Bootleggers Still Making, Selling Moonshine 80 Years After End Of Prohibition


UPDATED: Monday July 1, 2013 12:28 PM

“Moonshiners” is a popular TV show, tracking the law-evading lifestyle of modern-day bootleggers.

But the history of making moonshine is nestled firmly in the backwoods of southern Ohio.

The village of New Straitsville’s claim to fame is that no one else does it better.

During Prohibition, the community was called the Moonshine Capital of the Word, and that name has stuck.

In 1920, prohibition sent Ohio coal miners to the shafts and the caves to crew what would become a national underground passion.

Doug Nutter said that at the height of production, the village had 400 to 500 moonshine stills in operation.

“It was known through the country as Straitsville Special,” Nutter said.

In Ohio, it’s illegal to make moonshine, but once a year, the state grants the village a permit to distill the original recipe to showcase at the annual Moonshine Festival.

“It’s straight liquor, it’s not cut, it’s .185 coming out of the still. It’s hot,” Nutter said.

The Ohio Investigative Unit says that 80 years after the end of Prohibition, bootleggers are still making and selling illegal moonshine.

“We’ve had everything from high quality alcohol that would match anything commercially produced to basically a poisonous substance,” said Eric Wolf, agent in charge with the Ohio Investigative Unit.

One of the biggest busts went down in Springfield, about an hour west of Columbus.

“The thing that personally amazed me is that it was just literally right alongside the house,” Wolf said. “People would bring over empty 2-liter bottles, he would fill it up for them and send them on their way for whatever price.”

The evidence is now in the possession of the Ohio Historical Society. Lab tests showed that the moonshine in the still was 131 proof, and it was tainted with lead.

In late April, sheriff’s investigators and state agents raided a home in Vinton in Gallia County and charged a person with illegal manufacturing after confiscating a moonshine still.

One week later in the village of Harrison in Hamilton County, state agents charged a couple with the illegal sale of intoxicating liquor and illegal manufacturing after seizing an active still.

Investigators said that in part, it is illegal to make moonshine, because it can pose a public health threat.

“You can produce, basically, the base form of gasoline,” Wolf said.

New Straitsville credits the local water for the distinct taste that once put the town on the black market map.

The past is now catching up with the present, though.

The State of Ohio has granted Doug Nutter a license to make his version of the Straitsville Special.

Nutter said that he plans to keep the alcohol content to 110 proof – not for the faint of heart.

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