The Discovery docuseries, Moonshiners, has gained a large following in the past nine seasons.
The show follows people who, seemingly illegally, produce moonshine throughout the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas. The group brews the whiskey beverage deep in the wilderness, attempting to evade the authorities.
Viewers follow the moonshiners on misadventures of whiskey production techniques and everyday life. With colorful names like Digger and Tickle, audiences have grown to love these modern-day bootleggers.
However, moonshining can be a very “whiskey” business, since it is technically illegal activity. With the series being broadcast to millions of viewers, fans have been left to wonder how the moonshiners do not get caught and arrested.
Fans and authorities react
Since the show premiered in late 2011, there has been no known crackdown on the moonshining activities. This has caused the Twitterverse to lash out with claims that the show may be more scripted than real.
One fan tweeted that “Moonshiners may be the most fake show I’ve ever watched.” Others have called the show “staged” and pointed out the hypocrisy of running from authorities, yet being broadcast on national television.
Likewise, a year after the show began, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stated that “if illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action.”
Appalachian officials have also said that the show is not what it is portrayed to be and is a “dramatization,” while show producers maintain that it is a real documentary.
Why is moonshining illegal?
One would think that the quantity or quality of alcohol is what makes the act of moonshining illegal. However, it has less to do with alcohol content and more to do with taxes.
Since the whiskey is unregulated, there are no taxes being paid on it. It isn’t being bottled and labeled out to stores when it is being made in the woods.
Guidelines for what is going into the seemingly strange brew are of less concern, as the government doesn’t care what it tastes like. They want accountability from manufacturers and to ensure due taxes are being paid on the products.
It may be possible, however, that the cast has obtained permits to manufacture the moonshine. Tim Smith, who has appeared on all seasons of the popular series, now sells his moonshine, called Climax, in stores.
In 2016, in an attempt to justify the conspiracy theories around the series, Moonshiners stars Tim and Tickle spoke with Fox News on how they get around the law.
“They’ve got to actually catch you doing something wrong. By the time that hits the TV…,” Tickle explained.
He continued, “They watch me on TV Tuesday nights at 9, I’m still not sitting in the same spot at 10 o’clock when the show goes off.”
“It’s no joke. It’s no fake. You know we’re the real deal from the illegal side that went legal,” Tim echoed, referencing his Climax product.
Essentially, the Moonshiners are only putting themselves at risk if they are caught in the act. They have to be arrested during the time they are committing the crime. For now, it seems, at-home viewers can keep watching these bootleggers on the run.
Moonshiners airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Discovery