Common Blue Ridge Moonshining Terms
Unlike the large submarine pots, the turnip still boiler was small enough for one person to carry. Franklin County, circa 1920s.
Backins – Weak whiskey produced at the end of a double run or at the end of a run through a thumper.
- Bead – The bubbles that form on the surface of shaken whiskey and reflect the alcoholic content.
- Beading Oil – An oil dripped into low-quality whiskey by Prohibition-era moonshiners to make the alcohol bead like quality whiskey.
- Beer – The liquid part of fermented mash. Beer, also called “teedum,” was often made for its own sake rather than for distilling.
- Blackpot – A submarine still in which the mash is allowed to ferment directly in the still rather than in barrels or boxes.
- Boiler – Also called a “pot,” the container in which mash is initially cooked or heated.
- Bootleg Turn – A whiskey-hauler’s technique of turning a car around in a sudden controlled skid.
- Cap – The removable top of a still. Caps are named by their shapes.
- Charge – The act of filling the still or the thumper with beer or pumice.
- Condenser – The part of the still, typically a copper coil, in which the steam condenses into liquid alcohol.
- Corn – Whiskey made primarily from corn mash.
- Dropping the Bead – Also called “cutting” or “proofing,” the process of lowering the strength of liquor by mixing it with weaker alcohol or water.
- Double Run – The technique of running alcohol through a still twice.
- Flake Stand – The wooden water-filled box in which the condenser is cooled.
- Gauger – A revenue agent in the pre-Prohibition era.
- Granny Fee – Bribery or payoff money paid by moonshiners to law enforcement officers.
- Liquor Car – A car modified to haul illegal alcohol to market.
- Malt – Barley malt for mixing in mash. Corn that is sprouted and then ground can be used in place of barley malt.
- Mash – Some combination of water, grain, malt, yeast, and sugar that is allowed to ferment before being distilled into alcohol.
- Peckin’ the Cap – A technique of rapping on the cap to tell by the hollow sound if the mash has boiled into the cap.
- Pot-Tail – The “slop” of fruit or grain left over after the alcohol has been distilled out of it. Also called “thumper tails.”
Any moonshiner can put together a submarine-type boiler, but he goes to a coppersmith or some other type of sheet metal worker to make still caps. Virginia Blue Ridge, circa 1970s.
Puke – The boiling over of a still.
- Pumice – Crushed fermented fruit and sugar used to make brandy.
- Revenuer – A government agent whose job is to catch people involved in moonshining.
- Runner – A person who hauls moonshine.
- Singlings – Un-proofed whiskey that has gone through one distilling and will be distilled again.
- Steam Outfit – A still which uses steam rather than a direct flame to heat the mash inside the pot.
- Still – The combination of the cap and boiler in which the mash is initially distilled. “Still” is also used to describe the entire distilling setup.
- Still Hand – A person who works at a still site.
- Stillhouse – Historically a small permanent building constructed specifically for distilling.
- Stir Stick – A stick with a fork at the end used to stir mash. Wire is commonly stretched back and forth across the fork.
- Submarine Still – A large-capacity style of still in common use since the 1920s. Shaped like a low box with two curved ends, the submarine still usually has two wooden sides.
- Swab Stick – A bristled wooden stick used to clean out a still.
- Thumper – The part between the boiler and the coil that distills mash and redistills the alcohol coming out of the boiler. Also called a “doubler,” “thumper keg,” or “thump barrel.”
- Turnip Still – An old style of still pot that has a round, squat shape.
- Worm – A coil submerged in a water-filled container. Alcohol-laden steam condenses to a liquid in the coil.
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