Moonshine, Moonlight and Moonglow
Language reflects reality. The white alcoholic beverage produced in the mountains was called mountain dew and white lightning (with both names depicting its visible or apparent characteristics). But it was mostly called moonshine. The term moonshine is said to be derived from moonrakers, referring to early smugglers and other misbehaving people from Britain, especially England. This means that the term moonraker was not applied only to smugglers or illegal producers of alcohol. Moonshine, which is a word that came from moonraking, referred to the clandestine activities of alcohol production and smuggling in particular.
Moonshine and Moonshiners were applied to illegally produced and sold whiskey and distillers who illicitly produced and sold whiskey, mostly in the Appalachians during Prohibition. The process of producing and distributing in the dark, or by the moonlight, was probably well-fitted to the name of moonshine. It may have also been a good euphemism for the alcoholic beverage as well as the illegal activities involved. As it is a term in the English language it refers usually to corn whiskey, made in North America where the term was popularized; but in essence it can be applied to distilled alcoholic beverages around the world that are manufactured by individuals.
It was not only during Prohibition that restrictions were imposed on moonshine in the United States; hard liquor was almost always subject to higher taxes, even from the days after the Revolutionary War. Except for the fact that it meant tax losses for the government, the logic behind restricting distilling hard liquor by individuals was mostly to do with its potency. Names other than moonshine, white lightning or mountain dew (all quite idyllic in their way) include firewater and rotgut; it suggests the almost immediate physical reaction to the drinking of moonshine. Again, language reflects reality.
But then again, sometimes reality reflects the language. People have come to never using the word moonshine to refer to the light of the moon, or moonlight. Since we are all very used to using the word “sunshine,” it is almost as if the original definition of the word moonshine has been taken away to describe something which, in essence, has nothing to do with the moon. If you think about the difference between “sunlight” and “sunshine,” you might agree that whereas the former refers to the direct sunrays that the sun gives off on the globe during daytime, the latter means the softer light of the sun spread wide on the world during a nice day.
The term moonlight has taken the connotations that “sunshine” has, and because it has lyrical, romanticized connotations and therefore less suitable for the very bright moonlit night, we sometimes use the term “moonglow.” You would get world-famous musicians and singers playing or singing Moonlight Serenade (Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra and the Boston Pops Orchestra among others) or Moonglow (Artie Shaw, Sarah Vaughan and Rod Stewart, etc.) but never about moonshine as referring to anything other than whiskey, mostly distilled illegally. Of course, now moonshine is legal subject to a license, and distilling your own should be easy with the right kit. Browse through http://www.moonshinestills.net/ – moonshine still is the best type available; with ityou can define your own moonshine.