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May 29, 2020
Last updated

The Best Moonshine?

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

the best moonshine? Review of 3 moonshine brandsMoonshine is quite a historic distilled spirit, especially in the South. The roots of its production can be traced back to colonial America and it became infamous during Prohibition in the 1920s and 30s. In modern-day America, there are still many laws that control its production, but several commercial distilleries have started marketing legal versions of moonshine that have become quite popular. To see how some of these commercial distilleries stack up, we’re going to sample 3 moonshine brands from 3 different states.

Full Comparison Video

Here is a video comparison of all three moonshine brands mentioned in this article

Moonshine Varieties

Here are the three moonshine brands we’re going to be sampling.

Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine - White Lightnin’

ole smokey - white lightnin' moonshine

While shopping for this tasting, we mistakenly bought Ole Smokey’s White Lightnin’ variety of moonshine, which is a variety that’s meant to be more of a mixer and is not their original corn recipe. Read the comparison below with this in mind and you’ll realize what more of a sugar-based “sugar shine” tastes like in comparison to authentic corn whiskey. 

Old Smokey is primarily distilled in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the distillery is just one of the many attractions you can visit in the city. Their moonshine is made with a 100-year-old family recipe that was modified by Dave Pickerell, who is a famous American distiller. He is known for being the master distiller at Maker’s Mark and owner of Whistle Pig. 

dave pickerell

Dave Pickerell

Midnight Moon North Carolina Moonshine

midnight moon moonshine

Midnight Moon is distilled in Madison, North Carolina and they use a recipe inspired by Junior Johnson. Junior Johnson was a Nascar driver in the 60s who got arrested transporting moonshine. Fortunately, Ronald Raegan pardoned his crimes in the 80s, and Johnson gave Piedmont Distillers, the makers behind Midnight Moon, approval to distill his recipe.

Climax Moonshine From Virginia

climax moonshine

Climax Moonshine is pot-distilled in Culpeper, Virginia and was created by Tim Smith, who is known for wearing overalls without a t-shirt and being on the Moonshiners TV Show.


Here's what we thought of each brand of moonshine

Ole Smokey - White Lightnin'

When we smelled and tasted Ole Smokey’s White Lightnin', both Emmet and Kyle knew something was off.

smelling ole smokey moonshine

Smelling Ole Smokey's White Lighnin'

The aroma reminded us of acetone and it wasn’t as sweet as we were used to. Upon tasting we got a lot of vanilla flavor and not as much corn as we would like. Once we tasted the other two moonshine varieties, we noticed how sweet it tasted, like a sugar cookie.

expressions after tasting ole smokey

Our reactions after tasting Ole Smokey's White Lightnin say it all

Midnight Moon

Before we opened this bottle we could see a bit of chill haze through the glass. Chill haze is just cloudiness caused by corn oils. When we opened it we got almost no aroma, it smelled like a bottle of water. Upon tasting this one, we immediately noticed how smooth and buttery it tasted. It was only slightly harsh and we got almost all the flavor on the back end. Kyle noted that he didn’t love the back end flavor though.

drinking midnight moon moonshine

Tasting Midnight Moon

Climax Moonshine

When we popped this bottle and gave it a sniff, it was exactly what we were expecting to smell. With an aroma of sweet corn, Emmet simply stated, “That’s the smell I know, that smells like corn whiskey.”

smelling climax moonshine

Smelling Climax Moonshine

When we tasted it, we noted how front-forward the flavor was. We really enjoyed how this one tasted and it tasted very traditional and flavorful to us.


The Ole Smokey White Lightnin’ really couldn’t be compared to the other two corn whiskeys we tried, mainly because it wasn’t meant to stand alone in the first place. Midnight Moon and Climax were on a much more level playing field. Midnight Moon had a much smoother flavor that sat mostly on the back of your tongue while Climax was less smooth but much more flavorful. Overall, Climax was what we thought corn whiskey should taste like and it blew Midnight Moon and Ole Smokey’s White Lightnin’ out of the water. 

emmet placing his hand on his favorite moonshine, Climax moonshine

Emmet gesturing towards his favorite moonshine

When we looked at the ingredients of all 3, our opinions made since. Midnight Moon and Ole Smokey only use corn in their recipes while Climax uses corn, malted barley, rye, and sugar cane. It must have been the barley and the rye that contributed to the flavor we loved in Climax.

There's plenty of other moonshine varieties out there, so let us know in the comments if we missed your favorite.

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • Climax original recipe is the best moonshine out of a store

    Posted by Kollin on March 18, 2022
  • I have tasted all of the Shines you tested and I found the Georga Moon not very good. My favorite of that bunch is Ol-Smoky.
    There Is Distiler here in Bastrop TX is by far my favorite. It’s called “Copper shot”. They have several Shines and my favorite is the Lighting {120 proof}. They’re other shines are great too.

    Posted by Charlie Spann on November 13, 2021
  • I found one called Rocket fuel moonshine. It is 108 proof and taste dadgum good. It is i believe an authentic product from a real moonshiner gone legal. It is very hard to get but well worth the effort!

    Posted by Phil on December 01, 2020

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