New Be­larus moon­shine says it can ‘clear your head’


Brewed il­lic­itly by gen­er­a­tions of vil­lagers in ex-Soviet Be­larus, a le­gal ver­sion of the coun­try’s no­to­ri­ously fiery samogon moon­shine has now gone into mass pro­duc­tion.

Tra­di­tion­ally drunk with pick­les and pig fat, the mak­ers prom­ise the new liquor will have the drink’s au­then­tic kick and taste.

But they in­sist it comes with­out the risk of blind­ness or even death that can some­times be the byprod­uct of a badly brewed batch of boot­leg al­co­hol.

The new moon­shine brand — brought out by the Slonim­sky dis­tillery last week — boasts in its advertising that it “mildly re­laxes, while keep­ing your head clear.”

“We have old tra­di­tions of this drink. The way peo­ple used to make it in ru­ral ar­eas, it had a soft, har­mo­nious taste. It didn’t give you a headache,” said Mikhail Aku­lik, the head of the dis­tillery.

“If you drank it on a rea­son­able scale, it had a pos­i­tive pick-me-up ef­fect,” he said.

Brew­ing moon­shine at home is illegal in tightly con­trolled Be­larus and up to now it has only been legally pro­duced on a small scale in some open-air folk mu­se­ums which sell bot­tles as sou­venirs.

The new moon­shine is made from rye and a wheat-and-rye hy- brid called trit­i­cale, widely grown in Be­larus. It is dis­tilled in a sim­i­lar way to whisky or co­gnac.

The drink is not as thor­oughly fil­tered of im­pu­ri­ties as vodka, and con­tains residues which the mak­ers say give it a dis­tinc­tive taste.

‘Grand­fa­ther’s moon­shine’

One of the new brands of moon­shine is called “Grand­fa­ther’s Moon­shine” and is 42 per­cent al­co­hol, while the other is called “Fierce” and is 47 per­cent al­co­hol. It sells for US$8.50 a liter — a pre­mium price com­pared with vodka, which re­tails for be­tween US$4 and US$5.

The first batches went on sale in duty-free stores, the mak­ers say. They are also ex­port­ing the drink to neigh­bor­ing cri­sis-hit Ukraine.

To turn the tra­di­tional brew into a prof­itable busi­ness they say they in­vested around US$340,000 in cre­at­ing the new moon­shine line, which is made in cop­per stills. So far, the dis­tillery is mak­ing 20,000 bot­tles per month but could hike pro­duc­tion to 60,000.

Peasants liv­ing in Be­larus have made moon­shine for cen­turies. The Rus­sian Em­pire made it illegal to brew strong spir­its at home and the ban con­tin­ued un­der the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet rule of strong­man Pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lukashenko.

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