Sapphire Valley and Thunder Road
escaping the early taxation of moonshine in the north in the late
1700's and not only migrated down into Kentucky and Tennessee, but
Western North Carolina as well.
Sapphire Valley Moonshine...
... was legal until just after the
Civil War. With no legal alcohol available in the 1920's, businesses evolved from making small jugs to 1000 gallon and larger batches. Moonshiners had to distribute their product in secret. Some hid it under straw or chickens in a truck.
The most popular method involved a souped-up car to outrun law enforcement. The cars had to be fast enough to not get caught — even while fully loaded. A fully loaded car careening through the hills of North Carolina might have had 22 six-gallon cases of whiskey.
Thunder Road is the title of a 1958 drama–crime film about running moonshine in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee in the early 1950s.
The story could have just as easily been based on local moonshiners in and around Sapphire Valley!
It was directed by Arthur Ripley and starred Robert Mitchum, who also produced the film, co-wrote the screenplay, and is rumored to have directed much of the film himself. He also co-wrote (with Don Raye) the theme song, "The Ballad of Thunder Road". The movie was filmed partially in Western North Carolina and used actual moonshiner cars from the area!
True local residents in Sapphire Valley keep their moonshine skills intact by making the brew for friends and family!
Image: NASCAR Hall of Fame