Honest to goodness, if the current trend to create thousands of new flavors of distilled spirits continues at its current rate, liquor stores are going to have to grow to Walmart Super Store size to accommodate all those new products and flavors. Some vodka distillers already have almost 30 different flavors. And then there’s the Sugarlands Shine, distillers in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee who produce nine different flavors of moonshine and soon to be three types of whiskey.

I’m going to have to add another bar to my house to house all this stuff, not to mention getting a liver transplant after drinking all this stuff. Actually, I should stop complaining about all this because most of it is pretty darn good. Modern day distillers have truly mastered their craft and that’s not that easy with a craft that is part science and part magic. And these guys at Sugarland are those guys I’m talking about. Legendary moonshiners and stars of the hit TV show “Moonshiners”, Steve Tickle and Mark Rodgers have teamed up with Jim Tom Hendrick to launch Sugarland’s Legend’s Series of moonshine, utilizing their decades of experience and super secret recipes.

Since I have nine flavors of Sugarlands Shine to try (well, I thought I had nine, but they sent me two jars of Blockader’s Blackberry Moonshine, so I really have eight to try) so I better quit the small talk and get to tasting. And no, I am not going to try all 8 in one sitting; after all, I’m crazy – not stupid!


First and foremost, all the moonshine produced by Sugarland comes in traditional mason jars, just like it has since prohibition. The labels are old fashioned looking and die cut, which makes them all very interesting. The only differences are the colors of the labels, and the colors of the moonshine. First up is the Silver Cloud Tennessee Sour Mash Moonshine, which is as clear as a mason jar filled with water. The nose is sticky sweet with the smell of sugar and corn and mineral water, and at 100 proof, it tends to produce a touch of ethanol vapors. Yup, smells like good old shine to me. Oh yeah, that’s some mighty potent shine; on the palate, I perceive an earthy taste followed by sweetness and corn and a warmth and a tingle. The finish is earthy/minerally, as well as sweet and peppery and leaves behind a warmth and tingle that carry on for a medium amount of time. A little ice mellows this bad boy right out and makes it a very fine sipping shine.


Next up is Jim Tom’s Unaged Rye that also weighs in at 100 proof and is also as clear as water. The nose is distinctly rye but a laid back type of rye that is subtle and draws one in. I get a touch of sweetness in the background and yet not much in the way of ethanol vapors. On the palate, this shine is pretty darn smooth with the rye taste up front followed by that sweetness and then an earthiness that are well balanced. The finish is warm and tingly and earthy and just a tad sweet with a nuanced bit of rye thrown in. The rye flavor throughout this entire experience is balanced and flavorful and not overpowering……just right.


Next up is Mark Roger’s American Peach Moonshine. The nose has that perfect peach aroma of a peach at the peak of its flavor or just maybe a little bit over ripe but over ripe in a really good way. Behind that peach aroma is the barest hint of sweetness, sort of like a peach cobbler, and there is no ethanol aroma in this 70 proof shine. The palate is pure pleasure. The peach flavor comes shining through, followed by a hint of sweetness, and I swear I could taste the crust of that peach cobbler. This is very smooth with no spice and no tingle and just the barest hint of warmth. It almost tastes like a peach liqueur. The finish is, of course, smooth, sweet, and very peachy. I could sip this spirit well into the evening after a delightful dinner, and I wouldn’t even bother with ice or water. This shine is definitely meant for sipping straight up, purely delightful.

(At this point, I am going to take a break and resume my taste drive tomorrow with three more of Sugarland’s Shine. If those three are as good as these three were, then I am very much looking forward to tomorrow’s tasting.)


OK, let’s begin phase two with Steve Tickles Dynamite Cinnamon Moonshine. This spirit is 70 proof and is a light ruby red color. The nose is dominated by cinnamon and reminds me of those little red cinnamon candies I loved as a child. I honestly don’t get much else in this nose, not even a touch of ethanol; it’s pretty much cinnamon all the way. On the palate, I continue to perceive the cinnamon front and center, followed by the inevitable sweetness and just a hint of an alcohol tingle that warms the mouth. Honestly, this is just like drinking candy. The finish is tingly, and sweet with the cinnamon leading all the way. Furthermore, the finish is fairly long and feels just like I have been sucking on a cinnamon candy for the past twenty minutes. I do believe this would make an excellent dessert drink because if you swallowed some before dinner, as your mother no doubt has told you over and over again, it will ruin your appetite. It’s a bit over the top for me as far as being candy sweet, but if you’re new to moonshine, this might just be that gentle introduction you’ve been looking for.


5th in the lineup is Blockader’s Blackberry Moonshine. I really hope this one is a home run because I really like blackberries and have even handpicked baskets of them and helped make jam. The color is like that of a dark tea. Well, well, it certainly smells like blackberries and a little like tea and there is the conspicuous absence of sweetness in the nose. Also, the absence of any ethanol vapors may be accounted for by the fact that this spirit is only 40 proof. On the palate, the blackberry flavor settles down a bit as compared to the nose. It tastes a lot like diluted blackberry jam that has just a small amount of sugar in it. It is, of course, very smooth. The finish is jammy and just a bit sweet and lasts a short time. I think this particular moonshine might make a good mixer and might even mix well with some of these other moonshine flavors, but I don’t know if it would become a standalone staple in my bar.



Number 6 is Southern Sweet Tea Moonshine, and coming in at 40 proof, it should be quite smooth. It is the color of dark tea and smells a bit like Earl Grey. I get no sweetness in the nose and no ethanol either. I mean, it really smells like tea! The sweetness picks up a bit, but just a bare little bit on the palate and the tea taste gets a little obscured, but it remains very smooth. The finish is smooth, tea like, with not too much sweetness to complicate the taste and it lasts a short amount of time. This could be a sipper if you’re looking for a sweet, smooth tasting moonshine that doesn’t necessarily taste like moonshine. Why, I bet you could put some of this in a thermos, chill it and take it to work and none of your co-workers would be any the wiser that you’re drinking moonshine rather than tea on the job.


Day three and so far so good – let’s dive right into the Butterscotch Gold Moonshine today. This particular spirit has the color of pale scotch or light bourbon or even, yes, iced tea. Oh my, it does indeed smell like butterscotch, the type with lots of butter. There are no ethanol vapors at all and that’s probably because this she is 40 proof. The nose has no aroma of sweetness at all, just a deep butterscotch aroma. On the palate, the butterscotch flavor explodes and takes over my whole mouth and is followed by a taste of crème brulee. Again, it’s like drinking candy. There is a little sweetness and a bare hint of shine, but I guarantee , its 98% butterscotch. The finish is smooth and silky and leaves a candy like aftertaste that lasts a short time. This would also make a really good dessert drink or even a dandy mixer.


And last, but I I’m certain not least, is Old Fashioned Lemonade Moonshine that is 40 proof as well. The color is a pale lemon greenish yellow that looks a lot like lemonade. This one really does smell like lemonade. I get a sense of the lemon and the lemon zest and just enough sugar to make it all come together and smell like the real thing. It even has that cloudy appearance that makes it look like fresh squeezed lemons. On the palate, I get a bit of lemony pucker as soon as it hits my taste buds. Following that, I sense the sugar and the citrus but don’t get much in the way of a moonshine taste. The finish is sweet, lemony and citrusy and quite smooth and lasts just a sweet, short time, which makes me want to immediately take another sip. On the rocks, it’s much more like lemonade and would be the perfect drink to sip while lounging in a hammock on a beach somewhere.

I tend to lean toward spirits that are considerably less sweet than most of these, but this moonshine has a lot going for it and can be utilized in numerous ways other than just straight up sipping. I think that my favorites are the Silver Cloud and Jim Tom Hedrick’s Unaged Rye, as in those I can really taste the moonshine, and doggone it, when I’m drinking moonshine, I like to taste the moonshine. With this product line you can pretty much have it your way: straight up shine, sweet shine, high alcohol shine, low alcohol shine, candy shine and fruit shine, so go get you some and shine on!!

Sugarlands Shine is not available everywhere just yet, so check their site for availability in your area. Their shine ranges in proof from 40-50 to 70-100 depending on the flavor, and they all sell for between $20.69 to $22.99 per 750ML bottle.

By George Brozowski