Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash
I am not a fine wine, craft beer, or perfectly aged whiskey. No, I am Prohibition Moonshine. Wine, craft beer, and perfectly aged whiskey have something in common. They have years of developing and perfecting flavor; top of the line production equipment; and knowledgeable Oenologists, brewers, and Maltmen or distillers.
I have always had a fascination with people defying authority; probably because I am not very good at it. I mean, in order to have an operation to make whiskey from corn (and some barley), you had to figure out how to get loads of corn or corn meal into the deep woods where no one would find you (near water). You had to have a way to transport (bootleggers) gallons of Moonshine Whiskey to a location to sell it secretly (a speakeasy). You had to have the parts and know-how to run it all. You had to understand distillation which requires knowledge of temperature, which materials could withstand what temperatures, and the danger of making Moonshine. I suppose it is not as dangerous as making crystal meth, but there were many risk factors involved. And, let’s be honest, the people drinking it were at a pretty high risk of ingesting some interesting ingredients. As a side note, I find it equally fascinating that the Bootleggers had such mechanical knowledge that they were able to increase the weight of their vehicles, ability to handle the terrain, horsepower, and suspension systems to outrun police. Welcome NASCAR.
I like whiskey. I like how smooth it can be. I like the amber color from aging in a barrel. I like to identify the complexities of the flavor. For example, I like Bulleit Bourbon because it has a maple syrup and oak flavor. I like Jim Beam Devil’s Cut because it has an oak and vanilla flavor. I am not sure I would like the taste of Moonshine whiskey. Moonshine whiskey has no maturity to it. It comes out looking like water and burns like fire going down. Moonshine is made from water, yeast, sugar, and corn running through a primitive or unrefined distillery which is then immediately bottled and bootlegged. Today’s whiskey is distilled through careful monitoring and then aged in an oak barrel with additional ingredients such as vanilla, maple syrup, nutmeg, etc.
When I say that Moonshine whiskey was made through a primitive or unrefined distillery, I mean they used whatever parts they could find. Radiators and lead piping were popular among those parts. The leaching from the pipes caused a typically high content of lead in the whiskey. Additionally, when Moonshiners realized that their customers liked how strong the alcohol was, they began adding ingredients to make it have more burn or kick. While today’s whiskey has added ingredients such as vanilla and honey, prohibition whiskey had added ingredients such as bleach and paint thinner. I mean, people were going blind and dying from drinking this stuff!
So, why am I Moonshine? Because I am undergoing a very complex process, much more complex than the refined process we now have in our breweries, wineries, and distilleries. I can think of six different reasons why I am just like Prohibition Moonshine:
- I need to rely on the knowledge, expertise, and resources of others. Moonshiners may have known a thing or two about the ingredients they needed, how to put the parts together to make a distillery, and the temperature required to evaporate alcohol without evaporating water at the same time, but they were not necessarily the experts on how to get the corn meal into the woods. They probably did not have the mechanical ability or time to create a car that could transport gallons of alcohol with increased horsepower and suspension to outrun police in the middle of the night. Likewise, I know what the end product is that I would like to make of myself, but I do not have all of the resources to get from an idea to a finished product.
- Sometimes, in the midst of making a product, we create something new that we weren’t expecting. I know that my process does not effect only me. In the midst of working on myself, I am encouraging others to become someone greater. Moonshiners relied on Bootleggers. Bootleggers created incredible vehicles that eventually inspired NASCAR.
- People wanted Moonshine. There was no doubt about that. The problem with Moonshine was that it was merely a strong drink. If people are patient with me (If I am patient with myself), then I will become a better version of myself rather than just being a strong drink. Wine and Whiskey are both better when aged. It takes time to make something great. I am no different. I am going to take time. As I was laying on a table in physical therapy this morning, my physical therapist was having a conversation with a man next to me about slowing the process down to build mobility, strength and stability, and decrease the likelihood of further injury. My physical therapist then commented, “Everyone wants to run before they can walk.” The best version of myself is going to take time. I have to learn to walk first.
- The best version of myself is going to take a little more. More color and flavor. I don’t want to be a simple, unsophisticated person. I tend to be so afraid of having a different personality, sense of humor, value system, and way of thinking that I come out clear. Color and flavor (all of those things mentioned in the previous sentence) are important, but they are also a gamble. A whiskey company such as Jim Beam or Bulleit may lose consumers because the oak flavor is too smoky, seems too sweet, or has too strong of a finish. I may have boundaries, values, ethics, humor, or passions that others do not like, and I may lose people I care about. The only thing truly important to Moonshiners was getting the product out as fast as possible. I have struggled for years to be the product that everyone wants me to be. Just another face in a crowd.
- As mentioned before, Moonshiners used whatever parts they could find to make whiskey. Radiators and lead piping were two of the most popular items. As a result, their consumers were getting something dangerous. Who I am right now tends to be dangerous at times. Moonshine did not ask to have lead leach into it, but the Moonshiners made it that way using the parts that they had. I did not ask to be the way I am. Similarly, I do not want to have the tools that “manufacture” me to be the very tools that cause me to be dangerous. The parts that make me unrefined can be swapped out for better parts, and as long as I let that happen, I become more refined.
- More kick isn’t always better. As Moonshine, sometimes I try to make myself appear stronger. I use extra ingredients, so to speak, to make me a rock (or an island). Those extra ingredients are toxic just as paint thinner and bleach were to Moonshine. More kick in Moonshine caused blindness and death, among other things. If I continue to think that a stronger version of myself can be made by using toxic ingredients, then I am likely to hurt people around me. No, not likely to hurt people around me. I will and do hurt people around me. Jordan Peterson, an incredibly controversial and intelligent Canadian Psychologist thinks that people should be monsters. A monster is someone who is capable of demolishing everything but having the control to not do it. Power under control. He also talks about dragons. Dragons are the things that we need to destroy before they destroy us. Uncontrolled power. Refined, aged whiskey is not harmless; it is a monster. It can ruin everything, but it doesn’t need to. Moonshine, the drink made to have a bigger kick, is a dragon. I’d rather be a monster than a dragon.