In a far corner of Southern Appalachia, moonshiner Popcorn Sutton makes one last batch of true bootleg whiskey. The craft of traditional distillation is revealed along with a lifetime of memories in the trade.
Filmed in the mountains of North Carolina, The Last One is a journey deep into Southern Appalachia, and Appalachian culture, as seen through the lens of a mason jar. Lifelong moonshiner Popcorn Sutton returns to the southern highlands in his treasured A-Model Ford to seek a suitable location to run one final batch of traditional bootleg whiskey. Through the laborious process of clearing a site, building a furnace, brewing corn mash and distilling high proof moonshine, Sutton reveals the craft of traditional distillation as practiced by his forbears and reveals a lifetime of memories in the trade. Written by
Fantastic film that documents a true American treasure and the spirit of Appalachia.
I was lucky enough to see Popcorn Sutton in person shortly before he took his own life (in a move to avoid dying in prison after his 3rd and final conviction, which occurred shortly after this footage was recorded). Popcorn is a legend in the world of Moonshine, and the film-maker does a fantastic job of capturing his personality and uniqueness, as well as the artistry Sutton displays while demonstrating his particular brand of genius. Popcorn used to run his old truck down into Maggie Valley, NC with his copper kettles and a sign that said "Have your picture taken with a working still". Those lucky enough to know him were quite sure that it was indeed a "working still". This film truly captures a slice of life in the Smoky Mountains and does a very good job of documenting a small portion of the vast knowledge, skill and tradition that Popcorn took with him to his grave. We can only hope his various apprentices paid very close attention over the years so that this underground art will not be lost forever.
Many people will see a stubborn scofflaw who refused to participate in the rules that bind our society, but I saw him as a living embodiment of the American spirit that flows through the cold-water streams of western NC. While it may be hard for "city folk" to believe, I can tell you from experience that there is an entire region filled with real people who speak, dress and act like the folks you'll meet in this film. It's not hard to imagine a future in which this culture has been lost to the ages, so I encourage you to take the time to watch, learn, and enjoy some of the true American history that you won't read about in school. This will be especially true if you have an interest in the distillation of spirits, corn whiskey (aka "Mountain Dew" or "White Lightning") in particular, or the rebellious nature of the proud and fiercely independent Scotch-Irish population of the Appalachian hills.
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