On October 28, 1919, the US Congress passed legislation, known as the Volstead Act, ratifying the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. On the street it became known as Prohibition. From early 1920, the manufacture, and sale of alcohol were prohibited by law and an epoch of secrecy was ushered in. The Amendment was not repealed until 1933. Despite its unlawfulness many people around the country still produced & smuggled alcohol. These liqueur was called Moonshine and was bottled in typical Mason Jars to avoid suspicion from the authorities. The smugglers were known as bootleggers.
The nationwide alcohol ban had serious consequences. Corruption flourished and many previously involved in legitimate distilling began working illegally. The production, transport and sale of high-proof alcohol quickly rested in the hands of criminal gangs, against whom the state was virtually powerless. Even the police were involved in the black market.
Prohibition also coincided with the era of the Great Depression and destitute farmers survived by turning their unsold grain into hard liquor. Once decanted into Mason Jars to allay suspicion and transported under cover of darkness Moonshine was sold on to smugglers, the so-called Bootleggers - a nick-name derived from the closing years of the Old American West when traders ran illicit alcohol to Native Americans concealing it in their high boots.
O’Donnell Moonshine brings back the rebellious spirit and taste of those extraordinary times to the 21st century.
South Side O'Donnell Gang
The namesake for our moonshine, Irish American James Edward “Spike” O’Donnell, was the leader of the South-side O’Donnell gang who took part in the infamous “beer wars” of early 1920s Chicago.
O’Donnell had no conscience when it came to fight other mobsters for supremacy in the alcohol black market, but paid attention to quality by remaining loyal to producers of German origin, and went on to be a defining character of the Roaring Twenties.
The bloody street battles lasted over two years before the notorious Al Capone took over John Torrios' business and with it the alcohol underworld. In 1925 O'Donnell was seriously injured during a drive-by machine gun attack, the first known use of a Tommy Gun in Chicago. After this he retired from the rackets and left the city. Our colourful anti-hero was pursued by the police, mobsters and the tax authorities for the rest of his life, but unlike a large number of his contemporaries he died in his bed.
O'Donnell Moonshine – today
Based in Manchester O’Donnell Moonshine has revived the once disreputable drink. Our Moonshine is made of high-quality products and made with natural flavours and is allergen free. According to the old rules we bottle our moonshine (just like the Moonshiners back in the days) in authentic Mason Jars.
O'Donnell Moonshine is available in seven varieties: There are six liqueurs; "Roasted Apple" (20% ABV) with natural apple juice, cinnamon and vanilla, "Bitter Rose" (25% ABV) a mixture of grapefruit, rosehip and black elderberry, "Tough Nut" (25% ABV) hearty hazelnut and sweet notes of caramel and nougat, Sticky Toffee (25% ABV) intense, pure caramel, and Lemon Drizzle (25% ABV) sweet and sour with a hint of apple and grapefruit. Our purest variety so far, "High Proof" (50% ABV) is a clear, triple-distilled and triple-filtered wheat-based spirit inspired by the controversial original. In terms of taste, the "High Proof" combines American moonshine tradition with German distilling craftsmanship and is characterised by a crystal-clear taste, continuous sharpness and infinite smoothness.