Monday, February 20, 2012

From moonshiner to micro distiller, as hooch goes legal

This feature in today's New York Times tells of "Popcorn" Sutton's transition from moonshiner to micro-distiller--if he had lived to see this day, when home-made brew has been legalized in Cocke County, Tennessee, population 35,662.  Here's an excerpt from Campbell Robertson's story.
Until his death in 2009 at the age of 62, Marvin Sutton, known as Popcorn, was a moonshiner.  He was not quite the last, as he often claimed, but he was probably the most famous ever to work out of Cocke County, which long had a claim as the nation's moonshining capital. 
Robertson's story provides further context, calling Cocke County a "moonshine center" for as long as anyone can recall.  Though moonshine production ultimately gave way to growing marijuana, the county was also notorious for "chop shops, cockfighting rings, prostitution and corrupt officials," though "lawless elements" were "corralled" over the decades.    

Now that micro distilleries are legal in Cocke County, "at the head of the line is a distillery making Mr. Sutton's recipe."

Sutton killed himself in 2009, after he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for selling an undercover agent nearly 1000 gallons of moonshine.

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