Charles Scribner's Sons (1974). Index. 242pp. 6.25 x 9.25 inches. Hardcover. SBN 684-13705-4.
Mountain Spirits is a fascinating piece of Americana. It traces the grand history of whiskey-making from it sorigins, through its development at the hands of its most skilled practitioners — the Scotch-Irish of Ulster — to its arrival in the United States in the great waves of (mostly) Scotch-Irish settlers who treavelled the Wilderness Trail into the Appalachians, there to make illicit whiskey part of the Southern way of life.
A prominent feature of the book is that it tells what this life was like largely in the words of the people who lived it. The author has found and spoken at length with the people who were there: the independent moonshiners who plied their craft in the hills; the revenue agents who tracked them down, often with respect and affection; the wilder young men who hauled the whiskey in the first hot rod cars. They have recalled for the author how it was and how it has changed. The end of moonshine, they report, is at hand.
In the course of tracing this history, Mountain Spirits covers the methods of making whiskey (an illegal activity, it emphasizes, without authorization from the government), the taste of good corn whiskey, humorous tales of whiskey-making and whiskey-makers, the place of whiskey in the origins of the country, and odds and ends like the different kinds of stills and various recipes for corn likker. Among other things.
Like moonshine itself, it runs clear and will give anyone a good old time.
Joseph Earl Dabney
Joseph Earl Dabney is a native of Lancaster County, South Carolina, and he now lives with his wife and five children in Atlanta, Georgia, where he edits an employee newspaper for an aerospace company. For fifteen years he was a journalist in South Carolina and Georgia, and in 1958 he won a travel grant that took him to Poland and the Soviet Union. Back of his house in North Atlanta is a cove with a small, “bold” stream, and he likes to think it was once the site of a craftsman moonshiner.
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