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Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton was an all-American moonshiner, hiding out in the backwoods of Tennessee making white lightning. Being a third-generation moonshiner, Popcorn Sutton spent the last three decades building a reputation as one of the South’s elite makers of white whiskey. He earned the name Popcorn Sutton after an unfortunate incident with a balky barroom popcorn machine, according to interviews with his friends.
Popcorn Sutton was a hard-as-nails moonshiner who didn’t keep the fact that he was making moonshine hidden. Sutton appeared in several documentaries and tourist gifts, and he even wrote an autobiography about his life as a moonshiner called “Me and My Likker.”
He was very active in the community of Parrotsville, Tennessee and helped the local Misty Mountain Ranch Bed & Breakfast in nearby Maggie Valley, N.C. Crowds would gather on the inn’s porch to listen to Popcorn serenade guests with his banjo and singing.The government took notice of Popcorn Sutton’s work, and they raided his property in 2007. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives discovered 850 gallons of moonshine that was stored on his property, and they convicted him of two 18-month sentence for illegally brewing spirits. However, Sutton never saw the inside of a jail cell, as he passed away in 2009.
Today, the Tennessee moonshine tradition lives on with the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery. Located in downtown Gatlinburg, Ole Smoky Moonshine (legally!) sells white lightning made the old fashioned way. Visit their website to learn more about their free distillery tours and tastings.
If you will be in Gatlinburg in late September, be sure to check out Ole Smoky Moonshine’s Fast Cars N Mason Jars Festival. This free event features music, racing and plenty to drink. Learn more about the Moonshine Festival here!