The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

May 7, 2014

Ala still pursuing moonshiners

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Call it Woods Whiskey, Hooch, Moonshine or White Lightning, the illegal liquor trade is alive and thriving in 2014 Alabama.

In this age where murders, drug deals and strings of home break-ins seem to grab the headlines, a unit of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board chases its quarry much like the "revenooers" did in the early days of the past century. The Moonshine Task Force goes after the bootleggers and moonshiners who supply a vast underground market.

"On the street a gallon of woods whiskey will go for about $30," said Geoffrey Owens, an ABC Board agent and member of the task force. "In Atlanta, it'll go for $60. A moonshiner will have $6 or $8 in costs for each gallon, depending on if he cooks it himself, or hires a still hand to cook.

"Illegal liquor is very profitable. You run the still once or twice a week and make 100 or 200 gallons a week, that's a lot of money."

At $30 a gallon, the 200 gallons of hooch turns into $4,000 cash, with no taxes paid on the income or the liquor itself.

The ABC Board controls the legal liquor trade in the state, and it wants to expand its control over the illegal side as well.

People often look at moonshiners as characters more than criminals, said Sgt. Richard Holston, of the ABC Board.

"People tell us, go after the drug dealers, go after the bad people," he said. "They ask us why we go after illegal liquor. The primary reason is its illegal. Of course there is the element of lost revenue from uncollected taxes.

"But the biggest reason is this is dangerous stuff. If the cooker doesn't know what they are doing, or doesn't care, lead salts poisoning is a very real possibility for the drinker. You can go blind, get irreparable brain damage or die from lead salts poisoning."

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