Moonshine

Added on by Shawn Poynter.

A few weeks ago I was in Cocke County, TN, shooting pictures for a New York Times story about legal moonshine. Or, more accurately, the commercialization of moonshine. Cocke County has long held the self-proclaimed title of "moonshine capital of the world." The most famous of the moonshiners was Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, a Barnum-style self-promoter, played up the moonshine stereotype. After years of staying a few feet in front of the law, Popcorn committed suicide in 2009 to avoid an 18-month stint in prison for moonshining and gun charges.

Since his death, Popcorn's widow teamed up with Hank Williams, Jr. and a former motocross star to distill and sell a legal version of Mr. Sutton's drink. Of course, as soon as moonshine becomes legal it's no longer moonshine. It's "white whiskey". Lawmakers in Cocke County, having just passed legislation allowing micro distilleries, hope the tax revenue from the booze that made Popcorn famous can boost the sagging economy.

If only they could tax irony.

Here are some outtakes from the shoot.

 P am Sutton, Popcorn's widow, keeps a batch of Popcorn's whiskey in the freezer. A picture of Popcorn hangs in the house.
Pam Sutton, Popcorn's widow, keeps a batch of Popcorn's whiskey in the freezer. A picture of Popcorn hangs in the house.
 A  picture of Popcorn hangs in the house.
picture of Popcorn hangs in the house.
 P am Sutton stands in front of Popcorn's grave, which is up the hill where his stills once sat. The gravestone beside his is reserved for her.
Pam Sutton stands in front of Popcorn's grave, which is up the hill where his stills once sat. The gravestone beside his is reserved for her.
 A  storefront in Newport, TN.
storefront in Newport, TN.
 D owntown Newport, TN.
Downtown Newport, TN.