Bourbon Industry

Moon River meets Whiskey River in Moon Pie Moonshine

The back label, left, and lid for Moon Pie Moonshine, to be made by Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon.
The back label, left, and lid for Moon Pie Moonshine, to be made by Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon.

Move over RC Cola. MoonPie's got a new drinking buddy: Limestone Branch Distillery's Moon Pie MoonShine.

"Generations of Family Tradition fill this jar," according to the label. "The Campbells of MoonPie are 5th generation bakers. The Beam brothers of Limestone Branch Distillery are 7th generation whiskey makers. These two families share some iconic Southern history. In the early 1900s, MoonPie started as the 'workingman's lunch' in the coal mines of Kentucky. ... The authentic small-batch liquor behind this label is the result of the Campbells' MoonPie meeting the Beams' MoonShine."

In preparation for the 100th anniversary of the MoonPie, Chattanooga Bakery has been scouting licensing possibilities and this seemed a perfect fit, based on their histories, said Tory Johnston, company spokesman.

"Moonshine is a trendy segment right now, doing lots of cool new flavors," Johnston said. "We thought, what a great way to celebrate our roots and create a real working man's reward."

"It's great, everybody loves MoonPie, and the taste is so close... it just takes you right back to when you have a MoonPie," said Steve Beam, distiller at Limestone Branch.

The marriage of the two classic Southern treats will hit liquor stores in Kentucky, Southern Indiana, Louisiana and Alabama in late January, just in time for Mardi Gras.

For those who might not know it, MoonPies are the "throw" of choice for many krewes, particularly in Mobile, Ala., where they will toss 4 million MoonPies from floats.

(Alabama is hard-core MoonPie territory: Although the frosted and filled graham-cracker snacks are made in Chattanooga, Mobile has embraced them to such an extent that on New Year's Eve, they drop a giant MoonPie at midnight.)

Moonshine's role at Mardi Gras is pretty self-explanatory. And at around 50 proof, this is definitely an adult indulgence.

Beam expects his distillery in Lebanon, Ky., to be bottling chocolate, vanilla and banana 'pie shine about as fast as they can make it, beginning about mid-January.

"There's a fantastic amount of interest," Beam said of potential distributors. "Everybody's chomping at the bit to get the product."

Limestone Branch already has a reputation for its quality "sugar shine," and makes Climax shine for Discovery Channel Moonshiners star Tim Smith. Moon Pie MoonShine will be made with a different recipe, using grain neutral spirits.

Beam said Limestone has big plans for MoonPie line extensions: "They also make a strawberry, orange, and lemon, which we will introduce in summer," Beam said. No word yet on whether they will do a coconut, which is a cult favorite among MoonPie aficionados.

The distillery also will be getting a "MoonPie General Store" with all things MoonPie, including memorabilia, for fans.

How close can the shine come to the snack?

Limestone Branch worked with North Carolina-based Mother Murphy's, the flavorings company that supplies the taste for the actual MoonPies, to get it right.

Despite flavor fatigue in vodkas in the last year — sales of popular flavored vodka are down 12 percent, Restaurant Sciences reported in November — the fact that this is a moonshine could give it more potential.

What Chattanooga Bakery liked about Moon Pie MoonShine is that "it's got all sorts of equities and strengths," Johnston said. "We've done some very preliminary research and it looks good. We've pulled in consumers and they said it's delicious. Very smooth. ... It's like a MoonPie in a liquid."

Moon Pie MoonShine

Suggested retail price is $21.99 for a 750 ml jar. The chocolate flavor is 50 proof or 25 percent alcohol by volume; vanilla and banana flavors are 53 proof or 26.5 percent ABV.