USA Today takes a look at the thriving illegal liquor trade in Alabama, where Woods Whiskey, White Lightning or anything else you can call Moonshine is still very much on the market.
A special unit of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board calls itself the Moonshine Task Force, and it’s trying to stop the flood of black market booze.
“On the street a gallon of woods whiskey will go for about $30,” saiod an ABC Board agent and member of the task force. “In Atlanta, it’ll got for $60. A moonshiner will have $6 or $8 in costs for each gallon, depending on if he cooks it himself, or hires a still hand to cook.”
Unlike in days of yore, it’s not about whether people should be drinking or not, it’s more that it’s illegal revenue that’s going untaxed. And when done incorrectly, it can do serious damage.
“But the biggest reason is this is dangerous stuff. If the cooker doesn’t know what they are doing, or doesn’t care, lead salts poisoning is a very real possibility for the drinker,” explains a member of the task force. You can go blind, get irreparable brain damage or die from lead salts poisoning.”
Because while there are certainly dedicated, discerning liquor folks who have learned their craft as it’s been passed down over generations and “wouldn’t do anything to hurt their customers,” there are also plenty of unfeeling shmucks out there just trying to make a buck.
“The other ones are out for money. They’ll use old car radiators to run the whiskey through. That’s where you pick up your lead salts,” another task force member says. “They don’t care what kind of critters are crawling in their mash, or what kind of critters have died in their mash. We hit a still in Macon County where the water was coming out of a septic tank. Now how would you like to take a big swig of that whiskey?”
The time to go after those types is now, the task force believes, because eventually the small-timers will move up and into bigger things, which could include arming themselves.
Since the four-person task force was formed last October, the group has seized about 500 gallons of moonshine that would sell on the street for about $13,425, along with the ingredients to make another 1,428 gallons. The team has since added three more agents to keep up the bootleg busting.
“There’s always been a illegal liquor trade in Alabama,” one member explains. “It doesn’t matter what the economy does. You may see some times when cooking is up a little, or down a little. But it’s always taking place.”
All I know about (legal) moonshine is that if it tastes like blueberries, you’ll want to drink more of it. So be careful.
Alabama liquor board chases illicit hooch makers [USA Today]