Prohibition and Moonshine: Aging Barrel History Pt. 2

Distilling and barrel aging whiskey is a very old process, with lots of history and tradition attached. Last week we dished on some facts relating to the origins of barrel-aging wine and the very first distillers. This week’s blog focuses on alcohol in America, and the ups and downs that alcohol distribution has experienced in the last hundred years.


Contrary to popular belief, “Prohibition” of alcohol, i.e., banning the manufacture, storage, transportation and sale of any alcoholic beverage, has been around in various forms since 2070 B.C., in Ancient China. Prohibition in the U.S. was from 1920 to 1933, and is widely considered a dark time in America’s history. Coinciding as it did with much of the Great Depression, Prohibition probably contributed heavily to the nationwide stress. Bootleggers and distilleries flourished, operating illegally, especially in Chicago. Home brewing became very popular as well. “Bootleggers,” as they came to be known through their association with Prohibition, did well for themselves as transporters of illegal alcohol.

Repeal of Prohibition came about in 1933, allowing the individual states to set their own laws for the control of alcohol sales and production. It dwindled instantly in most states, however to this day there are areas known as “dry counties,” where liquor sales are regulated and even prohibited. Most of these places are in the south, and three states are completely dry – Kansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. In order for alcohol to be sold in these states, individual counties must specifically authorize it.

Moonshine Madness

Illegally made high-proof distilled spirits, known as “moonshine,” got its name from the fact that it was made at night, with the moon providing natural light. Although the practice is thought to have originated in Scotland, it is best known for finding a more permanent home in the Appalachians, where it provided a source of income for many in the early 20th century.

Most moonshine is made using a corn mash mixture. Although many think of all moonshine as being illegally produced, the truth is that some completely legal liquor companies use the term on their products to give consumers a taste match to the illegal stuff.

America’s past associations with alcohol are interesting and varied, from banning it completely to embracing it as a form of currency.  One thing is for sure, that it will always be around – for this we are truly thankful! Added by Christina on Feb. 11, 2015.