Moonshine is a tricky word to define. It’s still largely regarded as the illegal hooch that Appalachian distillers would produce clandestinely to make a buck during hardscrabble times, using corn mash as the main ingredient.
But for Ole Smoky master distiller Justin King, moonshine is the clear, unaged spirit that his distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, produces in many varieties, including Original Moonshine, a whiskey made from corn grown by local farmers in East Tennessee and from a century-old recipe that uses a grain bill of 80 percent corn. (The remaining 20 percent is a secret ingredient that, according to the distillery, sets Ole Smoky Moonshine apart from the rest of the white whiskeys produced legally in the U.S.)
Other Ole Smoky whiskeys, which have been recently added to store and bar shelves in Texas, range from more nontraditional flavors like Apple Pie and Big Orange. And they all come in mason jars, a clever nod back to the long history Ole Smoky’s founders have at discreetly producing moonshine in the mountains, well before Tennessee law changed in 2009 to allow the distillation of spirits.
“We’re a very family-oriented company that’s made moonshine here for hundreds of years, and we want to bring our heritage to places like Austin,” King said.
He added that the wide range of flavors make the Ole Smoky portfolio diverse, with many ways to incorporate the moonshine in cocktail recipes. One such recipe is this Harvest Mule, which uses White Lightnin’, a neutral grain spirit distilled six times and created as an alternative to vodka or gin, and Apple Pie, a blend of pure apple juice, ground cinnamon and other spices with moonshine. It’s one of the bestselling flavors, King said, “because apple pie and moonshine go hand in hand.”
1 oz. Ole Smoky White Lightnin’
1 oz. Ole Smoky Apple Pie
1/2 oz. pomegranate juice
1/4 oz. lemon juice
3 oz. ginger beer
Sliced apple or fresh mint for garnish
Pour ingredients over ice in 12 oz. glass and mix. Garnish and serve.
— Ole Smoky Moonshine