Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Moonshine
distillery: Piedmont Distillers (they also make Catdaddy Moonshine)
origin: Madison, North Carolina
distilled from: corn
average price: $21 for 750 mL
details: Junior Johnson was one of the best race car drivers of the 1950s and 1960s. He was also a moonshiner. And even though Junior was a fast driver in his prime, he just couldn’t drive fast enough– he was busted by the law in 1956 for illegally distilling booze. That conviction was later lifted by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
notes: Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon follows the Johnson family’s moonshine recipe. Every batch is handcrafted in very small batches, made from corn and born in a copper still. Midnight Moon is triple distilled to deliver an ultra-smooth, clean-tasting spirit. Real fruit and Midnight Moon are then placed in mason jars by hand (just like moonshiners have done for generations). The bottles are hand labeled and packaged, which goes to show what a small operation it is.
The Midnight Moonshine collection includes: Apple Pie, Cherry, Strawberry, Blueberry, and Cranberry. Junior’s moonshines come with whole fruit in the jars (except for the apple pie, which comes with a cinnamon stick). His shine is free of artificial additives, and that makes us very happy.
our thoughts: The Apple Pie was our first moonshine purchase. The bottle states, “Handmade Moonshine with Real Apple Juice.” That intrigued us, so we brought it home to use in some recipe experiments. Now we’ve tasted legit blackberry moonshine while staying on farm outside of Asheville, North Carolina, so we had high expectations. Apple Pie Midnight Moonshine certainly doesn’t have the burn illegal shine has, but that’s because it’s not nearly as proof-heavy as its counterpart. The Apple Pie weighs in at 35% abv (70 proof), which is significantly weaker than most moonshines. Upon opening the jar, strong aromas of apple cider and ethanol make your eyebrows dance. We were happy to find a cinnamon stick floating in the jar. We’re curious if the cinnamon stick will be over-extracted by the time we near the end of the bottle, but we’ll leave it in because we really love cinnamon. The flavor reminds me of some rum-soaked cake I had in Italy– sweet upfront notes that fade into cinnamon and finish with apple. I swear the Apple Pie Moonshine tastes like a pastry, cinnamon bun, or… apple pie. But there is definitely an ethanol presence, although there is not much of a burn. You can just smell ethanol. And you get a little hit at the end. It’s soft and it’s on the sweeter side, so use accordingly.
Overall, we like it. It’s not a substitute for calvados, but it’s fun. I could definitely sip on it a bit more.
If you want a stronger Midnight Moonshine, try the Cranberry, Cherry, Blueberry, or Strawberry, all of which weigh in at 50% abv (100 proof). Midnight Moonshine is an affordable, widely available moonshine that you can purchase legally. Yay! No worrying about being sent to jail because of a jar of hooch. I know we can all rest a little easier tonight.
** I categorized moonshine as a whiskey because it’s made from corn, and is essentially a high-proof, clandestinely-produced, un-aged bourbon.
moonshine: Our first thought when we saw Midnight Moonshine on the shelves was: moonshine in a liquor store, really? Then other questions started whirling and dancing in our minds. How can you sell moonshine? How can a company market their product as moonshine when they’re a legal distillery with facilities and an office? So, what is the difference between moonshine made in the mountains and moonshine made in a registered distillery?
… and that brings us to:
Moonshine vs Moonshine. Legit moonshine — the illegal kind — is liquor that is produced with an unlicensed still. All that means is that you’re making hooch without telling Uncle Sam about it. The government likes to keep a check on what booze is being distilled so they can collect taxes and “ensure the safety of consumers,” but we don’t buy that last claim. Considering what artificial crap the FDA deems food-safe (watch a video on McDonald’s chicken sandwich meat), we’ll assume the government’s anti-moonshine laws are mostly for tax purposes. Uncle Sam wants his money. I digress… Real moonshine is associated with the Appalachian Mountains and the families that have secretly distilled their own booze with homemade stills for centuries, and it is strong. Really strong. Moonshine distilled in the mountains often has an alcoholic strength that can reach up to 180 proof, and it’s usually made from corn. Now let’s switch to liquor marketed as legal moonshine– the stuff you can buy at the store. The difference between illegal moonshine and legal moonshine is that the legal stuff is distilled at a licensed distillery that pays taxes. That’s it.
Legal moonshine is basically a contradiction in terms because the word “moonshine” represents a class of booze that is produced illegally. We find it very confusing that a legal bottle of booze would be categorized by its producers as part of a class of spirits that are illegal in nature. It’s like trying to wrap your mind around artificial crab or fake bacon. It’s crab! Wait…no it isn’t. It’s fish colored and flavored to be like crab. Oh… well at least there’s bacon! I mean bacon-flavored tofu! We live in a world of tricks where magicians play with words and sell us we want, whether or not its honest. It’s tricky to tell which brands share a heritage of bootlegging and which brands are just capitalizing on the next trend, but Junior Johnson is a good brand to stick with because we all know he has a history in the moonshine business. The other moonshiners that have sold out and created legal brands for themselves do so for many obvious reasons (like avoiding jail time), and these are the guys we want to support. Truthfully, we wish shame on other brands that lack any ties to bootlegging, but market their bottle of booze as moonshine only because it’s made from corn, and the term moonshine “is so hot right now” (thanks Zoolander).
With all that said, Junior Johnson’s Moonshine is a great product and a brand we whole heartedly support. They use real fruit, avoid artificial ingredients, and share a strong history with some legit moonshining folk. Cheers!