“Much of the current demand for legally produced moonshine has been filled by small distilleries, who are often new to the booze business,” says Kevin Kosar in his book Moonshine: A Global History. “Moonshine is an attractive product for them—they can sell it and reap revenue right after it comes off the still. (Barrel-ageing spirits is costly; one must procure barrels, which are relatively expensive, and a place to store them. The spirits also evaporate, meaning less comes from the barrel than was initially put in.)”
….Kevin’s book is a trove of new information. Turns out, Hollywood portrays a limited view of the spirit that is a symbol of freedom worldwide. I spoke with Kevin about the book and here’s some of what we talked about.
I used to have a fantasy of setting up a moonshine still just to have my own source of booze, but the process is so complicated it seems like I need to be a chemist to do it. Why do people take the time to make Moonshine when it’s easier to make other forms of alcohol?
Kevin Kosar: Good question. Well, I guess I’d ask in response, why do folks bother to learn to fly fish and spend boku bucks on rods and equipment when they can go to a good market and buy perfectly good trout and salmon? It’s just the way people are — they like to mix their hands with nature’s bounty and produce something, whether it is knitting a scarf or wood-working one’s own furniture. Making spirits is challenging, but the rewards of getting it right are great. Seeing clean, fragrant liquor coming off the still after days of fermenting and toil is a joy.”
“Perhaps, the futility of the government’s efforts to regulate consumer choice is best illustrated by its constant failure to control what types of alcohol people are permitted to drink, or even whether they can drink alcohol at all. This penchant for government to exert control over our alcohol consumption is neither confined to the U.S., nor even a modern creation. As Kevin Kosar documents in his excellent book, Moonshine: A Global History, governments from Ancient China to Ancient Mesopotamia have been defining which types of alcoholic drinks are legal, and therefore acceptable for people to drink, and which types of alcoholic drinks are illegal, and therefore unacceptable for people to drink. Kosar’s book has much to offer to spirit enthusiasts….”
“[T]his vibrant and and entertaining new study of the drink’s 600-year history…. Kosar, an authority on booze and a director of alcohol policy at the R Street Institute in Washington, DC, discusses this aspect of his subject with pace, learning, insight and good sense. He is convincing when he argues that “the more a government’s policies reduce access to affordable, safe, licit alcoholic drinks, the more it encourages the production of cheap, dangerous, illicit booze”. And he is arresting when he links the production of moonshine to moments of political resistance….”