Making moonshine is still illegal without the proper licenses and nod to the revenuers, but scenes like this are certainly more rare than they used to be.
That’s Pharis Macon Conley on the left kneeling behind several gallons of confiscated moonshine with a fellow Cannon County deputy. Conley severed three terms as Sheriff of Cannon County from 1948-1954 and saw his share of moonshine busts.
The corn liquor it produces is not just any moonshine, but the moonshine your grandparents may have drunk. This is because Short Mountain employs three of the best moonshiners this area has to offer: Ricky Estes, Jimmy Simpson and Ronald Lawson. The three of them have given up their days of illegal wildcatting. Judging by the smile on Lawson’s face (who was on the property the day of our visit), it seems to be working out well for them. Along with head distiller Josh Smotherman, they make a quality product that meets all legal requirements. Now that’s a brand new angle; the revenuers like the moonshiners.
Kaufman says, “When we opened, we already had 150 years of distilling experience thanks to these three guys.” Where Smotherman has access to all the technology that he needs for large-batch production, the moonshiners track the progress of the steam through the pipes as the alcohol boils off and then condenses by feeling the temperature of the copper pipes, listening to the hiss of the vortex in the pot still and watching the bubbles in the Carlo Rossi jugs they use to trap their lovely corn likker as it drips out of the outlet of the still.