Chasing the White Dog isn’t a new book (it was published in 2010), but it caught my eye in the Hotel Monteleone bookshop in New Orleans during Tales of the Cocktail, and turned out to be one of the best booze-related books I have read.
Max Watman is an American journalist and author who clearly enjoys the finer things in life, and is something of an adventurer.
In Chasing the White Dog, he chronicles his own attempts to distil moonshine (something that is illegal in the US under any circumstances, and carries heavy federal penalties if you are caught).
Alongside this journey is an account of his efforts to get to the bottom of moonshine culture in America, in which he delves past the ‘straw-chewing good ol’ boy’ stereotypes, and spends time with ATF agents, retired bootleggers, and a few active moonshiners.
He wraps up the book with a chapter devoted to the recent trial of Jody ‘Duck’ Smith, an alleged bootlegger who recently faced the full fury of the federal government, and became a friend of the author to boot.
Reading this book will inspire you to do two things – firstly you will want to order one of those tiny copper stills from Portugal that you sometimes see on Ebay, and secondly you will want to jump on a plane to Virginia, taste some White Lightening and hang out with some genuine modern outlaws who sound like incredible value on a night out.
Watman’s writing style is casual, humorous and insightful – a little like Danny Wallace without the smugness and punchable quality – and he also gives great insight into the micro-distilling scene that is gradually growing in America.