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Modern Moonshine: The Revival of White Whiskey in the Twenty-First Century

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The craft of making moonshine—an unaged white whiskey, often made and consumed outside legal parameters—nearly went extinct in the late twentieth century as law enforcement cracked down on illicit producers, and cheaper, lawful alcohol became readily available. Yet the twenty-first century has witnessed a resurgence of artisanal distilling, as both connoisseurs and those r The craft of making moonshine—an unaged white whiskey, often made and consumed outside legal parameters—nearly went extinct in the late twentieth century as law enforcement cracked down on illicit producers, and cheaper, lawful alcohol became readily available. Yet the twenty-first century has witnessed a resurgence of artisanal distilling, as both connoisseurs and those reconnecting with their heritage have created a vibrant new culture of moonshine. While not limited to Appalachia, moonshine is often entwined with the region in popular understandings. The first interdisciplinary examination of the legal moonshine industry, Modern Moonshine probes the causes and impact of the so-called moonshine revival. What does the moonshine revival tell us about our national culture? How does it shape the image of Appalachia and rural America? Focusing mostly on southern Appalachia, the book’s eleven essays chronicle such popular figures as Popcorn Sutton and explore how and why distillers promote their product as “traditional” and “authentic.” This edited collection draws from scholars across the disciplines of anthropology, history, geography, and sociology to make sense of the legal, social, and historical shifts behind contemporary production and consumption of moonshine, and offers a fresh perspective on an enduring topic of Appalachian myth and reality.


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The craft of making moonshine—an unaged white whiskey, often made and consumed outside legal parameters—nearly went extinct in the late twentieth century as law enforcement cracked down on illicit producers, and cheaper, lawful alcohol became readily available. Yet the twenty-first century has witnessed a resurgence of artisanal distilling, as both connoisseurs and those r The craft of making moonshine—an unaged white whiskey, often made and consumed outside legal parameters—nearly went extinct in the late twentieth century as law enforcement cracked down on illicit producers, and cheaper, lawful alcohol became readily available. Yet the twenty-first century has witnessed a resurgence of artisanal distilling, as both connoisseurs and those reconnecting with their heritage have created a vibrant new culture of moonshine. While not limited to Appalachia, moonshine is often entwined with the region in popular understandings. The first interdisciplinary examination of the legal moonshine industry, Modern Moonshine probes the causes and impact of the so-called moonshine revival. What does the moonshine revival tell us about our national culture? How does it shape the image of Appalachia and rural America? Focusing mostly on southern Appalachia, the book’s eleven essays chronicle such popular figures as Popcorn Sutton and explore how and why distillers promote their product as “traditional” and “authentic.” This edited collection draws from scholars across the disciplines of anthropology, history, geography, and sociology to make sense of the legal, social, and historical shifts behind contemporary production and consumption of moonshine, and offers a fresh perspective on an enduring topic of Appalachian myth and reality.

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