American Born Moonshine Original and American Born Moonshine Dixie | Nashville Tennessee
What’s more natural than having a nip of American Born Moonshine on the day we celebrate America being born. Dennis had a pig roast for the Fourth and I thought here’s a chance to do the review I wanted to do last fall. You see I received these samples back in the October when I thought I had been invited to a pig picking. There was a lot of pork served but it was more Italian than Southern.
This time we had a whole pig on Dennis’s mobile BBQ pit and a son-in-law of an old time NASCAR driver to sample it (he also provided some great BBQ hash and corn-on-the-cob). Doesn’t get much better than that. I had 2 bottles of moonshine from Tennessee: American Born Moonshine Original and American Born Moonshine Dixie.
The Original is 103 proof white lightning. They claim it’s un-aged corn whiskey from a 200-year-old recipe that “upholds the historic traditions of American mountain moonshine.” Now I just noticed on the front label is says “Unaged corn whiskey and rum.” No mention of rum on the website. I used to live near Franklin County, VA (aka The Moonshine Capital of the World) and remember the story about the local feed and seed in Rocky Mount selling $7 million dollars of sugar in one year. That’s a hell of a lot of cookies.
It didn’t take long for farmers and colonists 200 years ago to figure out that shipping rum or whiskey was cheaper than shipping sugar or corn. Rum is usually aged in oak barrels so you seldom see it clear or without the added flavor oak gives it. The label on the American Born might say rum but it’s not like any rum on the rum shelf at the liquor store. Sugar has always been a part of moonshine, at least in most parts of the South. I suspect that their 200-year-old recipe is a mix of corn and sugar and if you use sugar it’s technically part rum and some state law somewhere probably requires it to be labeled that way.
I took the bottles to the fancy pork dinner last fall and got some nice quotes and stories about drinking moonshine in college or when camping. Everyone liked the American Born Original as a sipper although I think some bourdon drinkers were being polite. The Dixie they likened it to a dessert wine. I put my bottles away and decided to wait for a real pig picking.
Dennis had invited a few neighbors up at the lake to join in the pig roast. That included Allen, the son-in-law of the NASCAR driver. He told a few stories about his father-in-law like the time he drove his race car to Daytona with the family in the backseat. He was going a bit too fast in one little town and the police chief hit him with a fine. After winning two races and having some money in his pocket he looked for the police chef on the way back and floored it, this time without mufflers, stopping at the city limits where he proudly paid for another fine.
Allen sounds like a man who has experienced some moonshine in the past. I asked him if this tastes like some he’s had before. “No. All moonshines have a unique flavor and that’s the way it should be. And I like the flavor of this one.” Later he added. “Nice and smooth.”
He then sampled the Dixie. It’s 83 proof and tastes and smells like sweet tea but with a kick at the end. He smiled after tasting it. “Now, should you leave these two jars behind I assure you they won’t go to waste.”
Next to sample was neighbor Fred, a retired Navy man. I also think he’s a man who has sampled a bit of moonshine in the past. “I like both but I prefer the ice tea.” I asked him what would it go with it and he laughed. “Nothing else. Just straight… [more laughter] right on!”
Adam stopped by and was glad to give them a try. “[The Original] smells clean. Nice and smooth. It has that moonshine flavor but not a real bad bite to it.” I asked if he had tried some before and he laughed “I grew up around here. This is real smooth compared to what I’ve tried before.”
When he tried the ice tea he said, “smells like ice tea, but it smells better than it tastes. I much prefer the Original.”
When it was time to go I started packing up. Allen was a bit disappointed when he saw me putting away the bottles. What the heck. I presented him with the Dixie. Next thing I know we had some of his great BBQ hash to take home. “I’m going to enjoy this tonight while watching the race at Daytona,” he told me.
So, if you like smooth moonshine this is the one to try.
Now a little bit more about the Original and Dixie. These are produced by Windy Hill Spirits out of Nashville. It’s sold in mason jars with a screw-on lid that has a capped plastic stopper in a flanged pour spout on top. You can bring your glass over to it and let the lip overhang your glass so you don’t waste anything.
The mason jar is embossed with several icons of old time moonshine and pays tribute to their state of Tennessee. The bottom of the bottle has the 3 stars from the Tennessee flag (Tennessee stretches from North Carolina to the Mississippi and was often referred to as the 3 states of Tennessee since many sections of the state could never agreed on anything).
The embossing features the classic XXX in between the AMERICAN BORN name. Many identify those X’s as a symbol of moonshine. The X’s are supposed to indicate how many times a spirit has been distilled. Old distilling methods required 3 distillations to get above 100 proof. Modern techniques can get 100 proof one time through. I don’t know if this is tripled distilled or not.
One side of the bottle has the coiled rattlesnake and “Don’t tread on me” from the Revolutionary War Gadsden flag. That iconic symbol of liberty and freedom has been used by libertarians over the years to show their resistance to “too much government.” And moonshine has been a symbol of resistance against the goverment ever since the fledgling United States started to tax whiskey and brought on the Whiskey Rebellion.
‘The other side of the jar features a measuring scale so you can see how much you have left with the marks starting at “pint” and ending at “half.”
Having lived near the moonshine capital of the world, Franklin County, Virginia, I kinda take umbridge to the term moonshine being used in the sale of legal white lightning. White lightning: that’s an accurate name, legal or not. You can walk into any liquor store and see a dozen new labels featuring the word moonshine. It takes the fun out of it. Kinda like drinking Coors now (it seemed to taste better when you drank it illegally East of the Mississippi 30 years ago). There’s no risk of drinking it that’s different from drinking any alcohol… better be 21 and don’t drive.
This white lightning is smooth. The aroma is definitely that of pure alcohol but the flavor is definitely corn… without the charred oak. If you poured this into your own charred oak barrel I think you’d have some fine brown whiskey. But that’s if you want something akin to bourbon.
As sipping white whiskey’s go, this one is rather nice. It has the structure that good brown whiskey’s start with. Smooth but will kick you in the pants if you rear back and suck down a shot. Drop in a sliver of ice and it brightens up like a brown whiskey does. To be honest I don’t think I would want to mix this with anything. Coke be damned.
The Dixie is different. It’s sweet tea moonshine and it tastes like it. The label says “A traditional Mountain Recipe.” I am hard pressed to find anyone who had every heard of sweet tea moonshine. I’ve lived in the mountains several times in my life and heard many stories of moonshine and offered sips from time to time.
But I’ve never heard of anyone mixing it with sweet tea…… wild scuppernongs yes, but not sweet tea. (I was doing a picture story on a family doctor who made house calls and he showed me a giant jar of moonshine he was given that had wild grapes in the bottom. He said the grapes mellowed it out and sucked up any impurities. “Don’t eat the grapes,” he warned me. “They’ll make you crazy.”)
This might be a traditional mountain recipe but I suspect that it was limited to a mountain or two in Tennessee. Selling it as sweet tea moonshine is similar to the peach flavored, peppermint flavored, red hot flavored, sour apple, apple pie (which they also have) ….whatever flavor you can dream of that so many moonshine distillers are marketing today. I find this flavor intriguing. It does taste like sweet tea. I guess adding the tea part brings down the proof to 83%. This one is sticky to the touch. It has sugar in it. They also have some caramel coloring in it to make it look like tea. Probably because the brown stuff in tea that gives it color will precipitate out over time and no one wants to buy a liquor that looks like it has sludge on the bottom.
This is something I would sip with some friends after a big dinner. An after dinner cordial of sorts. And of course, as Allen can recommend, great when watching the big race on TV. (Mixing it with anything would make it seem like you were at a Georgia tailgating party in Athens.)
American Born also features an Apple Pie moonshine.
Time to jump off my high horse on the use of term moonshine. It’s a movement. This style of whiskey has deep American roots and lots of legal distilleries are jumping on. American Born provides spirit drinkers something that most will never have the opportunity to try. This isn’t the old “lead-laced radiator” stuff the Baptist preacher railed against. This is one fine white whiskey no matter what you call it.