I often wonder what the life of my third cousin, J.R. Wise, was like. Elected Constable of Anderson County, Tennessee in 1946—he served 13 years after Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. The state remained dry until 1939, which was 6 years after the Federal ban was lifted.
Supporters of Prohibition tried — often unsuccessfully — to put Americans on the path to sobriety, but in the process created a booming market for Tennessee’s “moonshine” whiskey. Making moonshine was popular in Tennessee well before and after this period as state and national laws forced distilleries to close their doors, and the demand for moonshine dramatically increased. This era is often considered moonshines’ Golden Age.
As millions of Americans were willing to drink distilled spirits illegally, this gave rise to bootlegging (the illegal production and sale of liquor) and speakeasies (illegal, secretive drinking establishments) notoriously capitalized upon by organized crime. As a result, the Prohibition era is remembered as a period of gangsterism, competition and violent turf battles between criminal gangs.
The life of a Constable was not easy. The production of moonshine continued in Tennessee long after the 21st Amendment passed. The Liquor Constable was at times known to be arrogant in their power, and often tangled with the local citizens. From our family’s historical photos and folklore, we know J.R. Wise to have been a man who faithfully carried out his duty to uphold the law. His job was to remove illegal spirits and shut down bootleggers and was known for his relentless work to confiscate stills out of the hills of Tennessee. He was a man of principle and determination.
In honor of J.R. Wise, Constable, our fine and rare bourbon is dedicated to his legacy.