting its manufacture. Cusha is also a valuable for shamans, who consume it during cleansing ceremonies and spit their "patients" with it.
Hungarian moonshine is called házipálinka (pálinka is a Hungarian spirit, házi means 'from home') which refers to the fact that it has been made at home. It is mostly made in rural areas where the ingredients, which are usually fruits, are widely available. Its production is considered illegal if distilled at home as the distillation process constitutes a tax fraud if not carried out at a licensed distillery.
Icelandic moonshine (Landi) is largely made by hobbyists as a protest against the high liquor taxes levied by the government. Due to the lack of natural cover and harsh weather conditions, most "moonshining" activity occurs indoors in a controlled environment. Although potatoes are the most common constituent of Icelandic moonshine, any carbohydrate can be used, including stale bread. Landi is often drunk by teenagers who can't buy liquor at the stores.
Locally produced moonshine is known in India as tharra, palm wine, dheno, mohua, Narangi, kaju and santra (also known in different parts of the country under other names). It is made by fermenting the mash of sugar cane pulp in large spherical containers made from waterproof ceramic (terra cota) up to near 90% alcohol. However, it is a dangerous drink, mainly because of the risk of copper formaldehyde poisoning. In South India, moonshine is any alcoholic drink that is prepared outside the distilleries, out of the tight liquor-control. Toddy and arrack are not synonyms or Indian names for moonshine liquor. Toddy is an alcoholic beverage made from the sap of palm trees, and arrack refers to strong spirits made traditionally from fermented fruit juices, and the sap of the palm tree. In the Indian state of Goa, a locally produced cashew flavoured drink Feni is very popular among the locals and the tourists as well.
Grain or potato based moonshine made illegally in Ireland, is called poitín , anglicized as poteen or potcheen) or formerly potheen. The term is a diminutive of the word pota 'a pot'.
Clandestine distillation of alcohol was common in the once poor eastern parts of Italy, but with tighter control over the supply of distillation equipment its popularity has slumped. Nowadays, the supply of production equipment larger than three litres is controlled, and anything smaller must bear a sign stating that moonshine production is illegal.
On the island of Sardinia, one can still find local varieties of grappa which are dubbed 'filoferru', the local pronunciation for 'iron-thread'; this peculiar name comes from the fact that grappa stills were buried to hide them from authorities with iron-thread tied to them for later retrieval.
In Laos (Lao People's Democratic Republic) the home distillation of spirits is technically illegal, although this law is rarely enforced. 'Lao Lao' is the name given to home-produced liquor, and it is drunk openly especially in rural areas, with many small villages operating a communal still. Usually brewed from rice, it varies from well produced, smooth tasting liquor to very rough spirit with a lot of impurities.
In Malawi moonshine is commonly brewed and distilled by women in townships and villages. Known as "katchasu" in Chichewa, various sources of starch may be used including potatoes, sugar cane or maize. Although technically illegal, there is no social stigma attached to moderate consumption.
Republic of Macedonia
The Republic of Macedonia is a country where moonshine is not only legal, but is also the liquor of choice. Typically, the moonshine is made out of grapes, which are the leftovers from the production of wine. Macedonian moonshine is highly popular because it is commonly used for medicinal purposes. This process usually uses diluted moonshine with burned sugar, and the liquor is then boiled and consumed while still hot.
In some parts of Mexico, particularly in the Copper Canyon region, lechuguilla is fermented to make a clear moonshine called, fittingly, lechuguilla. It is consumed openly, especially by the residents at the bottom of the canyon.
Myanmar has several forms of moonshine. Although it is illegal, moonshine has majority share of the alcohol market especially in rural areas of the country. In the country side, moonshine shares the alcohol market with what some call palm wine.
In the Netherlands home distillation is illegal.
New Zealand is one of the few Western countries where home distillation is legal. In New Zealand, stills and instruction in their use are sold openly.
In Nigeria, home based brewing is illegal. Moonshine is variously called 'ogogoro', 'kainkain', 'abua first eleven', 'agbagba', 'akpeteshi', 'aka mere', 'push me, I push you', 'crazy man in the bottle', or 'Sapele water' depending on locality.
Due to the very high taxation of alcohol, moonshine production primarily from potatoes and sugar continues to be a popular, albeit illegal, activity in various parts of the country. This is especially true for the Mid- and North-Norwegian regions, and otherwise it is mostly prominent in the rural regions. Norwegian moonshine is called "Hjemmebrent" or "Heimebrent" (which translates into English as "home-burnt") and sometimes also "Himkok" (meaning "home-cooked") or "Heimert" (slang) in Norwegian, and the mash is called "Sats". In the county of Telemark mash is also referred to as "Bæs". In the old days on Finnskogen they called the mash The Wine of the Forest ("Skogens vin"), a name mostly used by the poorer people without access to distilling equipment. In Norway, moonshine is commonly enjoyed mixed with coffee, and sometimes a spoon of sugar. This drink is known as Karsk, and has a special tie to the mid-Norwegian regions while it is also enjoyed elsewhere. The traditional mixture was made by brewing the strongest, blackest coffee possible, then putting a 5 Ore piece (a copper coin of size and color of a pre-decimalization English penny) in a cup. Add coffee to the cup until the coin can no longer be seen, then add Hjemmebrent, straight from the still and around 180 proof, until the coin can again be seen. Then drink.
While brewing is permitted in Norway, distillation is not (although possession of equipment for distilling is legal). All alcoholic beverages above 60% (NOT vol. %) are considered hard drugs in Norway and, as such, are prohibited with any involvement in their production or sale subject to heavy punishment.
The Polish name for moonshine is bimber; although the word samogon (from Russian) is also used. Far less common is the word księżycówka, which literally means moonshine. The tradition of producing moonshine might be traced back to the Middle Ages when tavern-owners used to manufacture vodka for local sales mainly from various kinds of grain and fruits. Later on, other means were adopted, particularly those based on fermentation of yeast with the help of sugar. Some of the moonshine is also made from distilling plums and is known under the name of śliwowica (similar to the Czech word 'slivovitz'). The plum moonshine made in area of Łącko (Southern Poland) called Łącka Śliwowica gained nation-wide fame, with tourists travelling long distances to buy one or two bottles of this strong liquor. Because of the climate and density of the population, most of the activity occurred indoors.
In Poland, the simplest recipe for producing moonshine by fermentation of yeast with the use of 1 kilogram of sugar, 4 liters of water, and 10 dag (= 100 g) of yeast is jokingly abbreviated as 1410 - the year of the Battle of Grunwald, most famous victory of Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and their allies over the Knights of the Teutonic Order in the Middle Ages.
Under Polish law it is illegal to manufacture moonshine, which was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s ruling of 30 November 2004. Selling home-made alcohol is also a tax offence as there is an excise imposed on sale of alcohol, and there is no provision for those manufacturing alcohol illegally to pay this duty even should they want to. In reality the law is not consistently enforced, the one example of turning blind eye being the authorities tolerating large-scale manufacture and open sale to the public of the above mentioned Śliwowica Łącka moonshine.
The common Puerto Rican term for moonshine rum is pitorro, which comes from the Andalusian term "pintorro", given to a white wine (or rum, near the rum-producing sugar cane fields of Málaga) of inferior quality which still has some grape (in the case of the wine) or molasses (in the case of rum) coloring in it. Other terms are pitrinche, cañita (based on the thin copper tubing of the alembic in which it is produced), and lágrima de mangle ("mangrove's tears" given the tendency of artisan distillers to refine their product near coastal mangroves, as to be able to hide it from police). Cañita is a common term so popular that at least two legal brands of rum have used the name, including the current brand, "Cañita Cura'o". Pitorro is an integral part of Puerto Rican culture, and musical odes to it or its production (such as the plena "Los Contrabandistas", popularized by Puerto Rican singer Daniel Santos) are part of local folklore.
Pitorro is usually much stronger than commercial rum: at times its alcohol content surpasses the common 80- or 90-proof (40% or 45% alcohol per volume) mark; some raids have led to confiscation of rum that is up to 80% alcohol per volume (165 proof). Recipes abound, but common practices include "curing" the distilled product by burying jugs of pitorro in the ground, as well as placing grapes, prunes, or breadfruit seeds inside of them.
Puerto Rico is famous worldwide for its production of (legal) rum, and since it is a major revenue-generating operation, the Puerto Rican police force, as well as agents from the local Departamento de Hacienda (Treasury Department) tend to pursue moonshine producers fervently, particularly around the Christmas season. A town famous (or infamous, depending on who describes it) for its pitorro production is Añasco, Puerto Rico.
In Romania, plum brandy is called ţuică (tzuika) or palincă (palinka), depending on the alcohol content. It is prepared by many people in rural areas, using traditional methods, both for private consumption and for sale. Although this is illegal, and the drink is technically moonshine, the government tolerates these practices, and does not consider this bootlegging, due to the nature of the drink. Most ţuică is sold in markets, fairs and even roadside, bottled in unlabeled PET bottles. Some communities have acquired production licences and legally produce and bottle ţuică.
The Russian name for any home-made distilled alcoholic beverage is called samogon (ru: самого́н), literally translated as "self-distillate". The most popular source for samogon is sugar as it is quite effective. Other sources include beets, corn, and even plywood. Samogon of one distillation only is called pervach (ru: первач), literally translated as "the first" - it is well known for its impressive smell. The production of samogon is illegal but widespread in Russia. Samogon often has a strong repulsive odor but, for lack of any other spirit, it is still very popular. It was common during the Soviet era, when products were scarce and the supply unstable.
Illicitly produced whisky from Scotland is called peatreek. The term refers to the aroma (or reek) infused in the drink by drying the malted barley over a peat fire.
Probably the most common moonshine in Slovakia is slivovica, sometimes called plum brandy in English. It is notorious for its strong but enjoyable smell delivered by plums from which it is distilled. The typical amount of alcohol is around 50% (it may vary between 40-60%). The home made slivovica is highly esteemed. It is considered a finer quality spirit compared to the industrial products which are usually not that strong (around 40%). Nowadays this difference in quality is the primary reason for its production, rather than just the economic issues. A bottle of a good home made slivovica can be a precious gift, since it cannot be bought. The only way to obtain it is by having parents or friends in rural areas who make it. Slivovica is sometimes used also as a popular medicine to cure the early stages of cold and other minor aches. Although illegal, the small home productions seem to be tolerated by the government.
Several other fruits are used to produce similar home made spirits, namely pears - hruškovica and cherries - čerešňovica.
Another traditional Slovak moonshine is called borovička, distilled from juniper berries or pine. Its flavor resembles gin but it is quite strong and can reach 50-70% alcohol.
In Slovenia, especially in the western part, moonshine is distilled from fermented grapes, which were left from wine production, and sugar if necessary. It is called tropinovec (tropine, means squeezed half-dried grapes, in the west of the country) or Šnops. Because it has around 60%-70% of alcohol is often mixed with boiled water to make it lighter ( vol. 50%). Tropinovec is rarely drunk in large quantities. It is often mixed with fruits (cherries, pears, etc.) to cover the strong odor and taste, or herbs (Anise, Wolf's bane, etc.) for alternative medical treatment. Home distilling is legal in Slovenia; owners of stills are obliged to register and pay excise duties (approximately 15 USD for 40-100 l stills and 30 USD for stills with capacity over 100 l). There were 20,539 registered home distillers in 2005, down from over 28,000 in 2000.
In South Africa moonshine made from fruit (mostly peaches or marulas) is known as mampoer (named after the Pedi chief Mampuru). The equivalent product made from grapes is called witblits (white lightning). Even though it is illegal to distill your own alcohol in South Africa, it is widely available from liquor stores and at farmer's markets.
The most common moonshine in Sweden (hembränt in Swedish; literally "home burnt") is made of potatoes and/or sugar. Common nicknames are skogsstjärnan ("forest star"), garagenkorva (a wordplay on "garage" and "Koskenkorva") and Chateau de Garage (a pun on French wine brands). The production and sales of moonshine is illegal, but there are several loopholes that may be used to avoid prosecution. For instance, selling a still in parts may be legal and it may be sold for legal purposes like making your own distilled water for your car battery. Stores selling home-brewing equipment also sell products that indicate they are intended for the use of making moonshine, for instance flavorings, activated carbon, special yeasts, etc. The making of mash is legal, but distilling it is not. Distilling is often done with simple distillation, but sometimes freeze distillation is used, especially to make your own calvados or other drinks with lower alcohol content. Due to relaxed import regulation since 2005, the business has declined. Moonshine is most socially accepted in the countryside.
In Sri Lanka, home based brewing is illegal. However, this is a lucrative underground business in most parts of the island. Illicit brew is known by many names 'Kasippu' (this is the most common and accepted name), 'Heli Arrakku' (archaic term means, Pot-Liquor), 'Kashiya' (which is a pet name derived from more mainstream term Kasippu), 'Vell Beer' (means, beer of the paddy field), 'Katukambi', 'Suduwa' (means, the white substance) depending on locality.
In Switzerland, absinthe was banned in 1910, but underground distillation continued throughout the 20th century. The Swiss constitutional ban on absinthe was repealed in 2000 during a general overhaul of the national constitution, but the prohibition was written into ordinary law instead. Later that law was also repealed, so from March 1 2005, absinthe is again legal in its country of origin, after nearly a century of prohibition (Elaine Sciolino, Long absent, absinthe to become legal in its native Switzerland, New York Times, as reprinted in San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2004). Absinthe is now not only sold in Switzerland, but is once again distilled in its Val-de-Travers birthplace, with Kübler and La Clandestine Absinthe among the first new brands to emerge, albeit with an underground heritage.
In Thailand, home-brewed alcohol, most commonly distilled from glutinous rice, is called lao khao (rice liquor). It is sometimes mixed with various herbs to produce a medicinal drink called yadong.
Moonshine continues to be produced in the U.S., mainly in Appalachia. The simplicity of the process, and the easy availability of key ingredients such as corn and sugar, make enforcement a difficult task. However, the huge price advantage that moonshine once held over its "legitimate" competition legally sold has been reduced. Nevertheless, over half the retail price of a bottle of distilled spirits typically consists of taxes. Many of those who buy moonshine do so for the thrill of obtaining and consuming an illicit product and as a defiance of authority. Also, the number of jurisdictions which ban the sale of alcoholic beverages is steadily decreasing. This means that many of the former consumers of moonshine are much nearer to a legal alcohol sales outlet than was formerly the case. Moonshining is far from totally over, but is certainly far less widespread than it was decades ago. Indeed, one can now purchase products like Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey, Platte Valley Corn Whiskey and Catdaddy in a clay jug or glass Mason jar from their local liquor store. For individual moonshiners, with the availability of cheap refined white sugar, moonshine can be produced at a small fraction of the price of heavily taxed and legally sold distilled spirits. This alcohol is also used by some for herbal tinctures.
Although home distillation of ethanol for commercial purposes is still illegal in the United States, legislation was introduced in November of 2001 to legalize home distillation in much the same way as home brewing of wine and beer were legalized in 1978. This bill had a single sponsor and did not make it out of the committee. Despite the illegal status, home distillation is growing in popularity in the U.S. with ready availability of instructions, materials and support. As early as prohibition, there have been stories of moonshiners using their product as a powerful fuel in their automobiles, usually when evading law-enforcement agencies while delivering their illegal product. The sport of "stock car" racing got its start when moonshiners would modify their automobiles to outrun federal government revenue agents.
Moonshine in popular culture
- The 1958 movie Thunder Road starred Robert Mitchum as an Appalachian moonshine runner.
- In The Great Escape (1963), Hilts (Steve McQueen) and Hendley (James Garner) brew moonshine to help celebrate the Fourth of July. The product is so strong, upon tasting it, they can only comment "Wow!" very hoarsely.
- In the 1977 Disney movie The Rescuers the swamp animals are shown drinking moonshine, using it to revive characters (it's shown as so strong that it makes the drinker breathe fire), and using it as fuel for the swampmobile.
- In the Patrick Dennis fictional biography First Lady, the early years revolve around a moonshine put out by the senior Dinwiddie and called "Lohocla," which, of course, is alcohol spelled backwards. As time passes in the story the concoction is less prominent, until the time of World War II, when the now-aged Martha Dinwiddie Butterfield donates her father's original formula for Lohocla to the United States government--which uses it in the atomic bombs dropped on Japan!
- In The Dukes of Hazzard moonshine is used not only as a beverage, but also in moonshine-filled molotov cocktails, used to help escape from the police.
- Moonshine appears in a number of artists' songs, like John Denver, Steve Earle, Jimmy Buffett and Hank Williams Jr.. Dolly Parton sang a song called "Daddy's Moonshine Still". American country-roots singer/songwriter Gillian Welch released a moonshiner's dying lament, "Tear My Stillhouse Down".
- One of the official state songs of Tennessee, "Rocky Top", was written in the 1960s and makes several references to moonshine.
- The official fight song of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) includes the line "Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear," which refers to the drinking of moonshine.
- George Jones' 1959 chart-topping song "White Lightning" tells the story of a North Carolina moonshiner. "Well in North Carolina, way back in the hills, lived my ol' pappy and he had him a still. He brewed white lightning 'til the sun went down. Then, he'd fill him a jug and he'd pass it around. Mighty mighty pleasin', pappy's corn squeezin'."
- Granny from the 1960s television series The Beverly Hillbillies runs a moonshine still by the Clampett family swimming pool and refers to the product as rheumatism medicine and as an ingredient in her "spring tonic" and claims to drink only a thimbleful at a time. Several subplots of the show's episodes focused on a humorous situation involving Granny's liquor.
- In the popular television series M*A*S*H, the characters Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John, later replaced by B. J. Hunnicutt, made moonshine (which they usually referred to as gin) in a make-shift distillery in their tent.
- In an episode of Emergency!, actor Cliff Osmond plays a drunk whom Johnny and Roy bring in to the hospital; after recovering from drunkenness he complains of 'pains in my gut.' After other patients, with similar symptoms, are brought in from the same neighborhood, the doctors, paramedics, and police suspect a moonshiner in the area; and they examine Osmond's teeth, which show "lead line"--a blue line between gums and teeth, which is the cause of Osmond's pain and aggressive behavior. Osmond refuses to divulge the still's location; it doesn't matter, since the firemen's last call in that episode is a fire at the address hiding the still.
- In the 1980s television show (and 2005 movie) The Dukes of Hazzard, both based on the 1975 movie Moonrunners, moonshine was a central element of the backstory. The Duke family were covert moonshiners, until the nephews were caught running moonshine out of the county. "Uncle Jesse" made a deal with the government to shut down the moonshining operation; in exchange, his nephews were released and were on probation for most of the series. Many of the early episodes center around moonshine made by someone else, usually associates of Boss Hogg, planting said liquor on Duke property in an effort to revoke the younger Dukes' probation. This series plays off of a large number of the stereotypes commonly associated with the Appalachian moonshiners.
- Rockstar Games', Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City storyline involves a contraband liquid aptly named "Boomshine" which is used in the game, not only as a strong alcoholic drink, but a powerful explosive.
- Moonshine is often portrayed in the media in a clay jug marked only with XXX. Supposedly, the moonshiner would inscribe a single X on the jug each time the mixture passed through a still. This image of a jug or bottle marked XXX is used in comic strips and cartoons to depict an intoxicating beverage. For example, Drinky Crow is often shown drinking from one of these stereotypical jugs.