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Issue 52 - Fast cars and wild whiskey

Whisky Magazine Issue 52
November 2005

 

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Fast cars and wild whiskey

Once upon a time,moonshine was big business,and the American South played out a daily game of cat and mouse as fast cars raced for the border. Jim Leggett goes in search of an American institution

The Dukes of Hazzard TV series may be relegated to reruns, but a new ‘Dukes' movie introduced a fresh generation of fans to moonshine, rustic humour and gleeful car chases. In search of former moonshiners whose real-life adventures inspired ‘Hazzard' story lines, I headed for the Cherokee foothills bordering the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee.

Even today family ties bind many to the old whiskey cult. I found one enterprising exdistiller holding a foot-stompin' ‘Moonshiner Reunion' in tribute to ‘good ol' boys an' good ol' moonshine'.

Here old-timers who once tuned bootleggers' cars meet for a beer, and recall adventures and high-speed car chases. Often as not, talk turns to fine corn whiskey made here since these valleys were settled by Scots- Irish during the 18th century, their secrets of distilling ‘white lightnin' handed down.

Alcohol has attracted the interest of taxmen since the Civil War ended the South's political aspirations, and formerly tax-exempt whiskey and resentment to liquor taxation lives on. A decade ago a Mooresville, N.C., judge barked to an arrested moonshiner: “State can sell it, so can you!

Case dismissed.” On a rural S. C. farm once known for cotton, peaches and excellent corn whiskey moonshiner Barney Barnwell (retired, of course) greets legions of old friends and fans to his annual Moonshiners Reunion.

Sporting a full grey beard, battered Stetson hat, blue denim overalls, boots with soles are held together with tape, he has the l...

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