Moonshine Is Making A Comeback Despite Major Risks

Moonshine. White lightning. Hooch. Bathtub gen. No matter what you call it, the centuries old tradition of drinking homemade whiskey is making a comeback.

Agent Erik Smoot, with the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission said they receive roughly two calls a week from people asking about moonshine.

"We didn't hear anything about moonshine for a while, and now people call the office and say 'Hey can we illegally manufacture it? How much can you make at home?' We have to explain you cannot manufacture any moonshine at home," said Agent Smoot.

The resurrection of moonshine is credited to a new show on Discovery. It's a docu-drama about moonshiners in Appalachia. But shiners aren't just in the Smoky Mountains, they're here in Oklahoma too.

The Oklahoma ABLE Commission worked two cases of stills in 2011. In 2012, that number more than doubled to five. Now just one month into the new year they've already made one moonshine bust.

The Choctaw County Sheriff's Office found the latest still while serving a search warrant in Hugo. It was concealed inside a metal storage container. Drums were filled with mash, it's a mixture of corn, sugar, yeast, and water. The 200 gallon still could make 20 gallons of shine.

Agent Smoot did the math for us, it's "$2,400 dollars off of each cook if you sell all your product. That's a lot of money." It's also a felony. You could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

There's also the danger involved.

"If they're cooking it outside and they're using an open flame, first it's hard to regulate the flame," said Agent Smoot. "But you gotta remember alcohol's highly flammable, so any leak in the pipe or anything else will lead to an explosion."

But moonshiners wouldn't be cooking it, if they didn't have someone buying it. We asked "why is it a bad idea to buy moonshine from someone?"

Agent Smoot said, "Because you have no idea how they made it . . . Most of the stuff we see is clear. but it's funny we had some that we got last year in a mason jar and it sat up on the desk while we were doing the processing and it actually ate the bottom off a mason jar. It all turned brown and we couldn't figure out why it turned brown. It's because the bottom of the mason jar had been eaten away . . . you just have no idea what's really in that."

It's not like this stuff is made in a health department approved environment.

Agent Smoot said "There's never been one we've gone to where there's not bugs and stuff in it . . . They're not worried about cleanliness. They're always worried about final product and making that money."

With the risks involved, why do people buy illegal moonshine?

Agent Smoot said, "We think a lot of it's novelty especially down in the Southeast part of the state where we see so much of it. They've done it forever, it's kind of a family tradition."

Which is one of the focuses of the show "Moonshiners." And as the popularity of the show grows the interest in the drink will too.

We asked Agent Smoot, "What do you think is the future of moonshine in our area if that show continues with it's success?"

Smoot responded, "The more popular anything gets, the more it's gonna happen . . . People wanna try something, you know it's like anything else. We tell you how dangerous it is but that's not what you see on TV . . . It doesn't just end when the show's over, people get caught."

So stick with the store bought stuff. It's cheaper, safer, and certainly smells better. Leave all the moonshine mischief to the guys on Discovery.