Moonshine was originally a slang term for high-proof distilled spirits that were usually produced illicitly, without government authorization. In recent years, however, commercial products labelled as moonshine have seen a resurgence of popularity.
Moonshine historically referred to “clear, unaged whiskey”, once made with barley in Scotland and Ireland or corn mash in the United States, though sugar became just as common in illicit liquor during the last century. The word originated in the British Isles as a result of excise laws, but only became meaningful in the United States after a tax passed during the Civil War outlawing non-registered stills. Illegal distilling accelerated during the Prohibition era (1920-1933) which mandated a total ban on alcohol production under the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Since the amendment’s repeal in 1933, laws focus on evasion of taxation on any type of spirits or intoxicating liquors. Applicable laws were historically enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of the US Department of Justice, but are now usually handled by state agencies. Enforcement agents were once known colloquially as “revenuers”. Distilling beverage alcohol outside of a registered distillery remains illegal in the United States and most countries around the world.