Moonshine Making Comeback in Virginia

Reporter: Ashley Singh l Videographer: Brian Vaughan

Danville, VA - It looks like moonshine is making a comeback in Virginia. ABC Agents say they're finding more people making the illegal liquor. This month alone, the agency has seized five stills in raids across southwestern Virginia.

Climax resident Tim Smith knows a lot about moonshine. He has been researching the subject for 15 years. He has even been on the History Channel. Smith says he knows moonshiners are doing well right now. When times are tough, he says people want to drink and they don't want to pay a lot.

Smith comes from a line of moonshiners. He doesn't make it himself, but he says it's a big part of Virginia's history. For 10 years, Smith held a Moonshiner's Jamboree, a celebration of moonshine's history.

"My father had been involved with moonshining and people in my family had been involved years ago, so I just thought it was interesting and I try to bring a positive influence back onto it," he said.

He says there's a lot to celebrate. For example, he says runners trying to escape the law provided the idea for what later became Nascar.

"Next thing you know people are paying to see them, dirt tracks, cow pastures now its just a booming thing it's all over the United States," he said.

ABC Special Agent Jesse Tate says the state loses millions in revenue to moonshiners, but what he's more concerned about is keeping communities safe.

"It kind of has roots here, even back during prohibition, people from this area hauled liquor into New York, Philadelphia into DC, and it's still happening," said Tate. "If anybody has ever seen illegal whiskey manufactured, it's nasty. they do not have the checks and balances like you'd see at a controlled, legal distillery."

Tate says it breeds a criminal element, but Smith says there's always been moonshine in the region, and there probably always will be.

"Everyone knows it and it's there. I don't think it'll ever go away. If you cut the water off, maybe it'll go away, ha ha," said Smith.

Agent Tate says moonshine is high in lead content and while those who drink it may think they're getting good liquor, in long term, he says they're poisoning themselves.

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