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Issue 23 - Shining example: Junior Johnson, NASCAR and John Q Law

Whisky Magazine Issue 23
June 2002


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Shining example: Junior Johnson, NASCAR and John Q Law

Scott Longman looks behind a modern American hero to find he casts a more interesting shadow than most

I'm looking at the mason jar with a little apprehension. There's a thin layer of primordial sediment at the bottom that carries a sense it could give rise to complex nucleic acids at any moment, and the inside of the metal lid looks like its been on the receiving end of an oxidation-reduction fight. But the most daunting issue is the scent, which emanates from the jar's open top in a way that makes me glance around for ignition sources.

My host is blithely unconcerned about the state of the whiskey, but agrees to pour the liquid explosive through a coffee filter. As I remember that it's not uncommon to find this stuff in the 140-160 proof range, he comments that he doesn't really know about this batch because he didn't make it and the guy who did isn't exactly available for comment, as is often the case with bandit hooch. Filtering done, we pour, then toast, and after a moment's grave reflection, knock back the shot.

Moonshine whiskey comes in a plain glass mason jar the way Fat Man and Little Boy came in plain sheetmetal shells. The shot plunges 30,000 feet down my esophagus and detonates, mushroom cloud billowing through my innards. The whiskey is molten U-235 in full fission, with a sweet caramel finish. For a moment, I blink and gasp. Then the cognitive aftershock catches up to me: Hey. That was good. With that thought I have an epiphany as to what would drive generations of moonshiners to risk everything, running the backwoods with lights off and cars full to get this ...

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