Know the Law

In the United States, making alcohol at home is against Federal Law. Making spirits requires a license. There is no permit that is appropriate for the hobby distiller focused on creating craft spirits at home. You can get a permit for creating fuel alcohol, but even then it is in violation of the law to consume what is made under the protection of a Federal Fuel Alcohol permit.

Why is it illegal to distill spirits for personal use? That is a great question. You are able to make beer and wine at home, but not hard liquor. It is a ban that has persisted since the time of Prohibition. Before Prohibition it was a common skill to know how to distill.

Potential penalties for hobby distilling are hefty

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) indicates stiff fines for violation of distilling laws. Producing distilled spirits in any area other than a TTB-qualified distilled spirits plant is a criminal offense and can result in penalties of up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. The TTB website has a page dedicated to outlining the potential penalties and violations for home distilling.

Missouri State law allows hobby distilling

Some state laws conflict with Federal regulation. For example, in the State of Missouri, Section 1, of State Regulation 311:055 states:

No person at least twenty-one years of age shall be required to obtain a license to manufacture intoxicating liquor, as defined in section 311.020, for personal or family use. The aggregate amount of intoxicating liquor manufactured per household shall not exceed two hundred gallons per calendar year if there are two or more persons over the age of twenty-one years in such household, or one hundred gallons per calendar year if there is only one person over the age of twenty-one years in such household. Any intoxicating liquor manufactured under this section shall not be sold or offered for sale.

Clearly, the State of Missouri does not care if you make intoxicating liquor for personal use as long as you are not selling it. The conflict between State Regulations and Federal Law with regards to distilling alcohol for personal use are akin to the conflict that exists between state and Federal Laws within the cannabis industry. 

TTB enforcement of distilling laws against hobby distillers is unlikely

In the few states, like Missouri, that allow hobby distilling, distillers are still in violation of Federal Law. However, the Federal TTB only has administrative powers, not policing powers. The TTB must gain cooperation of the State and/or local law enforcement to exercise their power. In areas where hobby distilling is permitted by law, gaining cooperation is difficult.
In today's world of meth labs, drug dealers, and terrorists, the TTB has much larger priorities than to pursue enforcement against an individual for making a few gallons of distilled spirits for personal consumption. In fact, it has been many years since there has been a conviction in the U.S. for small volume personal distilling. However, it should be noted that the TTB aggressively pursues those who make and sell illegal spirits. 

Federal Law does not prohibit the possession of a still

While it is illegal to make alcohol for personal use according to Federal Law, it is not illegal to own a still. Stills can be used for other purposes, such as making essential oils. According to the TTB:
If you buy a small still and use it to distill water or extract essential oils by steam or water extraction methods, you are not subject to TTB requirements.

If you are using your still for water distillation or essential oil distillation, you are not required to register your still. Water distillation, floral essence distilling, or even artistic display are all valid uses for owning an unregistered still.

Manufacturers required to report still sells

The TTB has the authority to require manufacturers to report to whom we sell and ship a stills, still boilers, and condensers. While this has been required of MoonshineStillPro of the past, we are no longer required to report. In a letter dated 6/10/15 from the TTB, MoonshineStillPro has been informed that they no longer require any sales information reporting from us. Some other manufacturers may still be required to report and all manufacturers are required to keep sales records for a period of three years. 

Understand the risks before you distill

Despite home distilling being illegal, a craft spirits industry has emerged. Many of the distillers behind some of your favorite distilled spirits once operated under the radar as they experimented and developed their brands, operating in their garages and backyards.

Before you engage in distilling as a hobby, understand the risks involved. 

Disclaimer: We do not encourage the breaking of the law or engaging in illegal activity. The purchasers of stills and other distilling products assume all responsibility, liability, and risk for engaging in activities and purposes for using those products outside the bounds of the law. 


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