Although moonshine is best known as an illegally homemade alcoholic spirit, there are plenty of legitimate distillers that produce it today. Although some seek to emulate an authentic experience, its loose definition has brought on an exciting variety of beverages.
In this guide, you will discover the top 10 best moonshine brands to buy in the USA:
- Sugarlands Jim Tom Hedrick’s Unaged Rye
- Ole Smoky Blue Flame Moonshine
- Ole Smoky White Lightnin’ Moonshine
- Copperfish Cornish Moonshine
- Sugarlands Appalachian Apple Pie Moonshine
- Ole Smoky Apple Pie Moonshine
- Saint Luna Charcoal Filtered Moonshine
- Sugarlands Silver Cloud Tennessee Sour Mash Moonshine
- Ole Smoky Peach Moonshine
- Sugarlands Root Beer Moonshine
Scroll down to see them all or jump ahead using the links above. We will also cover where the best places are to buy moonshine in the USA.
What Are The Best Moonshine Brands?
See The Best Moonshine Cocktails
Sugarlands is an award-winning distillery that was founded in 2014. It operates from its downtown Gatlinburg distillery in East Tennesse and immerses itself in moonshine’s rich heritage. Today, Sugarlands continues to embrace its legacy as the official NASCAR moonshine.
Jim Tom Hedrick is something of a legend among moonshiners. Born in 1940n he was a well-known manufacturer of copper stills and was even incarcerated for his activities. Hedrick became known by the public when he joined the cast of the Discovery documentary series Moonshiners in its second season.
Shortly after Sugarlands was founded, Hedrick partnered with the distillery to produce an authentic (and legal) moonshine to launch its Legends collection. This 100-proof spirit packs a spicy rye punch with hints of black pepper. If you’re looking for a truly genuine moonshine experience, it would be our first recommendation.
"A quintessentially authentic rye-based moonshine, Sugarlands' collaboration with Jim Tom Hendrick has produced a prized specimen."
Ole Smoky launched just after Tennesse changed its state law and allowed the distillation of spirits in 2010. When it opened, it was only one of four distilleries in the state, which included Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, and Benjamin Prichard.
Its moonshine follows a genuine, 100-year old East Tennessee family recipe using locally-sourced ingredients. Furthermore, it was perfected by Dave Pickerell, the Maker’s Mark master blender for over 15 years.
Playing on the myth that pure moonshine would burn with a blue flame, its flagship product is a 128-proof monster. With its crystal clear robe, it delivers clean and crisp flavours on the palate.
Although a little more subdued than Ole Smoky’s Blue Flame moonshine, its White Lightnin’ still packs a punch! It’s crafted from 100% neutral grains and has been conceived to be easy to mix into your favourite cocktails.
Indeed, it’s an excellent alternative to other clear spirits like gin or vodka. It has a unique flavour, which offers an altogether different experience when used in a harmonious cocktail.
Although the USA is probably best known for moonshine today, the term is actually British in origin and was a product of its excise laws. An excellent specimen that displays the British craft is Copperfish Distillery’s moonshine.
Copperish is a surprisingly young company despite its appreciation for the craft’s heritage. Founded only in 2018, it is equipped with a custom-designed 500-litre still and produces a selection of gin, rum, and whiskey.
Today, moonshine plays a large role in Copperfish’s DNA and there is a wide selection of flavoured options. However, the original is easily our favourite!
Made from a mash of locally-sourced Cornish corn, malted barley, and wheat, the original moonshine has a playful and rich flavour. It’s surprisingly reminiscent of Italian grappa and can be easily enjoyed straight or even in your afternoon coffee!
While the FX network series, Justified, probably brought apple pie moonshine into the public spotlight, it has been around for a long time! Therefore, there are plenty of brands that true to reproduce the experience.
Sugarlands’ apple pie moonshine is an excellent example. It’s yeasty with notes of baking spices and zest that are dominated by crisp green apples. If you have a particularly sweet tooth, it’s an excellent choice.
Ole Smoky offers its apple pie moonshine in two concentrations of alcohol depending on your preference. You can either opt for the headier 35% ABV or instead settle for a lighter 20% ABV. Both are equally pleasant and very easy to drink.
If you find Sugarlands too sweet, Ole Smoky’s apple pie moonshine is drier with a greater focus on cinnamon spice. Indeed, the apple cider helps deliver a more bitter and tart palate, which some people may prefer.
The Southern Distilling Company has chosen a different approach to the production of its moonshine. Rather than follow the trend for rustic mason jars that emulate a homemade product, it has opted to create a premium product.
Produced from locally-sourced molasses and rye, the distillate is charcoal filtered in order to produce a pure spirit. By following scientific methodology, its moonshine offers a complex character with an elegant finish.
An award-winning alternative to Jim Tom Hedrick’s concoction, the Silver Cloud moonshine is made from a mash of corn and cane sugar. Aiming to produce a Prohibition-style experience, its flavour profile is bracing with a refined character.
Aside from the apple pie options above, we have intentionally refrained from featuring flavoured moonshine throughout the majority of this list. Genuine moonshine is normally a strong and high-proof liquor, which people would then flavour or blend at home after buying it.
However, it’s hard to ignore the prevalence of flavoured moonshine on the market. Unlike their clear counterparts, flavoured moonshine is normally cut down to about 20% ABV so it’s easier to drink neat. Nevertheless, it usually acts as an excellent taste modifier for cocktails.
Here, Ole Smoky combines its White Lightnin’ moonshine with natural peach juice. Therefore, it’s a succulent and richly-flavoured moonshine, which showcases its potential when married with fruit.
Sugarlands experiments with unique flavours and ingredients to concoct some intriguing beverages. One of our favourites that surprised us the most was Sugarlands’ Root Beer moonshine. It’s an original beverage, which combines sassafras root, vanilla, and wintergreen with a crisp alcoholic spirit.
Although still sweet, it has a more herbal and complex bouquet than most flavoured moonshine. Therefore, if you’re after something that breaks from the norm, this would be an excellent choice!
Where To Legally Buy Moonshine In The USA?
Despite being best known as an illicitly-produced alcoholic spirit, moonshine has evolved into a legitimate business in recent years. Playing on its nostalgic black market connotations, it’s become a popular beverage for those wishing to experience a slice of rustic Americana.
As you will have noticed, the two best-known brands for moonshine today are Ole Smoky and Sugarlands. Both are based in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and have a lot in common.
As their reputations have grown, so have their level of distribution throughout the USA. Meanwhile, a variety of artisanal brands have started to appear on liquor store shelves.
Nevertheless, it can be sometimes challenging to track down decent moonshine that doesn’t just try to market on the name.
Fortunately, the internet offers lots of opportunities to make our lives easier. We’re quite fond of Reserve Bar who has probably one the best online selections of moonshine available. It features both Sugarlands and Ole Smoky as well as a few other brands.
Alternatively, Drizly works in partnership with local liquor stores. Therefore, you can use it to browse what is available nearby and have it delivered within an hour.
However, the downside is that you can only order what is sold in a nearby shop. We also noticed that although it sold a few varieties of moonshine, the choice is still quite limited.
How Much Does Moonshine Cost?
During the Prohibition, alcohol was limited and a very expensive commodity as it could only be obtained illegally. Otherwise, moonshine was often cheaper than legally-sold alcohol because was unofficially exempt from taxes!
Today, legal moonshine is still pretty cheap and you’re unlikely to spend more than $30. Occasionally, premium moonshine might be more expensive but this is quite rare.
After all, moonshine’s charm is that it’s unaged and is bottled almost immediately after being distilled. The packaging isn’t overly expensive either as most brands opt for rustic jars with a sticker on the front rather than an elaborate bottle.
Therefore, the overheads are lower than brandies and spirits that have spent the best part of a decade slowly ageing in oak barrels.
Now that you have read about the best moonshine brands, why don’t you check out more of our resources?