Common Blue Ridge Moonshining Terms
  • Unlike the large submarine pots, the turnip still boiler was small enough for one person to carry.
    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.
    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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