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Pondering the Puzzlement

I've been pondering a life as Bootlegger

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(April, 2010) With the economy still tanking and no sign of a recovery in the private sector, I've begun contemplating what to do when the leather factory closes. A career as a criminal has a certain appeal to me. Not the dishonorable type of criminal that would seek elected office and pass laws to steal from friends and neighbors. Nor the type a bit more honest, but subject to possible violence while waving a gun under a victim's nose and demanding a cash drawer be emptied. And certainly not a white-collar criminal embezzling some organization that placed too much trust and faith in one deserving of neither.

No, I'd rather be a drug dealer or a bootlegger of alcohol. Probably a bootlegger. There isn't much art to dealing drugs and too much competition. Bootlegging however is a time honored tradition of free thinking men and women who have had the courage to flip the bird to totalitarian governments throughout all times and places. Now that definitely appeals to me!

Too many Americans have become dependant on the nanny state utopians currently running our government, we are now less a people reliant upon ourselves, and more whiners demanding someone else pay for our wants. Perhaps a bottle of fermented drink, that can't be found in a state controlled liquor store, would stiffen some spines?

I've sampled commercial mead and will never again waste a dollar on it. For the $15 I did spend on one 750ml bottle, I can make a gallon (3,785ml) of honey wine that actually has a fragrance and flavor, as well as a kick. Plus, I can alter or enhance the flavor with herbs, spices and fruit, and still not spend $15 on the ingredients! (The reusable equipment is a bit more expensive, but being reusable, it quickly pays for itself.)

A potential partner in a bootlegging operation suggested the honey wine, as good as it is, wouldn't be worth the risk I'd face for the cash such a product would fetch. It's been suggested I talk to current bootleggers about distilling spirits. One such fellow has a "shine" recipe he'd like to see back in production as he claims it produced as fine a shine as ever was cooked in this area. He went into some detail as to how he managed to make shine in his home and not get caught in all the years he made it.

I've been meeting a growing number of Europeans who were raised under Communist governments. Forced to avoid nanny state laws, they found low-tech methods of producing whatever they needed. Distilling brandy seems to have been one of those needs. I've spoken to a former Communist Block bootlegger who would love to pass his plum brandy recipe, and distillery plans, on to an American.

Having tasted a smuggled sip of that brandy I'll stick to sipping my honey wine, the brandy was much too dry and potent for my tastes! I'm sure there are people who would pay for the brandy though and I have access to the information on how to make it.

There are two phone numbers I'm to call if I ever get good at wine making. The people who answer at either of those numbers will buy every drop of wine I could hope to make. I was advised that the wine buyers are also interested in quality shine because it is fetching premium prices liquor stores only dream of charging.

I'm not comfortable with making shine. I don't drink hard liquor so what would I do with the stuff I made while getting the recipe and techniques right? Besides, if my illegal wine operation were discovered I could argue the wine was for my own use, which is legal. A distillery is harder to explain and would have to be hidden.

The money such a contraption could generate would also attract people I'd sooner not deal with. No, I'm not greedy. Mead and wine bootlegging, on a small scale, is all I'd need. If I couldn't find enough customers willing to pay premium prices, I'd always be content with drinking what I couldn't sell.

Having publicly stated what's been on my mind, I suppose I'll try selling mead kits and recipes before I try bootlegging. I'll also move out of this area before taking a dime for what I ferment. I might be foolish, but I'm not crazy!

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.