Mad for Moonshine

Virginia ABC stores move mash in record numbers.

     The rich history of the Virginia moonshine industry is enjoying a widespread revival—in books and on the big and small screens, referenced in the annals of crime. White lightnin’ fell by the wayside once Prohibition ended and booze became legal again, but now, it seems, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is happy to put potable rocket fuel back in your tank.

     In the fiscal year 2012, Virginia ABC stores sold 11,861 cases of a dozen varieties of moonshine, according to Carol Nawyer, public relations specialist for the Virginia Board of Alcoholic Beverage Control. That’s up 153 percent from the year before.

     One of these new moonshiners is Scott “Mash” Schumaker, master distiller at Virginia Sweetwater Distillery in Marion. While he’s not the first to revive the merits of moonshine in the Old Dominion, he says his Virginia Sweetwater Moonshine is stronger than his competitors’ at a whopping 85 proof. (Most are 80 proof.)

     “Up until a few years ago, nobody wanted to call [their product] moonshine,” says Nawyer, adding that the taint of its one-time illegality might be what scared off distillers before filmmakers and authors romanticized the moonshine culture. “Now, if someone wants to call it moonshine,” says Nawyer, “they can.” And they are.  


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