It’s as rich in Appalachian tradition as the Great Smoky Mountains themselves; Gatlinburg moonshine is steeped in our region’s Southern heritage. Moonshine’s rich history is an essential part of the Smoky Mountain story, and thanks to the many Gatlinburg distilleries, it can be a part of your next Smoky Mountain vacation too. Find out more about Gatlinburg moonshine and its Smoky Mountain roots. Soon you’ll “get your corn from a jar” just like they do on Rocky Top.
What Is Moonshine?
Once upon a time, moonshine was a homemade (which means illegally made) liquor made from a corn base. It is an unaged whiskey and is often clear in color. Moonshine can be powerful stuff, sometimes measuring more than 190 proof. It was made in a secret still and bottled in mason jars. You might know moonshine by another name. Slang terms for the homemade liquor include: white liquor, white lightning, mountain dew, choop, hooch, homebrew, shiney, white whiskey, and mash liquor.
Today moonshine is a little different. You’ll find quite a few Gatlinburg distilleries that make legal moonshine, and the stuff can be sweet to sip. To truly appreciate Gatlinburg’s moonshine, you need to know it’s rich backstory. Keep reading to learn how the moon shines in Gatlinburg.
Gatlinburg Moonshine: Illicit History
Moonshine in the Smoky Mountains dates all the way back to the 18th century. The Southern Appalachian area was originally settled by many Scottish and Irish immigrants, and they brought recipes for homemade corn liquor with them. In 1791, Alexander Hamilton imposed a tax on whiskey production. This is when illegal moonshine production became a cultural mainstay in Appalachia and the SouthTennessee Moonshine
Did you know how moonshine got its name? Moonshine was made and enjoyed at night time so those partaking in the illegal liquor would avoid being caught.
An Appalachian Lifestyle
Over the years, moonshine became an important stream of extra revenue for farmers in the Smoky Mountains. Corn was one of the few crops that would grow in the rocky mountain soil. When their extra corn was transformed into whiskey, it became easier to store, move and sell, which gave farmers extra money. Gatlinburg was a hot spot for moonshine production. Other key areas for making moonshine included the Forbidden Cabins near Sevierville, Wears Valley, Pittman Center and Cosby.
Moonshine grew in popularity during Prohibition. The U.S. government banned all alcohol from 1920-1933, so those who liked to imbibe found illegal methods to getting their spirits. Many turned to Smoky Mountain moonshine. It has been rumored, but not confirmed, that notorious gangster Al Capone stored his liquor supplies in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
Tennessee Moonshine Legalized
Prohibition was repealed on Dec. 5, 1933. Even though alcohol became legal again in Tennessee and across the country, illegal moonshine remained part of the East Tennessee experience. Moonshine was illegal until 2009, when Tennessee laws started allowing special commercial distilleries for moonshine. Gatlinburg distilleries started popping up and many people have been introduced to moonshine in the decade since.Facts About Moonshine
Since moonshine became legal in Tennessee in 2009, many Gatlinburg distilleries have become part of the Smoky Mountain experience. Sevier is one of the handfuls of Tennessee counties that allow commercial moonshine distilleries. The first legal jar of moonshine was sold in Gatlinburg on July 3, 2010.
Today Gatlinburg distilleries dot the Parkway and head into the hills, giving you a chance to experience moonshine like never before. Adult vacationers can taste a bit of Appalachian heritage. While some venues are family friendly, many Gatlinburg distilleries offer adults-only fun. Enjoy some time away from the kids and make sweet memories sipping ’shine in the Smokies.Pigeon Forge Moonshine
Many of the Gatlinburg distilleries are located in downtown, making this bustling area a fun stop for those seeking to taste something different. Gatlinburg moonshine tours can take you to each stop, allowing you to taste and compare while truly savoring the Appalachian flavor. If you want to get a true taste of the Smoky Mountains, consider making a Gatlinburg moonshine tour part of your next vacation. Some moonshine tours are free, other distilleries charge a small fee for a tour.
Moonshine Tours & Tastings
One of the best parts of visiting a ‘shine shop is Gatlinburg moonshine tasting. One local distillery boasts more than 40 flavors of moonshine, ranging from apple pie to big orange. Moonshine pickles and moonshine cherries are on the table, too. Gatlinburg moonshine tastings are often limited to a few free samples -- from there you’ll have to buy a bottle of your favorite to enjoy at home.Smith Creek Moonshine
The Smoky Mountains are steeped in history, and this includes the illicit backstory of Gatlinburg moonshine. Make the most of your next Smoky Mountain vacation and partake in this adults-only beverage right here in the hills. Learn more about things to do and see in the Smoky Mountains. Browse things to do in Gatlinburg, outdoor activities and more!