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Moonshine – Is classy in your collection? – August 7, 2015


Moonshine Gentleman's Cologne -

Moonshine, white lightning, mountain dew, hooch. I hear those words, and I think 1920’s and 1930’s, backwoods stills, Appalachia, mountain folk, night runs, poverty, illegal booze, Prohibition, danger. The smell of fear mixed with the fumes from raw corn whiskey wafted its own distinct sweet aroma in the cool night air in those Depression years, and the bloodhounds often led the law to the source, to the stills deep in the wooded mountains of Virginia, Kentucky, and Georgia.

All this leads me to a new fragrance I bought this week. I was visiting a friend in Oakville, a quietly rich little town on the lakeshore just west of Toronto, and wandered into a gem of a store called Soap and Water Everyday. It sells bath stuff, really good bath stuff - milled soaps, lotions, scents, candles, bath brushes, scrubbers, thick lush towels, robes, bathroom accessories – and no water. But they do sell Moonshine.

The really pleasant and helpful guy at the counter said Moonshine is his favourite fragrance. He keeps a bottle at the desk, so he gave me a couple of splashes while he told me the story of how he found it at a US trade show a couple of years ago, decided to import it and has been selling it steadily ever since. “It just smells so darn good” he said, “woodsy, quiet, masculine, and it lasts all day.”

When I got home I did some googling and learned that Moonshine was created by three college friends, Matt Moore, Colin Newberry, and Charlie Holderness, who, bored with their regular jobs decided they should do something together. According to a CNN interview when the product launched in 2011, Holderness said they bounced several ideas back and forth but continued to come back to cologne, recognizing that the fragrance industry had left a vacancy and a huge opportunity for guys like them. “Most cologne is endorsed by celebrities or is marketed with half-naked men. None of that appeals to me," Newberry said. "We thought we could do better."

So they put together a list of smells they liked, smartly connected with the old perfume house, Galimard in Grasse, France, went through many iterations which they market-tested on friends and strangers in local bars and hang-outs, and ended up with the one they named Moonshine. Why Moonshine?

"It's an understated scent. There are hints of black pepper, gin, tobacco and leather," Moore said. "It doesn't smell like moonshine!" And, as Holderness points out, "You can't drink it." But like the illegal moonshine, the fragrance is "independent, manly, Southern in connotation and cool," Moore said.

What’s it smell like? It’s woody and green at first, reminding me of the thick green opening of Frederic Malle’s Bois d’Orage (French Lover in the US) which has a delicious galbanum accord. Then Moonshine adds juniper notes, their dry gin vibe mixing with cedar and pine, and the aromatic black pepper adding a little spice to the woods. As the resinous notes warm on my skin, tobacco and leather add depth and animalic sweetness in the heart, but the waft is quiet and reserved.  Dark patchouli shows up faintly in the base, adding a little dark mystery to the cool woody accord.

Moonshine, which comes in a 100 ml flask-style bottle in a hand-made wooden box, is described on their website,  as “a gentleman’s cologne…for men comfortable in their own skin – those who don’t need to be associated with the latest trend or fad….a classic and timeless scent that embodies a lifestyle of strong history and heritage…”

Matt, Colin, and Charlie set out to do better than celeb and mainstream men’s scents, and I think they’ve succeeded. Moonshine is definitely a classic masculine scent – it’s also extremely class-y. I bought it for me because I adore woody scents, and I bought it for my husband, the Dior Eau Sauvage guy, because he loves classic scents, and this one is a little bit different because there is no citrus, just woods. But really it just comes down to the fact that I had to buy it because, like the really pleasant and helpful guy at Soap and Water says, it just smells so darn good.

Moonshine is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $4.00 for 1 ml.