Here’s a recent article from the Roanoke Times about the increase in moonshine busts in Southwest Virginia. The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (VABC) says that the manufacture of illegal liquor is on the rise again. In the fiscal year that ended June 2010, agents seized 22 stills in Southwest Virginia. In the last month alone they seized 5 stills – 2 in Franklin County and 3 in Henry. For those unfamiliar with the area, Franklin County, Virginia is the moonshine capital of the world.
A few thoughts after reading the article…
Did you know there’s only one liquor store in Virginia? The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control retails all of the liquor in this state. If you want to buy whiskey, you have to go to one of their state run liquor stores, the VABC store. There are no other liquor stores in the state of Virginia and this came as a complete shock to me when I moved here.
Virginia is what is known as a control state. Control states are those states that have a monopoly on the sale of liquor. After the repeal of Prohibition, some states decided to retain control of the sale of liquor. While all states regulate alcohol sales to some degree, Virginia is one of only a handful of states that still operate their own liquor stores.
Essentially, Virginia has a state run monopoly on the sale of liquor. The state currently makes $324 million in revenue per year from operating the VABC stores.
Of course they’d be mad if someone was competing with them. They even have an armed security force to protect their monopoly.
Virginia is one of only a few states that still have an agency that actively pursues moonshiners. (Another state is North Carolina, also a control state.) Throughout the history of this country, moonshining has primarily been enforced by federal agents. To the feds it’s a tax revenue issue, hence the term “revenuer” to describe the officers that busted moonshine operations. In most states, local law enforcement would work with the feds, but for the most part it was the feds enforcing the laws and the local boys helping out. Not in Virginia, though. They have the VABC.
One thing the article mentions is that three copper moonshine stills were seized in Henry County from a Collinsville man that had them for sale on eBay. The stills were small personal consumption copper moonshine stills, with the capacity to run about 10 gallons of mash. The output of a 10 gallon still is much less than 10 gallons. The percentage of alcohol in a typical batch of corn mash is about 5%, so 10 gallons of mash will yield less than half a gallon of pure spirits.
In the state of Virginia, it’s illegal to even own a distilling device. That’s why the state seized the stills in the Collinsville case. The Collinsville man wasn’t actively distilling alcohol; he simply possessed a distilling device.
What the article doesn’t mention is that in most states, it’s NOT illegal to own a distilling device. Even federal law allows you to own a distilling device, as long as you don’t use it to distill alcohol. There are several ads on this site where you can purchase a copper moonshine still online and have it shipped through the mail. (You might not want to ship it to Virginia.)
The last two stills seized in Virginia, prior to the five stills mentioned in the Roanoke Times article, were also small hobby sized stills. The two men arrested were selling stills on Craigslist: a “crime” that isn’t a crime in most other states.
Like most monopolists, Virginia will not tolerate competition. Monopolists hate competition and will do anything to crush it. Virginia is proving it by going after the large, commercial moonshine operator as well as the small hobbyist that distills for personal consumption.