After remaining dormant for about 20 years, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor says moonshiners might be on the rise again.
Accompanied by enforcement members of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Taylor and a team of deputies busted an illegal still in the southeast part of the county Monday afternoon after receiving a tip from a community member.
Experts said the seven-barrel operation could produce about 50 gallons of moonshine per week for a street profit between $2,500 and $3,000.
"There was none bottled there that we found around it," Taylor said. "We don't know where it's going. It could be sold locally or it could be shipped out to other counties."
That still was the second discovered by the Sheriff's Department in six months, Taylor said. He says there has been a noted increase in the operations during the past two years, which he says largely fell quiet after the 1990s.
"We used to bust them all the time in the late '80s and early '90s. Then it kind of fell off for a long time, and you didn't hear much about them," Taylor said. "Over the last two years I've heard more and more street talk about stills down in the rural parts of the county. Forever, there's been people making moonshine."
Though Alabama law allows for individuals to make beer or wine within a certain limit, no law authorizes the production of distilled liquor, Taylor said. Besides that, the alcohol's production commonly presents another problem trespassing.
"These people are doing nothing different than the dope dealers," Taylor said. "Often, we'll find these stills on someone's property and the land owner doesn't know about it. The still we found yesterday, it was set up near a creek so they could get their water."
Russell County authorities are still searching for the operators of the still, which Taylor believes to have been operated by two to three men. Anyone with information can contact the Sheriff's Department at (334) 298-6535, or can submit an anonymous tip on the department's website.