The word "moonshine" and its widely known
use for illicit spirits is believed to have originated
from the term "moonrakers".
term labeled early English smugglers and the nature of
their distilling operations along with the distribution of illegal Appalachian produced
The term "moonshine" generally implies to liquor that is produced illegally.
However, the term is now used in modern times on labels of legally
produced products for its nostalgic history.
Unless you're a rebel and the thought of digging
ditches with chains around your ankles doesn't bother
you, you best get your wits about you on the legalities of making moonshine in your area.
Is It Legal To Make Moonshine?
- Know Your Rights to Avoid Becoming A Moonshine Outlaw!
both federal and state laws in the United States that regulating
home distilling. You will need to comply with these laws, as
well as any local laws or regulations governing the
production of moonshine.
Moonshine, hooch, white lightning, mountain dew, and
homebrew are all common terms used to describe
high-proof distilled spirits that are generally produced
illicitly without regard for the law.
Liquor-control laws in the United States prohibit the
distillation of alcohol without the proper permits, and
once was completely banned by law under the 18th
Amendment to the United States Constitution. Control of
alcohol distillation is now enforced by the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of the United
States Department of the Treasury.
Federal Distillation Laws
and Permit Requirements
Federal law it is legal to own a still of
any size and it does not need to be registered, nor are
any permits required. It may legally be used for decoration, distilling water,
distilling essential oils, etc.
However, a "distilled spirits permit" or a "federal fuel
alcohol permit" is required to distill
The permit is needed even if the alcohol is for
personal use only, not for sale. A permit is required
for a still to be used for
distilling either fuel alcohol or spirits.
Alcohol Distillation Requires A
Federal Distilled Spirits Permit or Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit
To legally distill alcohol, there are
- Obtain a Federal
Distilled Spirits Permit.
- This permit allows distilleries like Jim
Beam and Makers to legally distill and distribute
alcohol to the public. As you can imagine, it is
not an easy permit to get.
- Obtain a Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit, which is free and easy to get.
However, beware that the feds will expect this
alcohol is in fact a fuel and not for drinking!
Federal laws state
that a still only needs to be registered if the
Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau asks
the manufacturer to do so. Though,
again, if you are using it to distill alcohol, you will
want to get a federal fuel alcohol permit, or a federal
distilled spirits permit, if that is what it is used
State Distillation Laws
State distilling laws vary from state to state.
states have no governing laws on owning a still, but prohibit the
distillation of alcohol.
states prohibit possession of a still unless it's for
fuel alcohol, and in this case you are generally
required to have a
state fuel alcohol permit.
- Some states may prohibit possession of
distillation equipment and distilling altogether.
Federal Regulations on Still Registration and Reporting
Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
regulations state that still manufacturers are required to keep
customer purchase information records. These records may
also be requested by the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax
and Trade Bureau TTB. In this case still manufacturers are
required to submit them if asked.
How to Avoid Trouble
With The Law
Beware: Federal law provides no exemptions for the
production of illegal distilled spirits for personal,
family, or any other use without proper permits. Under
no circumstances is it legal to distil or sell alcohol
without proper permits in place.
Hazards Of Distilled
Carelessly and poorly produced moonshine can be
contaminated, mainly from materials used in the
construction of the still. Stills employing condensers
made from automotive radiators are particularly
dangerous. In some cases, glycol from antifreeze appears
as one contaminant. These radiators may also contain
lead in the soldered connections to the plumbing.
Contaminations like these can, and have led to health
issues including blindness or poisoning for those
consuming this tainted liquor.