Apparently there is still a demand for Kentucky moonshine.
Alcoholic Beverage Control investigators this week confiscated a working still, 27 quarts of moonshine, materials such as yeast and drums of mash, and “numerous documents with recipes and sales information” in the Kona community of Letcher County.
It was the culmination of a month-long investigation concerning reports of a moonshine operation, ABC said Friday.
Three controlled buys were made with the last buy on Wednesday. On Thursday, a search warrant was executed which resulted in the seizure of the still and other evidence.
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Patrick Collier was charged with illegal possession of alcoholic beverages in dry territory, illegal possession of moonshine and illegal possession of an apparatus capable of making alcoholic beverages.
In the 19th century, Kentucky moonshine was known far and wide as the best corn whiskey in the nation.
During Prohibition in the 1920s, the demand for moonshine — so called because it was primarily made at night — soared, causing production standards to plummet. Whiskey that had been made primarily from corn and aged in wooden barrels was suddenly made almost entirely of sugar and aged little.
Nevertheless, Chicago gangster Al Capone bought whiskey from Eastern Kentucky as well as the Golden Pond area of far Western Kentucky, in what is now known as Land Between the Lakes.
The Kentucky Encyclopedia says that during Prohibition, an annual average of 675 stills were seized, 2,700 arrests were made, 21,681 gallons of distilled spirits and 424,564 gallons of mash were confiscated.
Moonshining peaked in the late ’50s, and a decade later — when the price of sugar rose sharply — the number of stills seized and destroyed by federal agents began to drop. “In 1957, the federal government designed law enforcement procedures targeted at the illegal distiller and courts began to hand down harsher sentences,” the Kentucky Encyclopedia says.
By 1971, only 82 stills were seized. According to the Herald-Leader archives, the last reference of a moonshine still being confiscated was in 1992, when one was found in a cedar thicket in Russell County. Authorities also found 13 gallons of moonshine and two 55-gallon barrels of corn mash.
This week’s seizure in Letcher County was conducted with the assistance of the Kentucky State Police and the Letcher County Sheriff’s Office.