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Hooch Dreams: How Moonshine Became a Pop Culture Trend 

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Once confined to illegal copper-pot stills and surreptitious distribution, moonshine is on trend.

Technically, moonshine is the colloquial term for unaged white whiskey. That’s the stuff that comes out of the still before it’s put into barrels to become bourbon, scotch or rye. Those last three spirits are made from a variety of grains, but moonshine traditionally is made from a corn mash.

But when someone hands you a Mason jar of white lightning in Floyd County, all bets are off. The only way to know what you’re getting is to buy a bottle of the legal stuff, with guidelines followed and taxes paid. It’s a good way to avoid spirits contaminated with methanol and going blind. Or dying.

One Virginia man has helped bring legal moonshine to the fore of pop culture. Tim Smith, owner of Climax Moonshine in Climax, started his career distilling spirits illegally — he’s the third generation in the business. He also stars in Discovery Channel’s reality show, “Moonshiners.” It often hits No. 1 or No. 2 in cable ratings for its time slot.

If you haven’t seen the show, you can probably imagine it. Take a moment.

There, we’re all on the same page.

Smith went legit in 2013 and now sells a 90-proof moonshine made from corn, barley and rye in a bottle adorned with a picture of his dog, Camo. “She has been Tim’s sidekick and ever present companion since his days in the backwoods of Virginia where she stood watch while he perfected his recipe for his world famous moonshine,” his website says. “As a reward for her loyalty you will see her face on every bottle.”

Smith was in town last week, signing those bottles at the ABC store in the Village at Swift Creek shopping center. Yes, the state’s been selling his stuff for him since the summer: $34.90 for a 750-mililiter bottle.

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