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One seller said the demand for his copper stills has doubled in recent years and he's shipped still to every state in the U. Illegal moonshine remains dangerous because it is mostly brewed in makeshift stills. It can be dangerous on two levels, both during the distilling process and when consuming it. The distilling process itself produces alcohol vapors which are highly flammable. More than one moonshine maker has died by striking a match to light his pipe at the wrong time. The flammable vapors are one major reason why moonshine stills are almost always located outside, although it makes them easier to be spotted by law enforcement.

The threat of vaporous explosions is too great if confined inside. In terms of consuming the liquid, if the final product is over proof, the moonshine itself is flammable and can be very dangerous. More people have died from drinking moonshine than have died by explosions of stills due to the toxins in the brew. Although many of the stills in operation today are the all copper variety, there are plenty of the old handmade stills still around.

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Old stills use vehicle radiators in the distilling process, and they are apt to contain lead soldering, which could contaminate the moonshine. The old radiators could also contain remnants of antifreeze glycol products which could also add toxins to the brew.

In larger batches of distilled moonshine, can occur.


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Because methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than alcohol, the first liquid produced by the distillation process can contain methanol. The larger the batch, the more methanol. Methanol is highly poisonous and can cause blindness and even death.

How Moonshine Works

Most moonshine makers today know to pour off those first drippings from the condenser, also known as the foreshot, but not all of them know or do it. In , Dr. Christopher Holstege, a physician with the Virginia Health System, tested 48 samples of moonshine obtained by law enforcement from different stills. The doctor found lead contamination in 43 of the samples. Folklore tells us one way to test the purity of moonshine is to pour some in a metal spoon and set it on fire.

Why Is Moonshine Against the Law?

If it burns with a blue flame it is safe, but if it burns with a yellow or red flame, it contains lead, prompting the old saying, "Lead burns red and makes you dead. But, the spoon burning method is not completely reliable. This test does not detect other toxins that might be in the brew, like methanol, which burns with a colorless flame.


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With millions of gallons of moonshine being produced each year in the United States, chances are some of it is going to be tainted. Health officials are concerned that moonshine toxicity in ailing patients might be overlooked because most healthcare providers consider it a tradition of the past. Learn the best ways to manage stress and negativity in your life. There was an error. Please try again.

Texas Hippie Coalition - Moonshine (Official Video)

Thank you, , for signing up. Appalachian State University. BBC News. Clawhammer Supply. Skylark Medical Clinic. More in Addiction. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! In colonial times, these distributors would conceal their product inside their tall riding boots, which is how they got their name.

More recently, bootleggers in the s, '40s and '50s took to racing cars packed with moonshine through the night to avoid local police. Their mechanical skills developed as they learned to drastically increase the horsepower of their vehicles to outrun the authorities. Related to moonshiners and bootleggers are rumrunners. Rumrunners are basically bootleggers who smuggle their goods by sea, using fast ships with hidden cargo holds. Sometimes, other ingredients are included to add flavor or kick.

Alcohol can actually be distilled from almost any kind of grain the earliest American moonshiners used rye or barley , but virtually all moonshine made in the United States for the last years has been made with corn.

Moonshine by country - Wikipedia

So what makes moonshine different from the whisky you find on the shelf at a liquor store? Aside from the obvious differences between something made in a sanitized production facility and something made at night in the woods, the primary difference is aging. When whisky comes out of the still, it's so clear it looks like water. Moonshiners bottle it and sell it just like that. Commercial alcohols have an amber or golden color to them -- this is because they are aged for years in charred oak barrels.

The aging process gives them color and mellows the harsh taste. There's no such mellowing with moonshine, which is why it has such "kick.