Food & Drink

Taste Test: The Best Legal Moonshine (PHOTOS)

From the mountains of Appalachia to New York City, the people want their moonshine.
12/13/2013 09:50am ET | Updated January 23, 2014
In this Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 photo, a batch of genuine corn whisky empties out of a condenser barrel before being tempered in the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery, in Dawsonville, Ga. Distillers are making their first batches of legal liquor in this tiny Georgia town's hall, not far from the mountains and the maroon, orange and gold canopy of trees that once hid bootleggers from the law. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Moonshine is one of America's oldest traditions. From George Washington, to the Prohibition years and beyond, the one thing that's remained true is that moonshine was made without the blessing or involvement of the U.S. government. But moonshine has seen a rise in popularity in recent years outside the places where it's traditionally been made and enjoyed. From the mountains of Appalachia to the concrete jungle of New York City, the people want their moonshine.

This has given rise to a whole new school of legal moonshine distilleries, churning out the clear liquor for a whole new audience of consumers. Moonshine even has its own reality show now. You might be thinking, "Isn't legal moonshine an oxymoron?" Although for most of our lives moonshine has been considered contraband, it wasn't always illegal. Moonshine simply refers to unaged whiskey that's bottled straight off the still. Since we at HuffPost Taste love booze, the tradition behind moonshine and the taste buds of our readers, we threw ourselves a little moonshine taste test.

We pulled together a few of the most recognizable brands that have hit the market in recent years, as well as a few wild cards. The great thing about moonshine is that it varies greatly from region to region, and it seems like every whiskey distillery has its own version. Moonshine is usually distilled from corn, malted barley, rye or some combination thereof. We tasted only original recipes, although many distilleries infuse their moonshine with fruit and other flavoring agents -- the only thing that's not allowed is aging time in a barrel. Check out what our tasters thought in the list below. If we missed your favorite local moonshine, tell us about in the comments!

WINNER: Tim Smith's Climax Moonshine
90 proof, distilled from corn, malted barley and rye "Spicy flavor, surprisingly gentle ending, though." "Insanely sweet for moonshine, almost vanilla-y. Smooth, not too hot." "Mild nose, pleasant." "Sweet and corny. Gross." "Equal parts smooth and strong."
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine
100 proof, distilled from corn "If I had to drink moonshine, this is the winner." "Smells like bread. Tastes like soggy bread on fire." "Strong, ethanol nose, chemical taste." "Peppery, super burny on the back of my throat." "Sweet, then bitter. Bittersweet?" "Tastes like month-old Chinese white rice."
Buffalo Trace White Dog, Mash #1
125 proof, distilled from corn, rye and malted barley "Complex flavor." "Hot as hell, but it really packs in a lot of flavor." "Unpleasant burn." "Has a sweeter taste." "That's one mean dog."
Hudson New York Corn Whiskey
92 proof, distilled from 100% New York corn "Pretty drinkable. Slightly funky aftertaste." "Ooh la la, that is made out of fire." "Plenty of corn flavor. CORN." "BURN, BABY, BURN."
Midnight Moon Moonshine
80 proof, distilled from corn "Very vodka-like." "Wait, is this vodka? Not picking up much corn at all." "The O.G. of moonshine. Has a rubbing alcohol taste." "Tastes oddly like vodka and not very strong."
Kings County Distillery Moonshine
80 proof, distilled from corn "A very savory flavor, like actual corn." "Pretty smooth, very corny, a little too hot." "Tequila-like." "Harsh." "Smells like pee."

This story appears in Issue 84 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Jan. 17 in the iTunes App store.

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