ABLE Commission Dismantles Giant Moonshine Still Found In Choctaw County
CHOCTAW COUNTY, Oklahoma - Agents zeroed in on a growing problem in Oklahoma and uncovered an enormous whiskey still.
It's a crime with roots dating back to the days of Prohibition. An ABLE Commission agent said the number of still busts has increased since 2010, and attributes it, in part, to the new reality TV show "Moonshiners."
But when Choctaw County deputies arrived at a home west of Hugo to investigate an arson case, the giant still was not what they were expecting to find.
"And while they went in and were searching the house for the stuff they were looking for on the arson case, they came across this moonshine still," said ABLE Commission agent Erik Smoot.
"It was actually heating and cooking at the time they got there. They had to turn it all off."
Smoot's department got the call when authorities discovered the whiskey still, which he said was the largest one he'd ever seen, inside of a shipping container. Smoot said it was capable of cooking 200 gallons of corn mash at a time.
After discovering a second still nearby, Smoot said it looked like the operation had been going on for a while. He said the father and son duo of Larry and George Holder were cooking together on George's land.
"This is what he's fermenting, which is the corn sugar and yeast," Smoot said.
He said the practice was dying off here in Oklahoma, but between tradition and the growing popularity of the Discovery Channel's "Moonshiners" series, he said stills like these are making a comeback.
"We're on track to set a record this year, it looks like," Smoot said. "We don't know if people just think it's this grand idea, and on TV people don't get caught, but now you're manufacturing alcohol—serious felony charges."
Those charges can carry up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
But Smoot said the reason stills like this one are so dangerous, is because of the way the moonshine is made.
"In the vats where they were doing the fermentation, there were bugs in there," Smoot said. "Obviously, from the video you can tell this place was filthy."
Smoot said moonshine sells for roughly $30 a quart, making it more expensive than most of the liquor you can buy at the store.
Distilleries like the one near Hugo would make more than $40,000 a year.