Long before Prohibition gave moonshine the fame that it now knows in American history, “shiners” met in secret, under cover of darkness, brewing up their homemade concoctions and attempting to use and sell under the radar as a means of making everyday life more enjoyable. Drinks were strong, lights were low, and a whole culture popped up around these pioneers as they paved the way for legal spirits to eventually resurface once more.
A brief history
Moonshine dates back to the 1700s when government officials first attempted to levy taxes on liquor sales. Times were lean for area farmers, who brewed up their own batches and sold to family and friends to make ends meet. With the advent of Prohibition, the production of moonshine soared, uncovering a thriving black market for distillation and distribution of homemade hooch.
Where NASCAR comes in
For moonshine to be distributed, runners had to be employed. These talented evaders of the law were not on foot, however----they used unassuming cars with seriously souped-up engines to smuggle moonshine from distilleries to thirsty customers all across the South. These “stock” cars looked normal enough to not attract attention, but what was under the hood made a difference in being able to evade the long arm of the law. Heavy-duty shocks and springs, removal of seats to make room for more alcohol, and high-performance engines made it possible to transport the liquid gold to customers while impressively outrunning any law enforcement or tax agent looking to crack down.
While the cars themselves were impressive with their various innovations, the drivers themselves were equally skilled in making this underground network function. Experienced drivers knew every nook and cranny, every back road like the back of their hands; they could outpace pursuing vehicles and even drive with the lights off to avoid capture. They became well known for their devil-may-care technique, their coined phrases like the “bootleg turn,” and other dangerous maneuvers that included charging pursuing vehicles head-on in an attempt to force them off the road. They enjoyed their newfound driving skills so much, in fact, that they would race each other even when not in possession of a load, each wanting to outdo the others in speed, skill, and bravery.
End of Prohibition brings an end to running….but not racing
From the 1930s on, the end of Prohibition brought an end to the need for “running” alcohol as it had been formerly distributed. This left runners all “souped-up” and nowhere to go. Even though they weren’t being paid to run anymore, they managed to form a network of like-minded ruffians who continued to organize races, just for the thrill of it. In December of 1947, one of these racers, Big Bill France, called a meeting for other racers to call for standardized rules for races, and NASCAR was born. NASCAR, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, started strong out of the gate, with the first organized, rule-following race being held just two months later.
You may find remnants of local distilling operations along obscure routes in the south, but few runners exist along these trails. Those who have stayed in the racing business for the long haul have moved into the NASCAR circuit, and the excitement of each event continues to draw thousands of people who enjoy a little danger with their entertainment.
Want a taste of days gone by? Try Palmetto moonshine!
Palmetto has its roots deeply embedded in Southern tradition as well. Famed bootlegger Doc Boggs started the whole thing when he crafted his award-winning recipes for shine and whiskey, running them to family and friends in his local area. Since then, direct descendants Trey and Bryan Boggs have taken these time-tested distillation methods, delicious recipes, and a commitment to making the best tasting spirits around. The result? Palmetto Distillery, your one-stop shop for all things delicious. Contact us today for a tour, a tasting, or to order some of our lip-smacking spirit offerings; you’ll be glad you did! Visit www.palmettomoonshine.com for more information.