Moonshine is an important part of Appalachian culture and folklore and is making a comeback right here in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Moonshining has a rich history dating back to the American Revolution. Copper pot, stills, pipes running through abandoned creeks and secluded woods. What do all these images remind you of? That’s right — moonshine. Today, visitors to Pigeon Forge can explore Tennessee moonshine through tastings at local distilleries.
Moonshine Tasting Basics
Gatlinburg moonshine tastings and Pigeon Forge moonshine tastings should be must-do's on your vacation to the Smokies. Each distillery has a unique experience, with special flavors and offerings available. Generally speaking, tastings are free or $5, which is given back to you as a voucher to use on your purchase. When you arrive at a distillery, walk up to the bar and the bartenders will take care of you. They'll hand you sampling cups and walk you through flavors one by one, offering to let you try whichever ones intrigue you.
The History Of Moonshine
The Beginnings Of Moonshine
When the settlers came to the Americas in 1620, they began to distill the maize or Indian corn. This went on uninterrupted for almost 200 years until Congress passed federal tax on liquor and spirits to pay for the expense of fighting the war. However, settlers were not keen on the idea of being taxed so they just kept on making it. Those who declined on complying with the new tax were classified as outlaws in the eyes of the federal government.
But for these early moonshiners, making white lighting wasn’t just a hobby. It was how they survived. Many farmers benefited from the production of moonshine by paying for their tax bills, mortgage and and providing for their families.
These days in East Tennessee, moonshine is representative of the areas’ deep-rooted sense of individualism and autonomy. People view making white lightening as a way of sticking it to the man and shunning outside authority. Others cook up the sour mash just to keep up with tradition like their fathers and grandfathers before them.
When Tennessee state law changed to allow the distillation of spirits, inspired entrepreneurs began to produce legal moonshine in licensed distilleries across the region including here in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge moonshine distilleries have become very popular with guests visiting The Smoky Mountains. Visitors can take distillery tours, see the moonshining process, sample free moonshine and take some of the mountain home with you!
FUN FACT: What does the XXX stand for on a moonshine jug?
The “XXX” signifies how many times the moonshine batch had been run through the still. Three X’s indicated that it had been run through three times and that the shine was pure alcohol.