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Famous Tennessee Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton Vindicated?
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Famous Tennessee Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton Vindicated?

02.22.12
For generations, Cocke County Tennessee was famous for illegal Tennessee whiskey, marijuana, car chop shops, cockfighting, prostitution and corrupt officials. Cocke County was also the home of perhaps the most famous moonshiner of modern history, Popcorn Sutton.

Popcorn Sutton lived a colorful life. Instead of going to prison in 2009 after being busted for trying to sell 1,000 gallons of moonshine to an undercover federal agent, he took his life. His tombstone sums up Popcorn's infamous attitude: "Popcorn Said F### You."

Before Popcorn passed, he struck up an unlikely friendship with 29-year-old former motocross racer Jamey Grosser, who came to Tennessee with plans to set up a legal distillery.

Grosser's story is featured in a New York Times article, at this link.

Popcorn taught Grosser how to make moonshine using methods and recipes passed down in Popcorn's family for generations. Importantly, Popcorn gave legal permission to Grosser to use his recipes and name to make Popcorn's famous moonshine.

Popcorn's moonshine is legendary among whiskey aficionados. Tennessee moonshine is unaged whiskey; generally having a harsh burn that makes the beverage more suitable for intoxication than pleasuring the palate. Jack Daniels and George Dickel age their whiskey in barrels, which among other qualities, smoothes the burn. But not all moonshine burns.

Several master distillers that make famous brands of Tennessee and Kentucky spirits say that Popcorn's unaged whiskey is the absolute best. His recipe and methods are the envy of the moonshine industry.

Grosser wanted to distill Popcorn's whiskey in Popcorn's stomping ground - Cocke County. Problem was, Tennessee state law was recently modified to allow distilling in more areas, but Cocke County was not among the areas.

Grosser faced enormous political opposition to legalizing distilling in Cocke County, which is one of Tennessee's more rural and conservative bastions. Last October, the county commission in Cocke County voted in favor of allowing distilleries in the county, with advocates touting the financial benefit to the county from taxes.

Local approval lead to state legislation that specifically legalizes whiskey production in Cocke county. The bill was signed by the governor on February 16, 2012.

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