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Photo: Top Shelf Distillers

Making Moonshine Mainstream: The Ontario Moonshine Festival—05.25.19

By Philippe Ha on May 22, 2019

It’s been a hundred years since prohibition at the federal level was repealed, but that hasn’t stopped whisky distilleries from continuing the rebellious tradition of producing moonshine. The term moonshine originates from England where it referred to any activity that was done by moonlight, which was precisely the case in Canada during the 19th century, when many distillers countered the temperance movement by relocating their equipment to secluded areas where they could run their illicit stills at night.

Today, we’ve come to know moonshine as a clear, unaged whisky typically made with corn mash (mash is a wet mixture of grains and water) as its main ingredient. But unlike whisky, which must be distilled and bottled at a certain alcohol content and aged in oak, moonshine can be made from anything fermentable, with no upper limit on its alcohol content. This means that ‘shine not only packs a serious punch, but it can also be crafted and flavoured using local ingredients—like blueberries, maple syrup, cherries, cider, or different spices—allowing distillers to get creative.

Enter Top Shelf Distillers, who are hosting the Ontario Moonshine Festival on May 25 to showcase some of the province’s finest distilleries during one fun-filled afternoon in beautiful Perth, just an hour outside of Ottawa.

In the 1800s, Perth was famous for its alcohol production with four distilleries, shipping all over Upper and Lower Canada as well as to the United States. This Saturday, the town will serve as home base to multiple moonshine distilleries: Last Straw Distillery, Murphy’s Law Distillery, King’s Lock Craft Distillery, and Dixon’s Distilled Spirits.

Entrance to the family friendly event is free, and will feature local food vendors, chainsaw carving, axe throwing, blacksmithing as well as live music from Joel Brown, Red Fox, Alida Sont and Matthew Larabie, and Brock Zeman.

For those fighting over a designated driver, Top Shelf has chartered a bus to take you to and from the festival for $15. The bus will leave from Beyond the Pale Brewing at noon and return to 250 City Centre Ave at 8:05pm.


The Ontario Moonshine Festival takes place from noon to 8pm on Saturday May 25, 2019 at Top Shelf Distillers (14 Warren Crescent, Perth, Ontario). The festival is family friendly; entrance is free with a cash bar; 19+ to drink.