“South Carolina and Georgia right now is all that’s stepped up to the plate,” Smith said in a phone interview during filming of the show’s third season, debuting this fall. “The other guys are a little bit unsure of what they want to do because I’m still listed as an outlaw.”
Smith and “Moonshiners” taps into the mythic nature of illegal outdoor distilling. Always an interesting subcategory in the American outlaw canon, the sudden availability of the over-the-counter stuff has taken the onetime cliche out of the dark valleys and into America’s trendiest bars and restaurants. You can buy moonshine drinks of every flavor and stripe, bake moonshine cookies or just drink it straight from the jar.
That the clear corn liquor has made it into the stores is an irony Tommy Townsend, maker of Grandaddy Mimm’s Authentic Corn Whiskey, chuckles at.
“Well, I guess the reason it’s popular is it’s illegal liquor being sold legally now,” Townsend said. “It’s funny. This term moonshine just came from people back in the old days making it illegally so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes on it.”
Now it goes for $25 to $50 or more down per 750 milliliters on the corner.
Townsend’s grandfather was something of a legendary figure in the field in Young Harris, Ga., the tri-state area where Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina meet. Rumored to have influential friends in politics and law enforcement, he only served time in jail once during his day.
Mimm was the last of a breed and the recipe was in danger of passing out of memory when a friend idly mentioned the growing interest in moonshine. Townsend, the singer for the late Waylon Jenning’s band Waymore’s Outlaws, told the story of his grandfather’s business venture and the friend suggested he track down that recipe.