A lot of you are probably asking yourself, “Is it legal to make moonshine?”, and this is a very important question! While an extended stay at your local penitentiary may be appealing to some, I think it is safe to say that most of us prefer our freedom. So, if you are in that majority, this post is for you. We will be taking a look at all the legalities of distilling.
Is it illegal to make Moonshine?
So, for those of you wondering about the legality of moonshine and who want instant gratification, lets cut to the chase. No, it is not illegal to make moonshine, however, you do need the appropriate permits to do so.
There are basically two sets of laws that regulate home distilling in any given area: federal law and state/local laws. The federal laws are those that regulate the entire country, so we will highlight those here, but we would definitely recommend that you do your own research and comply with your local laws.
Federal Distillation Laws
Under federal law, you are actually allowed to own/possess a still of any size. A lot of folks mistakenly think that you can only own a still that is 1 gallon or less, however, owning a 100 gallon still is just as legal as owning a 1 gallon still. The law simply states that stills with a 1-gallon capacity or less are not tracked by the TTB, but that does not necessarily mean that larger stills are definitely being tracked (more on this later). The bottom line is that anyone can own a moonshine distilling still of any size without being in violation of any federal law.
What you use the still for is where the legal issues start. It is legal to have a still for distilling water, distilling essential oils, decoration, etc. For these purposes, the still does not have to be registered and no specific permits are required. It is also perfectly legal to distil alcohol for use as fuel, but you do need an alcohol fuel producer permit. However, it is illegal to distil alcohol for consumption unless you have a Distilled Spirits Plant permit. It does not matter if the alcohol will not be sold and is only for personal consumption.
So, for distilling alcohol legally, you need one of the two previously mentioned permits. A federal fuel alcohol permit is 100% free and very easy to get. We have never heard of someone being denied this permit. The distilled spirits plant permit, on the other hand, is a lot harder to get. Unless you are planning to open a commercial distillery (which several of you may be), it is probably not a permit worth pursuing.
State Distillation Laws
State distilling law is different in every state. In some states, it is legal to distil alcohol for consumption (such as Missouri). Other states have no laws on owning a still, but prohibit the distillation of alcohol (such as these in Colorado distilling laws, where the penalty is a small fine if one is caught distilling). We couldn’t possibly begin to know the laws for every individual state, so Google will be your best friend.
Since Colorado happens to be our home state, we may do a more specific post on this later.
Still Registration and Reporting
Federal Tax and Trade Bureau regulations state that still manufacturers like us, Moonshine Distiller, need to begin providing customer info upon written request if asked to do so. Fortunately, this information does not include past customers. The laws simply say that still manufacturers need to start reporting this information once asked to do so. We have been fortunate enough to not receive any such request to this date. They are probably more worried about the folks selling dangerous, unregulated alcohol illegally (and running 200-gallon stills in the woods) than us home distilling hobbyists. Some sad day, however, we will probably have to update this. But as of now, no one who has purchased one of our still has had their name handed over to the TTB.
If you have a lot of spare time on your hands, you can read the actual federal laws on distillation. Otherwise, if you have any questions about distilling legally please let us know in the comments section below!