Common Blue Ridge Moonshining Terms

//Common Blue Ridge Moonshining Terms
Common Blue Ridge Moonshining Terms2018-07-11T14:54:46+00:00

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.