Moonshine Anyone?

This feature appeared in the December issue of Australian Bartender magazine.
Written by David Spanton

A once undercover spirit out in the open air

You know what they say, ‘what is old is new; what’s out is in’ and ‘what’s illegal is now legal’ and so and so on…


This is all true for my topic of conversation this month and not only has American un-aged whiskey (aka moonshine, white dog, hooch, or as PR types like to say ‘new-make whiskey’) come back in fashion, it’s starting to appear on some of the world’s best cocktail lists. That’s right the imbibing product of choice (no really – choice) during America’s prohibition era is back in favour in a big way.

This time around however what we have on offer is a wonderful selection of exciting spirits that are actually very enjoyable to drink compared to the nasty ‘do it yourself’ bathtub prohibition concoctions of yester year.

So what is moonshine, white dog or un-aged whiskey anyway?

Exactly what the name suggests – the raw white whiskey spirit that comes fresh off the still. There’s no barrel aging to smooth it out, nor flavouring to change the raw taste. That being said there are no real rules with this style of whiskey and some producers are aging it for very short periods, using all different kinds of mash bills or even creating flavoured un-aged whiskey much like you would flavoured vodka.

The term moonshine came about many years ago from the illegal production of spirits that was distilled at night in secret locations (to avoid the authorities). Distilled by the light of the moon the term ‘moonshine’ was soon born into popular culture.

White Dog Old Fashioned

  • 45ml Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1
  • 5ml strong saffron syrup
  • 2 dashes peach bitters

*Stirred down and served over ice with a grapefruit twist.

Fred Siggins, Kodiak Club, Melbourne

White Manhattan

  • 45ml white whiskey
  • 15ml DOM Benedictine
  • 15ml  bianco or blanc vermouth
  • 3 dashes orange bitters

*Add ingredients to a mixing glass and stir over ice chunks. Serve up with an orange twist.

Why is white dog popular?

So many things do come back in fashion given enough time (way too soon for 80s fashion to be back already if you ask me!). So when a spirit has such a ‘speak easy’ rebellious connotation to it, plus is jammed packed full of flavour, it’s easy to see why bartenders and distillers are in love with this category once again.

Another reason distillers (especially the many new micro-distillers popping up) are so fond of producing un-aged American whiskey is that they can start selling their product straight away and get some fast cash flow into their business, instead of having all their stock just sitting around aging in barrels for a number of years waiting to be able to sell it.

The Kodiak Club in Melbourne has an extensive American whiskey collection and the crew loves playing around with their Buffalo Trace White Dog. Not only is it a product that adds new dimensions to their cocktail offerings, they see it as a great talking point for customers as well. “You can really taste the corn and rye grains used in the mash, and there’s a grassy, summery, sweet thing that I love,” says Nathan DeBritt, owner of The Kodiak Club. “I also love it because of the history behind it – moonshine is a people’s spirit.”

Dave’s Top 5 un-aged spirits

Buffalo Trace White Dog Mash #1


The same mash combination that is used for their popular Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and George T. Stagg bourbons and comes off the still at 62.5% abv. There’s no mistaking this as a corn based whiskey with a hint of sweet rye.

What they say: “Clear, un-aged and conveys flavour of sweet corn, with a short and hot finish.”

Hudson New York Corn

Like many of these new un-aged whiskies their ‘oh so cool’ small bottle packaging is a major drawcard for bartenders wanting to stock these products on their back bar.

What they say: “Distilled one batch at a time from 100% New York Corn. No sugar is added. This unaged sipping spirit is clear and soft on the tongue, with a faint aroma of cornfields at harvest. It’s bottled at 46% alcohol by volume and is the foundation for Hudson Baby Bourbon.”

Rye New Make Whiskey – Trybox Series

I found this Rye spirit to be spice and very sweet and perfect for sipping. Their Corn New Make lacked the grain flavour of the Rye but both come at a full traditional barrel entry proof of 125, or 62.5% abv that really packs a bunch!

What they say: “The Rye New Make utilises the traditional Heave Hill rye mash bill, the same that is used to produce world-renowned Rittenhouse Rye. The Rye New Make adds an element of spicy, sharp fruitiness to the taste.”

Death’s Door White Whiskey

What they say: Made with organic hard, red winter wheat and organic malted barley. Double fermented and double distilled in 90-gallon pot still then rested for 72 hours in uncharred Minnesota Oak. A sweet fruit and light grain noise, reminiscent of a little bit reposado tequila and a little bit pisco, opens sweet and warm with light vanilla tones and a faint taste of malted grain. Creamy mouth feel and gentle flavours.

1512 Barbershop Rye

This little gem from a third generation San Francisco Baber is impossible to find but well worth searching for it (get me another bottle if you do). Loads of spice and citrus with a nice warn vanilla finish.

What they say: “Sweet grain new make on the nose with a smooth palate and some rye spice.”

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