Chasing the White Dog by Max Watman
When you think of moonshine, what do you think of? If you’re like me you think of some unwashed hillbilly with a long beard and a few teeth. He’s making and drinking alcohol so strong that it’s really undrinkable. Well, guess what? You (like me) have bought into the myth of moonshine that has been promoted by the government since Prohibition. Max Watman shatters these myths and others in “Chasing the White Dog”, a wonderful book about the history and making of moonshine. Do you know where most of the moonshine in this country is consumed? It’s not in the backwoods of Tennessee-it’s in the city of Philadelphia! Hooch, white dog, moonshine- these are just terms used to refer to alcohol distilled by individuals illegally. Very few producers make their moonshine extremely strong – they usually will make it so it’s the same proof as legal alcohol. Stronger stuff would just limit demand. Have you ran across any old recipes for gin? Remember, it’s totally illegal to make it-the federal government will come after you (after all, they aren’t getting any tax money from your distilled product)-seriously, there is actually an “Illegal Whiskey Task Force”. It IS legal to make your own beer and wine as long as you keep it under a certain number of gallons per year. Watman hypothesizes the real goal of Prohibition was to destroy the liquor trade that could not be controlled and replace it with one that could. He traces the government’s efforts to control hooch from back in the Whiskey Rebellion days to Prohibition to the beginnings of NASCAR to today. He secretly tries to make his own whiskey using George Washington’s recipe. He also travels the country sampling other peoples’ recipes. As enjoyable as this book was to read, I’ll bet it was really fun to do the research!