Tess on the Town: Junior Johnson moonshine revvs traffic

QUICKREAD

WHAT: Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Moonshine.

WHERE: Andy’s Liquor Mart, Crown Liquors, Fisher’s Liquor Barn, Crossroads Wine & Spirits and Teller Arms Liquors.

COST: $18.99.



The closest I ever got to honest-to-God moonshine was on a ranch in Mexico.

After an afternoon of horseback riding, our hosts offered us a choice of Coca-Cola, Tecate or some clear liquor in a milk jug with XXX written on it in magic marker.

We graciously accepted Cokes. I wasn’t getting near that jug with a10-foot pole. I had visions of going blind or ending up in some godforsaken Mexican jail.

I wonder how many other turistas sampled the homemade brew.

Still, the history of moonshine has a certain curiosity factor. That explains why a brand of legal, triple-distilled moonshine is attracting a certain amount of attention at several area liquor stores.

Andy’s Liquor Mart has been carrying Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon for only a couple of weeks, but sales are good, according to manager John Olds. And everybody who has tried it has said it has got a certain warm-feeling glow.

Piedmont Distillers based in North Carolina has made shine since 2005. They produce a fruity update on a storied family recipe.

Made from corn, it comes in a plain clear variety or infused with cherries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries or apple pie flavor.

As in infused, I mean, the cranberries are still floating at the top of the Mason jar.

Midnight Moon has packaged the entire moonshine mystique into their product: Mason jars, corn shine, copper stills and the recipe from a legendary Appalachian bootlegger.

Said bootlegger is Junior Johnson, who is a part owner in the distillery, and the source of the Johnson family moonshine recipe.

You might recognize the Junior Johnson name because he’s better known as a NASCAR legend.

The now 81-year-old native of Ronda, N.C., was inducted into the NASCAR hall of fame in 2010.

Johnson, with 50 wins (including Daytona) and 46 pole starts, was romanticized by Thomas Wolfe in a 1965 Esquire magazine article.

As a young man Johnson tended to the family’s stills in the daytime and “ran shine” at night, thereby developing his skills behind the wheel out-running federal agents enforcing Prohibition laws.

I wonder if the macho NASCAR legend thinks the corn brew has been sissified by the triple-distilling process and fruity sweet additions.

Regardless, the end product is aged, very smooth and tasty. Some friends and I bought a jar of the cherry moonshine.

At 100 proof, it is definitely a sipping beverage, although it could be mixed with soda. We drank from sake cups to avoid regret in the morning. The cherries seemed to contain a noticeably larger taste of alcohol than the brew.

The final verdict: Five thumbs up. Well, one guy used both thumbs.

FOOD FIGHT: A pint-sized food critic in Scotland ran afoul of her principal when she began to blog and post photos of the uninspiring meals served in the school cafeteria. Martha Payne, 9, gave each meal a “food-o-meter rating” until school officials banned the blog, saying it was untrue and hurtful to the lunch ladies. After a storm of withering criticism, the principal relented and allowed Martha to continue the blog. Set up about six weeks ago as a writing project and to help raise money for a school-meals charity, the blog has drawn more than 2 million hits.

Amid the blaze of publicity, donations to Mary’s Meals, the charity the blog had been promoting, climbed from $4,700 to more than $150,000, which will go toward school lunch programs in Malawai.

QUOTE: “Well, between Scotch and nothin’, I suppose I’d take Scotch. It is the nearest thing to good moonshine I can find.” — William Faulker

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