(n.) A spirit produced illegally in the United States, true moonshine can be distilled from any fruits, grains or sugars—the key is the illegality of the production, with the name thought to be a reference to something done in the cover of night by the light of the moon. In general, most moonshine is high proof and un-aged. Some commercial distillers have recently found success marketing white-whiskey<LINK> (un-aged whiskey) as moonshine, though the term on the label carries no real legal meaning.

The roots of moonshine stretch back to the American Revolutionary-era, when the federal government enacted a tax on liquor to recoup the costs for war with the British. Resentment built, and many small backyard producers and farmers continued making their own spirits, battling the “revenuers,” or federal agents sent to collect taxes. Pittsburgh’s Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 marked a high point of conflict between the factions, but illegal production of alcohol continued apace. In the 1920s and 1930s, Prohibition also had the unintended affect of spurring growth of moonshine, and as demand increased production, cheaper and cruder versions filled the underground market. After Prohibition, the popularity of moonshine subsided somewhat, as the availability of cheap liquor became prevalent. Today, the DIY movement has fueled a small revival of home-distilled moonshine.