This is the Summer of Scents! All summer long we’ll highlight the elements of the Smoky Mountains that make our signature fragrances so special. Keep an eye out for more parts to this series.

What is White Lightning?

Have you ever wondered where the name white lightning came from? You don’t have to be from the Smokies to know about White Lightning. This beverage has had such a rise in popularity in recent years that you may even be able to buy it (legally!) from your local grocery store or distillery. 

Moonshine is homemade alcohol. It’s a very, very high proof whiskey made from corn. Historically speaking, the making of moonshine has been an underground affair. Moonshiners would make their whiskey in stills that they would have to hide from the authorities. 

The clandestine nature of moonshine production is a big part of the reason it is called moonshine. You can’t exactly set up super strong illegal alcohol production on your front lawn. Instead, moonshine has been made in bathtubs, basements, and other hideouts traditionally by the light of the moon to avoid detection. 

During the Prohibition Era, alcohol was outlawed in America. Before, during, and after that time moonshine (at least the kind people make at home) has never been exactly legal. Its high alcohol content and the unregulated nature of DIY alcohol make it a substance that was always considered dangerous. If the alcohol level is too high, people can die from drinking moonshine, and there have been quite a few mishaps over time where people have died from bad moonshine. 

Moonshine is white whiskey, and some of it is actually white in color. Whiskey is already strong, and moonshine is really, really strong. Some people compare that kick of taking a swig of moonshine to a bolt of lightning. That’s where the nickname white (for the color) lightning (for the effect) comes from. 

History of the White Lightning Trail

Back in the Prohibition Era, the Smoky Mountains were a hotspot for bootleggers. Gangsters from the bigger cities hired bootleggers in the Smokies to produce and conceal alcohol, which was illegal at the time.

Long before Prohibition became law, there was a rich history of making moonshine in the Smoky Mountains. Corn was a big crop from the area, and the people of the Smoky Mountains have passed down moonshine recipes, to use up all of that excess corn, from generation to generation. Some say that the tradition of making alcohol from corn even has ties back to Ireland, where many people in the Appalachian region can trace their ancestry.

Between the big city bootleggers and the mountaineer moonshiners, there was plenty of illegal alcohol being made in the Smoky Mountains during Prohibition. Alcohol drinkers knew it, and the authorities did too. That’s why getting alcohol from the hidden stills to households and speakeasies around the country was quite the covert affair.

There is a 200 mile stretch of what is today a tourist’s paradise that became known as the White Lightning Trail. During Prohibition, moonshine runners would use the trail to get their goods to market. Back then, it was perfect for hiding.

Today, moonshine is legal and there are plenty of historical tourists attractions and distilleries. If you visit the region, you can taste moonshine for yourself, and learn about all of the things that make the Smoky Mountains so special. The White Lightning Trail ends at Cumberland National Park, which is full of breathtaking natural scenery. 

Inspiration for the White Lightnin’ Scent

In its heyday, the White Lightning Trail was all about getting strong spirits from one place to another. That’s why we used Old Bay Rum, a well-know old-timey liquor to represent the alcohol-related history of the iconic Smoky Mountains landmark. 

The trail might have a g on the end, but we named our scent White Lightnin’ to give a nod to the Appalachian vernacular. If you’d like to get a little White Lightnin’ in your life, you can find the scent in our beard oil, beard balm, and solid cologne. Enjoy! 

By Smoky Mountain Beards Co.


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