Distilling alcohol at home is illegal in many countries and may lead to serious consequences. Please check your local laws before making any decisions about distilling your own alcohol.

If you are looking for an easy, uncomplicated, and relatively inexpensive method to make some high-proof homemade liquor, then look no further than moonshine mash. However, you should prepare yourself for an attack on your sense of smell because fermenting mash produces a wide variety of strong, pungent, and sometimes offensive smells.

So, What Does Moonshine Mash Smell Like?

Moonshine mash should have a strong yeasty smell. You may also notice hints of vomit, acetone, sulfur, vinegar, rotten eggs, vegetable decay, or a wild combination of any of these odors

Each odor may or may not be a problem depending on what type of mash it is and what is causing the smell.

The reason why moonshine mash can smell so potently is that it is made with all-natural ingredients through a process of fermentation which produces several foul-smelling chemical byproducts, and they are vulnerable to the growth of stinky bacteria.

Contamination by environmental factors is the usual cause of your moonshine mash developing an off-putting smell.

Thankfully, the offending aromas don’t last forever, and through proper fermentation, you can end up with a clean smelling and clean tasting moonshine mash.

Fermenting barley in a barrel

Why Does Moonshine Mash Smell Like It Does?

Moonshine mash does not have to smell bad. Here are the most common mistakes made by new moonshiners that result in an unpleasant smelling mash.

Fermenting in Air Tight Containers

When you use air-tight containers to make your moonshine mash you deprive the yeast of the necessary airflow to properly and efficiently convert sugars into alcohol. When the sugar sits inside the container and does not turn into alcohol, it feeds bacterial growth which results in bad smells.

Fermenting At The Wrong Temperature

If your fermentation happens at too high a temperature harsh odors can be produced inside your mash. Most experts agree that the fermentation phase of your moonshine mash process should never exceed 70 ℉ to 75 ℉.

Tap Water

One of the primary reasons why moonshine mash can smell bad is the presence of impurities and bacteria. This means that you should avoid tap water like the plague! Tap water is characteristically chock full of bacteria and other impurities that will certainly contribute to your mash smelling like any number of unpleasant smells.

Imbalanced Recipes

Making moonshine mash requires following a carefully formulated recipe. Failure to follow the specific ratios of ingredients needed will result in a mash of lower quality and stinkier aroma 

Dirty Equipment

Not thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing your equipment will introduce bacteria and impurities into your moonshine mash that will affect the end product’s smell.

Distilling moonshine at home

How Is Moonshine Made?

Now that you know how bad moonshine mash can smell and the reasons why I’m going to go over the basic process of a simple moonshine.

Before you begin your first homebrew, I strongly recommend doing your research. Safety should be your number one concern, and proper planning will ensure a pleasant result. 

This is not meant to be a guide, just an overview of the basic procedure.

Basic Moonshine Mash Ingredients

  • Two and a half pounds of coarse cornmeal
  • Ten pounds of granulated sugar
  • Ten gallons of distilled water
  • Half an ounce of dried distillers yeast 


  1. Boil the distilled water in your mash pot. Allow the water to reach a roiling boil.
  2. Once the water has boiled, proceed to stir in your cornmeal until the mixture thickens.
  3. Lower the temperature until the cornmeal mixture reaches 150 ℉.
  4. Add your sugar and yeast to the cornmeal mixture.
  5. Stir continuously for 10 minutes, until the mixture changes consistency. The end product should be runny instead of thick and pasty.
  6. Remove the mixture from the heat.
  7. Cover the mash pot and place it in a cool dark place (like the back of your pantry or down in your basement).
  8. Allow the mixture to naturally ferment for at least 5 days (some types of yeast will take longer to ferment).
  9. Once the mixture has fermented completely, transfer to your still and begin the distillation process.
  10. Once distilled, allow your moonshine to come to room temperature.
  11. Once cooled, use cheesecloth and a strainer to filter until it is completely free of impurities.

Store your moonshine in clean, sterile airtight food-grade containers to make sure it keeps fresh (properly stored, moonshine will keep for up to 1 year).