Moonshine is a distilled alcoholic spirit produced without aging in barrels. Production often takes place in unlicensed stills. In order to avoid attracting attention of the authorities, the illegal moonshiner works at night. As with other alcoholic spirits, yeast ferments a sugar. The sugar source is generally a grain, such as corn, rye, malted barley or a combination. The bootlegger purifies the alcohol he produces by distillation.
The illegal nature of moonshine leads to an unregulated industry. The producer generally operates a small-scale operation. He avoids buying commercially produced stills. As a result, the product is subject to impurities, off-flavors and toxins. Some of these toxins, historically, are additions the producer makes, such as lye, in order to cause the product to appear to be a higher proof.
Liquor stores sell legal moonshine. Unlike the unregulated moonshine, distillers produce this spirit in a legal still. As the still is licensed, the distiller pays an alcohol tax and affixes a tax stamp to the container. In addition, the production facility is subject to the same regulations as those which produce other forms of alcohol. Legal moonshine still provides the characteristic burn of spirits produced in the dark of night. The growth in availability of legal moonshine, along with aggressive law enforcement, is making illegal moonshine less common.