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Moonshine whiskey makes a comeback in NY City

The un-aged white whiskey that established itself as the drink of choice during the roaring 20s has made a stylish return in the form of Manhattan Moonshine.

The new un-aged whiskey in an Art Deco-style bottle has been launched by The Manhattan Moonshine Company, established in 2013 by William Kehler “to create the greatest un-aged whiskey ever made” and "to establish un-aged whiskey as a legitimate expression of whiskey that is competitive with aged-whiskey in flavour, quality, and class".

An ever-growing fascination with the era of jazz-fuelled debauchery and Gatsby-rich style is what led entrepreneur William Kehler to develop a spirit that embodies the essence of the prohibition era, the jazz age, and Art Deco design. Today's consumers, he says, are fascinated by the nightlives lived at this time, as is evident by the flourishing return of the cocktail culture and speakeasy-styled bars.

A popular misconception is that all moonshine is cheaply made, harsh tasting, illegal liquor made in the backwoods of the Southern US in bathtubs, radiators or back woods make–shift stills. It is this misconception that gave birth to modern day 'moonshines' packaged in mason jars or faux-jug-style bottles. In actuality, the majority of spirits that were produced during prohibition were produced by sophisticated distilleries that operated in secret, and what they produced flowed into high-class speakeasies across the country. Now that moonshine is being produced legally, moonshine has come to refer to any un-aged whiskey. As for taste and quality, moonshine, like any other liquor, reflects the quality and craftsmanship that went into it.

In the case of Manhattan Moonshine, the quality of craftsmanship is paramount. Whereas other moonshines are made by following traditional aged-whiskey or bourbon recipes and excluding the final step of barrel aging, the recipe for Manhattan Moonshine was developed from the outset to create an un-aged whiskey.

During a year of experimentation, Ian Smiley, master distiller created the formula for Manhattan Moonshine using a unique grain bill - featuring oats, rye and spelt - as well as a unique yeast and an innovative distillation process.

Packaged in a sleek Art Deco styled decanter, Manhattan Moonshine is claimed to be the first premium, un-aged whiskey that can compete with aged-whiskey offerings in complexity and quality.

The absence of colour and the heavy flavours imparted by the barrel during the traditional ageing process makes Manhattan Moonshine perfect for mixing cocktails; including many cocktails that traditionally call for Vodka or Gin. The cocktail program, developed by James Moreland, ranges from the classic but clear White Manhattan to the Duke Negroni and Bessie Smash, named after the late and great female Jazz singer of the 1920’s and 30’s.

To develop the strategy and manage the logistics of the launch, William has been working closely with liquor industry expert Susan Mooney and her team at the Spirits Consulting Group.

“William came to us with a truly innovative idea to develop his premium un-aged whiskey,” says Mooney, CEO Spirits Consulting. “We believe that there is a need in the market for its unique properties, visual appeal and crisp, complex flavour profile.”

SCG worked with William to find the perfect production partners, develop budgets for his brand launch and to create a winning launch strategy. “We are looking forward to working with William on the launch of this exciting product,” adds Mooney.

Manhattan Moonshine will launch both on- and off-premise in New York this autumn in its unmistakable 750cl Art Deco decanter, at an ARP of US$45. It currently available for purchase online at:

31 January 2015 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor