The Discovery Channel’s hit reality series “Moonshiners” has millions of fans tuning in each week to watch the adventures of outlaw distillers in rural Virginia and the state liquor authorities who keep tabs on their activities. But the open flouting of state liquor laws by homespun characters with names like Tickle and Popcorn has some viewers – and authorities – questioning the show’s veracity.
“If illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action,” the state agency that regulates the sale of alcohol in Virginia said in a statement on December 29.
Not so fast, says “Moonshiners” star Tim Smith.
“With the laws in Virginia, and I’m pretty sure around anywhere else, you must be witnessed and physical samples of what you’re producing have to be taken and analyzed,” Smith told BourbonBlog.com in December. “All of this has to be produced in a court of law and then that arresting officer has to testify. How are you going to arrest me for moonshining I did five years ago? Moonshiners take a lot of precautions. Now, I’m jumping the fence. I’ve become retired. What I did yesterday, doesn’t mean I’m going to do it tomorrow.”
The show’s producers also say their documentary is the real deal.
"Magilla Entertainment, the production company behind the hit series 'Moonshiners,' stands behind the docuseries, and feel it accurately portrays the secret life of those who make moonshine and the law enforcement tasked with capturing them," Matt Ostrom, Partner and Executive Producer, Magilla Entertainment, told FOXNews.com.
Smith, who learned the trade from his late father, himself a second-generation moonshiner, believes that the illegal nature of the taboo brew is a large part of its appeal. “That’s what drives everyone into it, I believe,” said Smith. “Whether or not it’s good moonshine or whether or not it’s Tim Smith’s moonshine. It could be John Dalton’s moonshine. Just that myth of being able to get your hands on something, that kind of makes it more valuable. There’s marketing value there just because it is illegal.”
While Smith and hasn’t been busted on “Moonshiners,” he had his first run-in with the law as a kindergartener. “I was about five-years-old when my dad first got raided,” said Smith. “I was running around, trying to hide the moonshine myself, before the agents came into the room where we had the moonshine stored. It was my first raid, in which my dad was arrested in possession of moonshine.”
After practicing the art of moonshining for almost half a century, Smith said he has figured out how to skirt the law.
“There are millions of questions out there that people out there are asking about moonshine, and they’re all true,” explained Smith. “There’s nothing wrong with to ask questions, because there are no wrong questions and I don’t think there’s no right answers. Sometimes, those questions gets mixed up with the answers, and then everyone gets lost – but that’s good. That’s the way the mystery of moonshining is. Nobody knows what’s going on, we just know something is going on.”