Many people believe the show ‘Moonshiners’ which airs on the Discovery Channel, is fake. They argue how can it possibly be real and be allowed to be shown on TV. They wonder why the people on the show aren’t being arrested. First of all, this IS America… have you seen the other shows that air? (Kardashians, anyone?) In that aspect alone, in a country that is enamored with the entertainment industry and celebrities, is it really that far fetched? Either way, this single quote has been all but enough to stop everyone in their tracks. It was made in 2011 when the show first started by Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) spokeswoman Kathleen Shaw. You can find the rest of her comments here.
“If illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action.”
Virginia State ABC Special Agent Jesse Tate, who in Season 1 was part of the show and shown hunting the moonshiners, added the following during a separate interview.
“Nobody in the whole series was actually making any liquor, we wouldn’t allow that. If we knew somebody was making liquor they would have been in the next episode in handcuffs.”
That was enough for people to stop asking questions. Where most people decide to believe anything a person in supposed “power” tells them (like corruption doesn’t exist among police or government, eh?) and moves on, I, do not. As per the nature of this blog and who I am, I’m one of the few who presses further and continues asking questions.
The premier star of the shows comments sure suggest otherwise. To understand why it would be real is to understand the law. ‘Moonshiners’ star Tim Smith explains the exact reason best. He was asked the very questions everyone else was asking about the show during an interview via phone by bourbonblog.com.
“With the laws in Virginia, and I’m pretty sure around anywhere else, you must be witnessed and physical samples of the product you’re producing has to be taken and analyzed – and all of this has to go to a court of law, and then that arresting officer has to testify in a court of law that he did that.”
For all the cops know, they ARE just distilling water. Video is not enough evidence to convict someone of a crime such as this. Although I can’t remember who said it, I believe it was in Season 2 where the officer explained this very thing in an episode. In another interview when Tim Smith was asked about the subject again, he said officers show up at his home at all hours of the day all the time hoping to find evidence either inside his house or on his property. But again, no evidence equals no arrest. It was also expressed that the show itself is taped a year or more in advance therefor leaving plenty of time and no trace of their actions by the time anyone after them would see the show. To that aspect, Tim responds with this.
“So how are you going to arrest me for moonshinin’ that I did five years ago?”
Virginia, and any other state, obviously doesn’t want to be made to look bad or that they are not doing their job. Thus gives a reason for the ABC to make those comments publicly. The show gives them a chance to show they indeed do care and are always actively looking for illegal activity. Regardless of what the ABC says, doing this show and lying about the authenticity, if real, would allow them to become more familiar with the practices illegal moonshiners employ when trying to stay hidden from the law. The stars will surely never use the same methods twice and they are among the best in their respected areas. This exchange of being in the public eye makes it much more difficult for all others not on the show doing the same. Many use similar methods of hiding their distilleries and product and now the law will be looking out for it. In a way the stars sold out a bit but at the same time their sacrifices are able to keep the love and art of moonshining alive through the show which is what it’s all about.
It’s worth noting that Special Agent Jesse Tate departed after the first season. Currently in season three, Tim Smith has moved off from Virginia to partner with a man named Steve at the Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky to help him make his dream of going legal a reality. You can read all about his moonshine ‘Climax’ (including where to buy) here. Deputy Sheriff Chuck of NC has taken over the law enforcement side of the show since season two. Virginia has all but been abandoned in the show. Ironically, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement also issued a statement saying if they knew how the show was being portrayed, they would have not participated. In other words, how it made them look bad. If you have been keeping up with season 3 you also saw that Virginia denied Tim the allowance to sell his ‘Climax’ moonshine in his very own home state. Considering he is chief of his local fire department and being well known in his community with much potential of making profits off of his name through his moonshine, the state of Virginia rather deny extra money in taxes than allow to sell his product. Is this personal? Sure as hell sounds like it to me. Take that how you want.
So real or fake? Would it really be so far fetched for it to be real? Both sides of the law benefit from this show, that much you can’t argue against. It’s clear that Tim Smith and the Discovery Channel producers worked closely with lawyers to make this show happen. In my opinion, you can’t disprove it’s authenticity as much as people and the internet want to. If your search for the answer leads you to the show’s wikipedia page (a site to remind you all, anyone can edit) and is enough for you to be satisfied, then you’re not keeping an open mind, folks.
Catch the show currently on Tuesdays, 9/8c on the Discovery Channel.