June 5 is a special day for a certain brand of drinker. It’s less heralded than other notable drinking days, such as National Bourbon Day (June 14), but that’s part of the appeal. It’s National Moonshine Day. After all, a certain lawlessness is major part of moonshine’s past and charm.
White lightning, mountain dew, firewater, hooch. No matter what you call it, moonshine is a potent substance. It’s also a subject of fierce debate – namely what qualifies as moonshine.
Moonshine has traditionally been defined by its legality – or lack thereof – as well as by its ingredients. At its base level, moonshine is a corn whiskey. According to Whiskey Reviewer, “most authentic moonshines are made from either a mostly corn mashbill and then spiked with sugar or are all-sugar.”
Some moonshine experts hold that the illegality is what distinguishes it from retail products. However, there are an increasing number of readily available moonshine products in the United States. There are even some great examples right here in Arkansas.
Take Rock Town Distillery, which produces the “Arkansas Lightning Family” range of moonshines. This line features five moonshines: a 40-proof peach moonshine, a 40-proof blackberry moonshine, a 110-proof Arkansas Lightning, and a 40- and 100-proof apple pie moonshine.
According to Rock Town, these moonshines are made with Arkansas corn.
Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, White River Distillery also produces a variety of different moonshines. This family-owned distillery, located in Gassville, produces an apple pie and cherry pie whiskey, as well as a Friday Night Red Eye Whiskey and a Friday Night Red Eye Dark Whiskey. The dark whiskey is oak-infused after it’s distilled.
The cool part about White River Distillery’s products is that they come in a Mason jar. So you’re getting all the feel of a “real” moonshine but legally!
In 2018, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that a new moonshine producer will be setting up shop in Hot Springs. Crystal Ridge Distillery is set to open this year. Danny and Mary Bradley are opening the distillery and plan to use the spot to celebrate Hot Springs’ history and the local culture, according to the paper.
We couldn’t end without highlighting the man who was the first to legally produce moonshine in Arkansas. Ed Ward became the first person in Arkansas to obtain a license to produce moonshine in 2010.