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Knowing The Legality of Distilling Moonshine

A common credo of prepping is that if you can’t find something, you make it. In the past, we’ve covered how to grow your own coffee and get started with metallurgy. Now we wanted to touch on something more complicated: moonshining.

Moonshining is the act of making moonshine, high-proof distilled spirits. This is done through the use of a distillery. But unlike homebrew beer, alcohol distillation has a complicated set of government regulations. And if you don’t follow these rules, you can be in some heavy trouble.

Federal Distillation Laws

On the federal level, it is perfectly legal to own a distiller, or a still, regardless of the size. The government says its perfectly legal to have a still for decoration and for distilling water/essential oils/so on. If you use a still for this purpose, then you don’t need to register it with anyone and you don’t need any permits.

But for alcohol, you need either a “distilled spirits permit” or a “federal fuel alcohol permit,” regardless of if you intend to use or sell the alcohol you produce.

Additionally, stills measuring less than 1 gallon in size are not tracked by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). But they still are under the same regulations.

The Distilled Spirits Permit

If you want to legally distill alcohol for consumption, you need a Federal Distilled Spirits Permit. The bad news is that these are extremely cumbersome to obtain. The application process is a hassle and they are incredibly expensive. Only large corporations can easily obtain one. If you’re just someone with a distiller, this won’t be a viable option.

The Fuel Alcohol Permit

This is a different kind of permit that is not only free but fairly easy to obtain. The catch, however, is that this permit is not for the creation of drinkable alcohol, but for the material as a fuel source. Since the combustible nature of booze is a decent fuel source, this regulation allows people to make it themselves.

While we at PrepsLife don’t promote people gaming the system like this, it’s not uncommon for people to get this permit, make moonshine, tell people it’s not for drinking, and then drink it anyway. The government allegedly doesn’t really check up on these permits, after all.

If this is an interesting idea to you, you can learn more, including where to apply, on the TTB website.

State Laws

Things get even more complicated by the state. Some have no limits, others ban the ownership of still unless registered for fuel reasons. It’s best to look up whatever the regulations are for your local state before acting.

Still interested? You can find plenty of distillery manufacturers online for a variety of sizes. Just don’t get in trouble, folks.

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