Junior Johnson was a major NASCAR driver — but before that, he was a moonshine distiller, and was actually convicted for it in federal court. (Ronald Reagan pardoned Johnson in 1986.) Before his death in 2019, Johnson teamed up with Piedmont Distillers in North Carolina to craft his moonshine recipe the legal way. Today, Midnight Moon makes nearly a dozen version of ‘shine, with flavors ranging from apple pie to dill pickle.
We received three of Midnight Moon’s moonshines, plus a new whiskey offering (a sourced product). Made with “real fruit” and, clearly, lots of sugar, the moonshines are all sticky as hell and come packaged in wide-mouth mason jars. Plan accordingly when pouring.
Midnight Moon Apple Pie Moonshine – Fuzzy on the nose, with a vague Christmas spice note and less of a clear apple character, this is surprisingly aromatically engaging, offering a pie crust element that works well with the entire concept. The palate is sweet but not overwhelmingly so, with a candied apple note dominating and ample cinnamon taking up a position in the rear. There’s not much sense of the ‘shine in this one, though a slight Corn Pops element lingers on the finish. Again: Harmless. 70 proof. Reviewed: Batch #01456. B- / $20
Midnight Moon Watermelon Moonshine – The color of pink lemonade, this moonshine offers the unmistakable nose of watermelon Jolly Rancher candies, with no diversion from the theme. There’s a booziness on the palate that you don’t get in the sweeter Apple Pie expression, the candy notes coming across like they’re trying to doctor a moonshine and make it more palatable… which, of course, they are. A bit hoary on the finish, with chemical overtones. 70 proof. Reviewed: Batch #00003. C+ / $20
Midnight Moon Blackberry Moonshine – Note the higher proof. As with the Apple Pie expression, this one is surprisingly indistinct, coming across as lightly brambly with some vague black fruit lingering in the background. The palate, however, is doused in the stuff: Bold blackberry candy, dipped in bittersweet chocolate and a dusting of allspice. As it evolves in the glass, chocolate tends to dominate on the finish. This is not bad on its own, but it also makes a credible (and cheap) creme de mure substitute. 100 proof. Reviewed: Batch #00206. B+ / $20
Midnight Moon American Whiskey – Indiana mystery whiskey — made of corn, rye and barley, perhaps from a bourbon mashbill — but aged just “at least” 6 months. It’s aggressively youthful at first, with a bold punch of fresh wood and creamed corn on the nose, filtered through a load of freshly-burnt charcoal. The palate is instantly candylike, with butterscotch, peanut butter Chick-O Stick, brown sugar, and brown butter — but here it’s all filtered through a light sheen of petrol. Lightly sweet but amply woody on the quite short finish, this is about as harmless as whiskey can get, which is both a good thing and a bad. 90 proof. Reviewed: Batch #0019. B- / $20