BOOK & DRAM
Moonshining is an age-old tradition dating back to Europe. When the Scots-Irish fled Europe and came to America, they brought their stills with them. As American government would progress, some of these distillers would register and many others continued distilling illicitly. When we think of moonshining, most of us have visions of Appalachia. History has not been kind or flattering to the image of the Appalachian moonshiner. Popular culture has created the caricature of the moonshiner as unintelligent, lazy, dangerous, and often wearing tattered denim overalls. This caricature image is created by outsiders, those not within the culture. “Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World” seeks to tell the story of the Appalachian moonshiner from within the culture.
Spirits of Just Men is the story of many moonshiners, but the book focuses specifically on the infamous Franklin County, Virginia. Charles D. Thompson, Jr. seeks to understand the moonshiners, but not from an outside view looking down from morally higher ground. Thompson’s book gives a highly humanizing glimpse into Appalachian moonshiners. Thompson’s book is absolutely counter to the popular image that has so often been perpetuated by all forms of media. Who are these people? What are their living conditions? What factors beyond their control led to their illicit distilling as the only means for economic survival? How did Federal and State governmental policies and spending leave Appalachia in the dust? How much income did Appalachians actually take home during a booming moonshine craze?
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonsine comes in at 100 proof and has a very light and sweet corn nose without any fumes. There isn’t much bite and isn’t as sweet as the nose might suggest. As you might expect, the corn comes through rather noticeably on the palate. Ole Smoky has a rather quick finish that dissipates into a clean and crisp finish.
Thompson’s book will give you a whole new appreciation for a subset of American distilling history. Many of the governmental policies from decades ago still have not been righted to help Appalachia. Appalachian moonshine culture may not be our culture, but we can have a better glimpse into their world. If you walk away with a deeper understanding of who these people were as actual people and not hillbilly caricatures, Thompson did his job. As of this writing, I’ve read 227 books on American booze history. Spirits of Just Men is, without doubt, the one that created the biggest emotional stir within. You’re going to love this book!
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. –Hebrews 12:2