Categories Moonshine

Why Is Making Moonshine Illegal? (TOP 5 Tips)

So why is moonshine still illegal? Because the liquor is worth more to the government than beer or wine. Uncle Sam takes an excise tax of $2.14 for each 750-milliliter bottle of 80-proof spirits, compared with 21 cents for a bottle of wine (of 14 percent alcohol or less) and 5 cents for a can of beer.

  • One way the government has been able to market this law is by alluding to the idea that moonshine-making at home is unsafe, due to its potential to be tainted by toxic heavy metal particles. These arguably avoidable risks include tainting the spirit with methanol, which is known to cause blindness.

Is making moonshine for personal use illegal?

To be clear, it’s illegal to make moonshine without a license from the federal government. If you’re willing to throw down the time, money and pain involved in getting a Federal liquor distiller’s license, you can make your own moonshine all day long legally.

Why is illegal liquor called moonshine?

The term “moonshine” comes from the fact that illegal spirits were made under the light of the moon. In every part of America, early moonshiners worked their stills at night to avoid detection from authorities. The United States started taxing liquors and spirits shortly after the American Revolution.

What happens if you get caught making moonshine?

Offenses under this section are felonies that are punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, for each offense. 5601(a)(1) – Possession of an unregistered still.

Is it legal to own a still?

“The process of breaking it down, when the molecule gets broken down, it turns into something that’s very, very dangerous to living cells.” Distilling spirits at home without a license is illegal, but it is legal to buy distilling equipment.

Why is moonshine called white lightning?

White lightning, a white whiskey made surreptitiously and illegally, was once produced in great quantities in South Carolina. It got its name from its color and the kick it delivers when consumed.

Is Everclear moonshine?

Both Everclear and Moonshine are unaged spirits; however, Everclear is made from grain and Moonshine from corn. Moonshine is a general term used to describe illegally produced corn whiskey. In summary, Everclear is intended to be water and pure ethanol with no flavor contribution.

Is moonshine bad for?

Illegal moonshine remains dangerous because it is mostly brewed in makeshift stills. It can be dangerous on two levels, both during the distilling process and when consuming it.

What states allow home distilling?

This tax is built into every bottle of spirits you buy so it’s not a special tax on home made spirits. If you do the calculations, you’ll find your favourite spirits cost up to 90% less when you take the tax off.

How much is a gallon of real moonshine?

The selling price is around $25 a gallon if sold in bulk, or $40 for retail price. “They can make as much as $10,000 a month,” the task force said.

What states is it legal to make moonshine in?

“Legal” Moonshining In contrast to Florida, some state’s home distilling laws allow “legal” moonshining, even though it’s considered illegal federally. Those states include Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

How much whiskey can you make legally?

In general, most of the states hold distillation of whiskey (and other spirits) to be illegal, but there are some definite exceptions. Missouri, for example, allows residents to distill up to 100 gallons of spirits a year.

How much homebrew Can I legally make?

Most states permit homebrewing of 100 US gallons (380 l) of beer per adult (of 21 years or older) per year and up to a maximum of 200 US gallons (760 l) per household annually when there are two or more adults residing in the household.

Is it illegal to make moonshine?

The production of moonshine — or really any spirit — without a license is prohibited by the U.S. government and is very much illegal. Clear whiskey in the style of moonshine might be for sale, but technically speaking, moonshine is moonshine because it’s produced illicitly.

Moonshine has seen somewhat of a rebirth in recent years. Moonshine, the colloquial term for clear, non-barrel-aged whiskey — and, on occasion, other home-distilled spirits — has piqued the interest of a younger generation of drinkers, prompting the publication of books on the subject and the launch of upscale whiskey brands that use the term “moonshine” in their branding. Moonshiners, a Discover Channel show, focuses a light on the American folk custom of home-brewed handmade whiskey, which has become more popular.

Even yet, if you’re considering moonshine-making as a new pastime, you might want to reconsider your decision. The manufacturing of moonshine — or, for that matter, any spirit — without a license is strictly banned by the United States government and is thus considered criminal. Although you could find the term ” moonshine ” on the shelves of your local liquor shop, it isn’t really the most accurate term to use for a bottled brand of whiskey.

Despite the fact that clear whiskey in the manner of moonshine is available for purchase, moonshine is still considered moonshine since it is created illegally. In reality, American bootleggers who operate ostensibly benign home distilleries might face jail time if they are caught. Because of this, those who violate the federal law may face various federal offenses, including tax evasion, which may result in up to 10 years imprisonment on top of confiscation and forfeiture of the land that was utilized for the illicit activity. In the Cumberland Gap, there are a few moonshiners. NPS

Why is Moonshine Illegal?

  1. Despite the fact that many people are aware that making distilled spirits at home is illegal, they are often unaware of the reasons behind or the history of these laws, according to Colin Spoelman, co-founder of Brooklyn’s Kings County Distillery and author of Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey, who spoke with Inverse.
  2. On the surface, the legislation appears to be illogical, but when you dive a bit further into its history, it becomes a little more evident.

Instead than the government being concerned that you’ll go blind from drinking moonshine, the limitations on moonshine are mostly based on taxation. All of this began shortly after the American Revolution, according to Spoelman, when the government began to levy excise taxes on alcoholic beverages in order to pay off its wartime debt and recoup some of its losses. Because, after all, they had recently won a battle against the British government’s tax duties, the American farmers who produce the grain used in moonshine were not going to take it lying down.

This friction finally erupted into the Whiskey Rebellion, during which George Washington launched a crackdown on farmers who were making money by distilling their grain into liquor to sell to the public. Fast forward to the age of the Civil War, when it was formally declared that creating moonshine without paying taxes was unlawful. The 1862 Revenue Act was enacted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in the year 1862.

This legislation, among other things, formally put a tax on alcoholic beverages, making it much more difficult to get away with distilling without a permission. The law is intended to “collect taxes, including very profitable duties on imported distilled liquor and tobacco goods,” according to its official description.

Unfortunately, this included the production of homemade spirits, and it has been unlawful to produce spirits in private residences in the United States ever since.

Is It Actually Dangerous?

  • Despite the fact that the legality of home distilling appears to be a hindrance in today’s craft booze boom, the federal government maintains that it is a necessary measure to safeguard consumers.
  • One method by which the government has been able to advertise this rule is by implying that moonshine-making at home is harmful since it has the potential to be contaminated with toxic heavy metal particles.
  • There are other concerns that may be avoided, including tainting the spirit with methanol, which has been linked to blindness in the past.

Other dangers associated with making your own moonshine include those associated with amateurism, such as stills exploding. As Spoelman points out, “Moonshine manufacturing has frequently been portrayed as harmful in popular culture.” “Throughout history, governments have tended to exaggerate the threat of terrorism in order to increase tax revenue.” In general, the government has always placed a high level of scrutiny on the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

As Herzberg, a professor of history at the University of Buffalo who specializes in legal psychoactives such as alcohol and tobacco, explains to Inverse, “alcohol has a bad reputation for being associated with health problems, and this makes it a touchy subject when it comes to controlling its production.”

So How Come People Still Make Moonshine?

You might be thinking at this point if it’s really worth the effort to make your own moonshine in the first place. Despite the fact that moonshining is illegal, each state approaches the issue in a somewhat different way. As a result of their past with renegade moonshiners, states in the South, such as the Carolinas, Virginia, and Florida, tend to have stronger enforcement, according to Spoelman.

  • However, even if you reside in a state such as Missouri, where a person is permitted to create up to 100 gallons of spirits per year without a permission, Spoelman warns that distilling your own moonshine is still a potentially dangerous endeavor that should be avoided.
  • This is because federal law supersedes state law, and you still run the possibility of being charged with the aforementioned offenses regardless of where you live in the country.

As it turns out, while it is simple to obtain the equipment needed to produce moonshine on the internet, the Tennessee Bureau of Brewing has been known to crack down on unregistered stills. According to NPR, when providers do offer stills to amateurs, they “think that clients are interested in creating perfumes, distilled water, or some other legal liquid,” which is not the case. According to the providers, this is necessary in order to remain inside the legal framework. In other words, you should distill your moonshine according to your own preferences.


  • 10:47 a.m. ET on December 16, 2020
  • Updated at 10:50 a.m. ET on December 16, 2020

MOONSHINE is a phrase that is frequently used to describe alcoholic beverages that are stronger than usual. Its origins may be traced back to the Prohibition era in the 1930s. Drinks labeled as ‘Moonshine’ are still often imitated and served in the southern United States, and the term has long been connected with the world of NASCAR racing.

But what exactly is moonshine, and is it harmful? 2 Moonshine is a general slang phrase that refers to potently powerful and illegally produced alcoholic spirits, which are commonly prepared at home by inexperienced distillers and distillers. Image courtesy of Getty Images – Getty Images

What is moonshine?

  1. Moonshine is a general slang phrase that refers to alcoholic spirits that are extremely powerful and are produced illegally.
  2. Bootleggers, who attempted to manufacture and sell alcoholic beverages during the Prohibition era, were the first to be connected with the term.
  3. Despite the fact that moonshine is still used to describe unlawful homemade alcohol in modern times, certain certified distilleries will frequently offer beverages that are labeled as moonshine for their novelty value or to explain their stronger than usual flavor.

The goal for some moonshine producers will be to recreate the clear, high-proof homemade booze that was popular during the Prohibition period. However, the term “moonshine” may be used to describe anything that is considered to be powerful, handmade, and unlawful – such as strong varieties of whiskey or “bathtub” gin – without implying that it is illegal.

Why is making moonshine illegal in the US?

Distilling is illegal in the United States and in the majority of European countries. There are a variety of reasons why governments prefer to prohibit its citizens from manufacturing their own alcoholic beverages at home. To be more specific, several nations prohibit the purchase or possession of any form of still (the vessel used in the distillation of spirits). Officially, the United States government considers moonshine to be a “fanciful phrase” and does not regulate its production or use.

Nonetheless, distilleries are obliged to get permits in order to assure the traceability and quality control of their alcoholic products. Until 1978, it was against the law to make your own liquor or beer at home. However, a rising number of oenophiles and beer lovers wanted to produce their own, and they worked to persuade Congress to legalize homebrewing across the country, which was ultimately successful. A family of two people is now permitted to produce 200 gallons of wine and the equivalent quantity of beer each year, according to government regulations.

2 A moonshine still recently seized by the Internal Revenue Service, photographed between 1921 and 1932 in the United States Treasury Department in Washington, DC. Image courtesy of Getty Images – Getty Images

What’s the penalty for making moonshine?

  1. Section 5601 of Title 26 of the United States Code outlines the criminal penalties that can be imposed for a variety of acts.
  2. These are some examples of activities:
  • Possession of a still that has not been registered
  • Engaging in commercial activity as an uncertified distiller
  • The act of distilling spirits without obtaining a license
    The removal or concealment of distilled spirits on which no tax has been paid is prohibited.
    Selling unlawful spirits, which defrauds the United States government of “rightful taxes”
  • Selling illegal spirits to minors

Felonies under this section are punished by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both for each offense.

Is moonshine dangerous?

Yes, moonshine (or powerful, homemade alcoholic beverages) may be quite deadly. People who attempt to create and distill their own spirits without the required training and permissions are often unaware of the proper usage of the key component – ethanol – in the process. When alcoholic spirits are manufactured improperly, they can cause major illness, blindness, and even death in some cases.

If done incorrectly, the distillation process may be a risky technique to undertake. Not only may novice distillers mistakenly harm others, but stills are also very dangerous to handle.

  • Photograph by Scott Olson / Getty Images Home-distilled moonshine, formerly a closely guarded secret of Appalachian backwoods, is still in existence to this day.
  • In fact, it is now officially legal.
  • “White lightning,” as it is referred as, was originally considered an illegal and dangerous chemical by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, but it is now approved for sale and controlled by the federal government in select states in the United States.

Several other states, including Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky, followed suit, as did Tennessee, which saw the nation’s first legal moonshine distillery open its doors in 2010. The number of illegal moonshine stills in operation in the United States has been estimated to be more than a million, making the manufacture of the clear, high-potency drink more ubiquitous and pervasive than it has ever been in history. Furthermore, due to the materials, byproducts, and flammability of the result, it is potentially exceedingly dangerous to create at home.

What Is Moonshine?

When you make moonshine, you’re fermenting a sugar source to generate ethanol, which is also called as “hooch” or “homebrew.” The traditional method of making moonshine is to boil maize and sugar together. A distillation procedure is used to remove the alcohol from the mash after it has been fermented. One significant distinction between moonshine and other alcoholic beverages such as whiskey or bourbon is that moonshine is not matured.

It is the end product of this process that creates an alcoholic beverage with a high proportion of alcohol, often several times larger than 100 proof (50 percent), such as white whiskey. While the term “moonshine” may conjure up traditional ideas of “country-folk” distilling and carrying their strong potables in jugs labeled “XXX” in the middle of the night to evade discovery, the reality is far more complex.

That is, the ability to purchase commercially made, all-copper moonshine stills on the internet has removed a significant amount of the danger associated with the moonshine distillation process. Despite these advancements, this does not imply that all moonshine is safe to consume in large quantities. Plenty of moonshine is still being produced in stills constructed from vehicle radiator components and other potentially hazardous items.

Impact of Moonshine

  1. Once upon a time, moonshine was a significant financial component of the Appalachian economy, serving as a source of money during difficult economic times and in places where poverty was prevalent.
  2. Moonshine, like every other product manufactured in the United States, underwent peaks and troughs in the supply and demand cycle.
  3. When the price of sugar increased in the United States beginning in the 1950s, the moonshine industry suffered a severe downturn.

The spirit appeared to be slipping away as the United States witnessed an increase in the use of marijuana, as well as an increase in the use of prescription opioids, which reached epidemic levels in the region. Moonshine appears to have had a rebirth in recent years. With the current trend toward increasing costs at the liquor shop, particularly for foreign spirits, moonshining has re-entered the public consciousness.

Approximately one million Americans were found to be violating the law by creating moonshine in 2010, according to a BBC investigation on moonshine production in the United States. Tennessee legalized the sale of alcoholic beverages at large box retailers such as Walmart and Sam’s Club the following year. Stills constructed entirely of copper are available for purchase on the internet from websites ranging from 1-gallon personal models to 220-gallon business operations.

They are available for purchase for anything from $150 to $11,000, and everything in between. The demand for copper stills, according to one supplier, has more than doubled in the last few years, and he has sold copper stills to every state in the United States.

Potential Dangers

Because illegal moonshine is manufactured in improvised stills, it remains a potentially lethal substance. It has the potential to be hazardous on two levels: during the distillation process and when it is consumed.

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Distilling Process

  1. The distillation process itself generates flammable alcohol vapors, which are released during the operation.
  2. The presence of flammable vapors is one of the primary reasons that moonshine stills are nearly always situated outside, despite the fact that this makes them more visible to law authorities.
  3. The danger of vaporous explosions is too large to be contained within the building.
  4. When it comes to eating the liquid, if the end result has a proof more than 100, the moonshine itself is incredibly flammable and may be quite hazardous.


However, while the flammability of the distilling process and the product itself is a concern, more people have died from drinking moonshine than have perished in still explosions owing to the poisons in the brew, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Despite the fact that the majority of stills in use today are of the all-copper form, there are still a significant number of old-fashioned handcrafted stills extant.

Traditionally, antique stills have used automobile radiators in the distillation process, and they are more likely to contain lead soldering, which can contaminate the moonshine. Antifreeze glycol components left over from outdated radiators might also be included in the brew, adding more poisons to the potent concoction. Methanol tainting may develop in bigger quantities of distilled moonshine, and it is especially common in older batches.

  • It is possible that the initial liquid generated by the distillation process will contain methanol, because methanol evaporates at a lower temperature than alcohol.
  • The greater the batch size, the greater the amount of methanol.
  • Most moonshine producers nowadays are aware of the need of pouring out the initial drippings from the condenser, often known as the foreshot, although not all of them are aware of or perform this procedure.
  • Methanol is extremely dangerous and can result in blindness or even death if inhaled.
  • Dr.

Christopher Holstege, a physician affiliated with the University of Virginia Health System, conducted a research in 2004 in which he examined 48 samples of moonshine acquired by law enforcement from various stills. The doctor discovered lead contamination in 43 out of the 50 samples he tested.

How to Test for Purity

According to folklore, one method of determining the purity of moonshine is to pour some onto a metal spoon and light it on fire. Although lead is not harmful when burned with a blue flame, it is harmful when burned with a yellow or red flame, leading the ancient adage, “Lead burns red and makes you dead.” The spoon burning approach, on the other hand, is not fully dependable. Other poisons that may be present in the brew, such as methanol, which burns with a bright blue flame that is difficult to notice, are not detected by this method.

Due to the fact that the United States produces millions of gallons of moonshine each year, the likelihood that some of it may be polluted is very high.

Health experts are concerned that the presence of moonshine toxicity in unwell people may be undetected since most healthcare practitioners regard it to be a relic of a more distant period.

History of Moonshine

As far as historians can tell, the practice of manufacturing alcohol has been present since the dawn of civilization. Moonshine, in particular, is said to have been brought into the United States by Scotch-Irish immigrants in the late 1700s, notably in the southern Appalachian region. According to Appalachian anthropologists, the Scotch-Irish immigrants who relocated to the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s carried with them their practice of home brewing as well as their formula for high-potency hooch, which was popular during the time period.

  • “The phrase stems from the fact that it is done at night so that the smoke from the still will not be seen to onlookers.
  • As a result, it may be kept concealed from prying eyes such as the police or hungry neighbors “Jason Sumich, Department of Anthropology, Appalachian State University, believes this is correct.
  • Moonshine was first sold in clay jugs, and then in mason jars, before being packed in glass bottles.
  • The side of the antique clay jars was frequently marked with the letters “XXX.

” Supposedly, each “X” reflected the number of times the drink had gone through the distillation process before it was bottled.

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, the phrase “moonshine” can apply to a variety of distinct types of liquor. Historically, the term “moonshine” referred to whiskey that was produced and distilled in one’s own house. When alcohol was outlawed in the United States during the Prohibition era, the phrase “bathtub gin” was used to refer to home-brewed moonshine, which was produced in bathtubs. Moonshine is often created from a type of maize mash or a combination of corn mashes. People today manufacture artisan moonshine out of a sense of nostalgia and a desire for a particular flavor profile.

  1. These can be purchased from liquor stores or produced only for home consumption.
  2. However, distilling alcohol in one’s house, even for personal consumption, is prohibited under federal law.
  3. Lawful moonshine stills were permitted to operate in various regions of the southern United States beginning in 2010, including South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama.
  4. These facilities produced legal moonshine for the purpose of sale and distribution.
  5. Because of its portrayal of cultural past, the product quickly gained popularity.

Moonshine has always held a prominent position in the American imagination, and its resurgence in popularity in the twenty-first century has resulted in increased tourism revenue for local vendors.

Is Moonshine Illegal?

There are federal and state laws that prohibit the manufacture of alcoholic beverages for the purpose of distribution or sale to the general public. It is allowed under federal law to own a still of any size without obtaining a permission; nevertheless, a permit is necessary in order to make alcohol with the still. Regardless of how large the still is, it is still a still. Stills pose genuine dangers and concerns, which is why they are subjected to extensive regulation.

A federal distilled spirits permit is required in order to lawfully manufacture and distribute alcoholic beverages for the purpose of sale and distribution.

These licenses are intended for major manufacturers only. They are both pricey and difficult to get by in large quantities. It is possible to get a Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit at no cost, but it is meant for the production of alcohol for purposes other than ingestion.

Is Moonshine Illegal in my State?

State regulations on the legality of home distilling differ significantly from one another. The possession of a still is prohibited by law in certain states, although it is not prohibited by law in others. It is sometimes lawful to own a still, but you may be subject to a modest fine for the act of making and producing alcoholic beverages. If the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau demands them, still titles and permissions may be necessary. It is against the law in every country to sell alcoholic beverages to minors.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

  1. If you have been charged with home distilling, you should speak with a drug attorney as soon as possible.
  2. A lawyer will assist you in determining your alternatives and developing your best case, as well as representing you throughout plea negotiations and in court.
  3. Disclaimer from the Law Library, last updated on June 19, 2018.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of moonshine. Even the Discovery Channel has capitalized on the moonshine obsession by airing the famous television show ‘Moonshiners,’ which follows the lives of moonshiners. This show has been successful in raising awareness of illicit moonshine and encouraging viewers to purchase their own home distilling equipment and materials in order to manufacture their own moonshine.

However, before you attempt to make moonshine at home, consider the following: Unless you have the right authorization, it is unlawful to manufacture any spirit (even moonshine). When distilling any type of alcohol, make sure to verify your local regulations first.

So Why Is Moonshine Illegal?

  • It is allowed to possess and operate moonshine stills, and you may even use them if you are not manufacturing alcoholic beverages.
  • You do not need a license to make essential oils, perfume, or distilled water.
  • You can do it in your home.
  • The process of producing your own ethanol for use as a fuel is likewise totally lawful, provided you obtain a TTB authorization.
  • Even if obtaining home fuel permits appears to be straightforward, TTB employees might visit your home to guarantee that you are not consuming so-called white lightning.

Making moonshine for consumption, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. According to federal rules, distilling alcohol at home is unquestionably prohibited, regardless of the amount of alcohol produced. In reality, distilling alcohol and spirits at home is considered bootlegging and can result in prison time.

According to federal law, those who operate home distilleries may be charged with a variety of federal offenses, including tax evasion, which can result in a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, as well as the seizure and forfeiture of the property and land that was used for the home distilling operation.

Check your Alcohol Fedral or State Laws

Even while many individuals are aware that it is illegal to make alcoholic beverages at home, many may not comprehend how and why these regulations were put into place. The legislation may appear odd at first glance, but a look back in time helps to make things lot more reasonable. Instead of issuing a warning that you will go blind if you consume your own moonshine, the government’s restrictions on the booze are based on taxation.

  • Things began to deteriorate following the American Revolution, when the government began to levy excise taxes on alcoholic beverages in order to pay back the debt incurred as a result of the conflict.
  • Eventually, farmers who supplied the grain used to make moonshine began to demonstrate, resulting in the Whiskey Rebellion, which threatened the stability of the newly formed United States and compelled President George Washington to launch a crackdown on moonshine production operations in order to protect the country’s future.

During the American Civil War, the distillation of moonshine and the sale of moonshine without paying taxes were both proclaimed illegal. The Revenue Act of 1862 was signed into law shortly after. This bill established the formal imposition of excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and other “sin” commodities. This included the production of homemade spirits, and it has been unlawful to manufacture spirits at home since then.

Making moonshine, on the other hand, has been a common activity for many years, particularly in southern states such as South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia where it is produced in large quantities. However, because the manufacture and distribution of moonshine were both outlawed, moonshiners were left with little choice but to turn to bootlegging. While it is now legal to create your own beer or wine for personal consumption, the manufacturing of spirits for personal consumption is still illegal by federal law. What is the explanation behind this?

The excise tax that so many moonshiners dreaded is still much too profitable for them to ignore. So if you’re thinking of creating moonshine, make sure you have all of the necessary licences. Otherwise, home distillation might result in major legal repercussions if not done properly.

Is Moonshine Really Dangerous?

  1. Despite the fact that the restriction on home distilling appears to be an impediment at a time when craft liquor is on the rise, federal officials claim that the prohibition is intended to safeguard consumers.
  2. Specifically, the government claims that because of the possibility for contamination with hazardous heavy metal compounds, the home distillation procedure is risky and should be avoided.
  3. These dangers include the possibility of contaminating the product with methanol, which has been linked to blindness.
  4. Furthermore, there is the possibility of the stills bursting.

TBB investigators often conduct raids on moonshiners who are in possession of unlicensed stills, despite the fact that purchasing the equipment required to create moonshines is quite simple. Suppliers frequently offer moonshine stills to novices who are interested in producing essential oils, fragrances, or distilled water, all of which are entirely legal under the laws of the United States. For more information on apple pie moonshine recipes and other distilling-related material, visit our blog and click here.


Type Whisky
Alcohol by volume At least 40%
Proof (US) At least 80°
Colour Clear
Ingredients Grain, sugar
Related products Bourbon whiskey, Corn whiskey, Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, Rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey

Known as moonshine, this high-proof whiskey has been and continues to be manufactured illegally, without the permission of the government. The term comes from a habit of making alcoholic beverages by night in order to avoid being discovered by law enforcement officers. Outside of a licensed distillery, the production of such beverages is still prohibited in the majority of nations. Recently, commercial manufacturers have begun to label some of their goods as “moonshine,” a term that has become more popular.


  1. A variety of monikers are used to describe moonshine in English, including mountain dew, choop (also known as hooch), hooch (also known as homebrew), mulekick (also known as shine), white lightning (also known as white/corn liquor), white/corn whiskey (also known as pass around), firewater (also known as bootleg).
  2. Moonshine is known by several names in different languages and nations (see Moonshine by country).

Moonshine stills

In most countries, it is illegal to sell, import, or own a moonshine still unless you have authorization from the government. However, guidelines produced by home brewing aficionados and published on local brewery forums that explain where to find inexpensive equipment and how to build it into a still are frequently found. Stainless steel vessels are frequently replaced by plastic (e.g., polypropylene) vessels that can tolerate high temperatures in order to save costs. However, the principle of plastic remains the same.

  • It is possible to reach a vapor alcohol level of 95 percent ABV using a column or spiral still.
    On the basis of 48 samples, moonshine is typically distilled to 40 percent ABV and is seldom higher than 66 percent ABV. For example, ordinary pot stills typically generate 40 percent alcohol by volume and reach a peak of 60-80 percent alcohol by volume after numerous distillations. The ethanol, on the other hand, may be dried to 95 percent alcohol by heating 3A molecular sieves, such as 3A zeolite.

Evaporation stills

A plastic still is a distillation equipment that is specifically designed for the separation of ethanol from water. Plastic stills are capable of producing vapor alcohol with a level of 40 percent ABV. Plastic stills are popular for homebrewing moonshine due to the fact that they are inexpensive and simple to construct. Essentially, a smaller volume of liquid is placed in an open smaller vessel inside a bigger vessel that is sealed. This is the basic concept.

The liquid is preserved at around 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) by an immersion heater, which causes it to gently evaporate and condense on the inner walls of the outer vessel. It is possible to guide the condensation that collects at the bottom of the jar to the bottom of the vessel by using an activated carbon filter.

Because the finished result contains nearly double the amount of alcohol found in the beginning liquid, the process can be repeated many more times to produce an even stronger distillate. The approach is labor-intensive and inefficient, making it unsuitable for large-scale production.

Boiling stills

  1. Washing
  2. Steaming
  3. Liquid removal
  4. Vaporizing alcohol
  5. Components that have been recycled and are less volatile
  6. The most volatile components
  7. The condenser
  1. *Steam is used to pre-heat the columns on both sides.
  2. A column still, also known as a continuous still, patent still, or Coffey still, is a type of still that is made up of two columns that are connected together.
  3. A column still is capable of producing vapor alcohol with a concentration of 95 percent ABV.
Spiral still

A spiral still is a form of column still that has a basic slow air-cooled distillation equipment that is widely used for bootlegging and other illegal activities. The column and cooler are made of a copper tube that is 5 feet (15 meters) long and twisted in a spiral pattern. The tube is initially raised to serve as a basic column, and then lowered to chill the substance being processed. Cookware is often comprised of a 30-litre (6.6 imperial gal; 7.9 US gal) wine bucket made of polypropylene (pp). Typically, a 300W dip heater is used as the heat source.

Spiral burners are popular because, despite their simplicity of construction and low manufacturing costs, they can produce 95 percent ABV despite their low production costs.

Pot still

This kind of distillation device or still is used to distill flavored spirits such as whiskey or cognac, but not rectified spirits since they are ineffective at extracting congeners from the distillate. Pot stills are used for batch distillation, as opposed to continuous distillation (as opposed to a Coffey or column stills which operate on a continuous basis). Pot stills, which are traditionally made of copper, are available in a variety of forms and sizes, depending on the quantity and kind of spirit being produced.

Geographical differences in still design are evident, with particular stills becoming increasingly popular in Appalachian regions. Spirits produced in pots typically have an alcoholic content of 40 percent and reach a peak of 60 to 80 percent after numerous distillations.


  • Improperly manufactured moonshine can be polluted, mostly as a result of the materials used in the building of the still.
  • Vehicle-based stills that use vehicle radiators as condensers can be particularly hazardous;
  • in some situations, glycol generated by antifreeze might pose a health threat.
  • Radiators that are used as condensers may also contain lead at the points where they connect to the plumbing.
  • These procedures frequently resulted in blindness or lead poisoning in people who drank polluted liquor as a result of their use.

This was a problem during Prohibition, when many people died as a result of taking harmful chemicals. Consumption of lead-tainted moonshine is a significant risk factor for saturnine gout, a painful but curable medical illness that affects the kidneys and joints and is associated with a high mortality rate. Despite the fact that methanol is not created in dangerous quantities by the fermentation of sugars from grain starches, contamination can nevertheless occur when unscrupulous distillers use low-cost methanol to raise the perceived strength of the beverage.

You might be interested:  Where To Buy Moonshine Ingredients?

It is possible to make moonshine more appetizing while also making it potentially less harmful by removing the “foreshot,” which is the initial few ounces of alcohol that drips from the condenser. The fact that methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than ethanol leads to the widespread belief that the foreshot contains the vast majority of the methanol present in the mash (if any). However, according to study, this is not the case, and methanol may be found in the product until the very end of the distillation process.

  • Despite this, distillers will often continue to collect foreshots until the temperature of the still exceeds 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Aside from that, the head that follows immediately following the foreshot is frequently contaminated with trace levels of other undesirable substances, such as acetone and other aldehydes.
  • Fusel alcohols are another type of undesired byproduct of fermentation that is found in the “aftershot,” and which is normally discarded as a result of this.

At greater strengths (concentrations above 24 percent ABV are considered harmful by the Global Harmonized System), alcohol concentrations are flammable and hence dangerous to handle.

As a matter of fact, if proper ventilation is not given during the distillation process, vaporized alcohol can collect in the air to dangerous levels.

Adulterated moonshine

The use of impure moonshine has been shown to greatly increase the risk of kidney illness in people who consume it on a regular basis, principally as a result of the high lead level. When methanol is used to adulterate moonshine, it has been known to cause outbreaks of methanol poisoning (bootleg liquor).


Shaking a transparent container of the distillate can provide a rapid estimate of the alcoholic strength, or proof, of the distillate (the ratio of alcohol to water) in a few seconds. When there are many large bubbles that dissolve quickly, this indicates that the alcohol concentration is high, whereas smaller bubbles that disappear more slowly suggest a lower alcohol content. The use of an alcoholmeter or a hydrometer is a more reliable means of testing.

When determining the potential alcohol percent of moonshine during and after the fermenting process, a hydrometer is utilized, whereas an alcoholmeter is used after the product has been distilled to ascertain the volume percent or proof.


  • A typical jar of moonshine is shown here.
  • It was formerly mistakenly thought that the presence of a blue flame indicated that the water was safe to drink.
  • A popular folk test for the quality of moonshine was to pour a tiny amount of it onto a spoon and then light it on fire to see how it turned out.

Apparently, a safe distillate burns with a blue flame, but an unclean distillate burns with a yellow flame, according to this theory: This simple test was also used to determine whether or not lead was present in the distillate, which resulted in a crimson flame when a radiator coil was used as the condenser, according to practitioners of the simple test. As a result, the mnemonic “Lead burns red and kills you” or “Red signifies dead” came to be popular.

In addition, other harmful components, such as methanol, cannot be discovered with a simple burn test since methanol flames are blue in color and difficult to spot in natural light.


The Moonshine Man of Kentucky, an image from Harper’s Weekly published in 1877 depicting five episodes from the life of a Kentucky moonshiner, may be found here. Museum exhibit featuring a vintage moonshine distillation apparatus When it comes to illicit booze, moonshine has traditionally been defined as “clear, unaged whiskey,” which was previously manufactured using barley in Scotland and Ireland or corn mash in the United States, however sugar has become just as frequent in the last century.

  • The term was coined in the British Isles as a result of excise rules, but it only gained significance in the United States after a levy was enacted during the Civil War that prohibited the use of non-registered distilleries.
  • During the Prohibition era (1920-1933), when the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution enforced a comprehensive prohibition on alcohol manufacture, illegal distillation increased in popularity.
  • Since the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in 1933, legislation has focused on the evasion of taxation on all types of spirits and intoxicating liquors.

Formerly enforced by the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, applicable statutes are now more often handled by state authorities in most cases. Enforcement agents were once referred to as “revenuers,” which was a vernacular term for them.


The first documented usage of the phrase “moonshine” being used to refer to illegal alcoholic beverages dates back to a 1785 edition of Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, which was published in England. The term “moonshine” once applied to anything that was “illusory” or to the physical light emitted by a rising or setting moon.

Consequently, because the United States Government deems the phrase “fanciful term” and does not control its usage on the labels of commercial products, legal moonshines may include any type of spirit, as long as the type of spirit is clearly mentioned elsewhere on the label.


The moonshine distilling process was carried out at night to avoid detection. While moonshiners could be found in both urban and rural locations across the United States during the Civil War, moonshine production centered in Appalachia because the region’s poor road network made it simple to dodge tax collectors and because transporting maize crops was difficult and expensive. According to the findings of a survey of farmers in Cocke County, Tennessee: “If the maize was first transformed into whiskey, it would be possible to carry far more value.

  1. One horse could carry 10 times the amount of liquor that it could carry in corn on its back.
  2. ” Moonshiners in Harlan County, Kentucky, such as Maggie Bailey, made a living by selling moonshine in order to support their households.
  3. Others, such as Amos Owens of Rutherford County, North Carolina, and Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton of Maggie Valley, North Carolina, made a living selling moonshine in the surrounding area.
  4. The Discovery Channel broadcasted a documentary on Sutton’s life called “Moonshiners” that chronicled his life.

It was reportedly stated by a bootlegger that the malt (a blend of maize, barley, and rye) is what makes the basic moonshine formula function properly. Although the phrase “moonshine” is no longer in common usage, it nevertheless indicates that the liquor is unlawfully made, and it is often used on the labels of legal products to sell them as delivering a banned drinking experience.

Drivers known as “runners” or “bootleggers,” who transported moonshine and “bootleg” (illegally imported) whiskey around the region in automobiles that had been particularly modified for speed and load-carrying capability, were known as “bootleggers” or “bootleggers.” In appearance, the automobiles were conventional, but on the inside, they had been upgraded with beefier engines, more interior space, and heavy-duty shock absorbers to hold the weight of the illicit booze.

As a result of the repeal of Prohibition, the out-of-work drivers were able to keep their talents sharp by participating in organized races, which resulted in the founding of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). A number of previous “runners” went on to become well-known drivers in the sport.

See also

  • Applejack (drink)
  • Bootleggers and Baptists
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)
  • Congener (alcohol)
  • Dixie mafia, farmhouse ale, free beer, homebrewing, Kilju, and other terms.
    Moonshine as depicted in popular culture
    Nip joint, rum-running, and sour mash are all options.

Further reading

  • The image above depicts “cow shoes worn by American moonshiners during the Prohibition era to conceal their tracks, 1924.” 14th of May, 2021, according to Retrieved on the 4th of October, 2021.


  1. Kevin Kosar (born 1970) is a writer and musician from the United States (15 April 2017). The History of Moonshine on a Global Scale Spoelman, Colin (ed.). London: Routledge, ISBN 978-1-78023-742-8. CS1 maint: numerous names: authors list (link)
  2. What you need to know about urban moonshining from the Kings County Distillery, including how to create and enjoy whiskey Haskell, David, 1979-. New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 1-4197-0990-9. OCLC 843332480
  3. “Spiralbrännaren” (PDF) (in Swedish)
  4. Holstege, CP
  5. Ferguson, JD
  6. Wolf, CE
  7. Baer, AB
  8. Poklis, A. Holstege, CP
  9. Poklis, A (2004). “Analysis of moonshine for the presence of pollutants.” 97866750
  10. 97866750
  11. 97866750 Carmo, M. J., and Gubulin, J. C. (2001). (September 1997). A study on the effects of ethanol and water on commercial 3A zeolites was published in the journal “Kinetics and Thermodynamics”. ISSN 0104-6632
  12. Burfield, David R.
  13. Hefter, Glenn T.
  14. Koh, Donald S. P.
  15. Koh, Donald S. P. Brazilian Journal of Chemical Engineering. 14. doi: 10.1590/S0104-66321997000300004. ISSN 0104-6632
  16. (1984). “Desiccant efficiency in solvent and reagent drying 8. molecular sieve column drying of 95 percent ethanol: An application of hygrometry to the assessment of solvent water content” is the title of the paper that was published in the journal. Chemical Technology. 34 (4): 187–194. doi: 10.1002/jctb.5040340408
  17. Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology. Chemical Technology. 34 (4): 187–194. Simo, Marian
  18. Sivashanmugam, Siddharth
  19. Brown, Christopher J
  20. Hlavacek, Vladimir
  21. Brown, Christopher J (21 October 2009). Industrial Engineering Chemistry Research. 48 (20): 9247–9260. doi: 10.1021/ie900446v
  22. “Why Your Copper Moonshine Still Needs To Be Lead Free – Whiskey Still Company”
  23. “Why Your Copper Moonshine Still Needs To Be Page 97 of Peine Schafft’s 2012 book
  24. Sam R. Dalvi and Michael H. Pillinger are co-authors of this work (May 2013). Saturnine gout, revisited: a survey of the literature Issn 1555-7162
  25. PMID 23510947
  26. “Distillation: Some Purity Considerations”. Moonshine Still. doi: 10.1016/j.moonshinestill.2012.09.015. ISSN 1555-7162
  27. “Distillation: Some Purity Considerations”. 5th of May, 2015
  28. Retrieved Nermina, Spaho, Nermina (28 June 2017). “Distillation Techniques in the Production of Fruit Spirits” is the title of this paper. Innovating Applications and Modeling for Distillation [DOI: 10.5772/66774], ISBN 978-953-51-3201-1
  29. Warburton, Rob, and Warburton (9 January 2019). “How to Make Rum: A Quick Start Guide” is a guide to making rum. The Rum Guys’ “Making Moonshine – The Dummies’ Guide” is available online. Copper Moonshine Still Kits – Clawhammer Supply. Retrieved 25 November 2018
  30. “Hazardous Goods Management.” Retrieved 31 August 2017
  31. “Risk of End Stage Renal Disease Associated with Alcohol Consumption.” Retrieved 25 November 2018
  32. “Hazardous Goods Management.” Retrieved 25 November 2018
  33. “Risk of End Stage Renal Disease Associated with Alcohol Consumption” (PDF). Publications by the University of Oxford.
    1. The document was archived from its original form (PDF) on October 20, 2016.
    2. “Application to Include Fomepizole on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines” (Application to Include Fomepizole on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines) was published on December 24, 2011.
    3. (PDF).
    4. The article “Proofing your Moonshine – Shake Test, Gun Powder Test, and Hydrometer Test Explained” was published in November 2012 on page 10.
    5. Learn how to make moonshine.
    6. The 21st of November, 2014.
    7. It was published on November 26, 2018, and it is titled “Alcoholmeter or Hydrometer: Do You Know the Difference?
    8. “.

    Skylark Medical Clinic’s Moonshine page was last modified on October 28, 2014. The original version of this article was published on July 16, 2011. The article “Exploding moonshine: The New Golden Age of Outlaw Liquor” was published on July 23, 2008. Obtainable on the 2nd of July, 2017

  34. Guy Logsdon is a historian at the Oklahoma Historical Society. ‘Moonshine’ is a topic covered in the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma State University is located in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The original version of this article was published on October 31, 2014. Kevin Kosar, 1970- (Kosar, Kevin, 1970- )
  35. Retrieved on March 21, 2014
  36. (15 April 2017). The History of Moonshine on a Global Scale OCLC 1028980463. ISBN 978-1-78023-742-8. Spoelman, Colin. CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  37. CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  38. What you need to know about urban moonshining from the Kings County Distillery, including how to create and enjoy whiskey ISBN 1-4197-0990-9
  39. OCLC 843332480
  40. David Haskell, 1979-. New York: Springer-Verlag. Jason Sumich is the author of this work. This article is titled “It’s All Legal, Until You Get Caught: Moonshining in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.” Appalachian State University is located in Boone, North Carolina. On the 21st of March, 2014, I was able to get a hold of
  41. (2012), p. 98–99
  42. Peine Schafft 2012, p. Melissa Block is a writer who lives in the United States (8 December 2005). Maggie Bailey, dubbed the “Queen of the Mountain Bootleggers,” was featured on National Public Radio. Obtainable on the 4th of May, 2015
  43. “Popcorn Sutton Moonshine Recipe” is a recipe for making moonshine from popcorn. whiskey still company a b whiskey still company Cooper, William J.
  44. Terrill, Thomas E. Cooper, William J.
  45. Terrill, Thomas E. (2009). The American South: A History, Volume II (The American South: A History, Volume II) (4th ed.). Published by Rowman & Littlefield in Lanham, Maryland, on page 625 (ISBN 978-0-7425-6097-0)
  46. Jennifer Billock authored the article “How Moonshine Bootlegging Gave Rise to NASCAR.” Smithsonian. Obtainable on April 4, 2019


  • (Spring–Fall 2012) Peine, Emelie K., and Schafft, Kai A., Minnesota 13: “Wet” Wild Prohibition Days (2007) ISBN 978-0-9798017-0-9
  • Davis, Elaine. (Spring–Fall 2007). « Moonshine, Mountaineers, and Modernity: Distilling Cultural History in the Southern Appalachian Mountains» is the title of a research project. Journal of Appalachian Studies, published by the Appalachian Studies Association, volume 18, number 1, pages 93–112. Rowley, Matthew
  • JSTOR 23337709
  • Rowley, Matthew. Moonshine! A History, Songs, Stories, and How-Tos (2007) ISBN 978-1-57990-648-1
  • Watman, Max. Moonshine! A History, Songs, Stories, and How-Tos (2007) ISBN 978-1-57990-648-1 Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine (2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-7024-3
  • Jeff King, Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine (2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-7024-3
  • Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine (2010) ISBN 978-1-4391-7024-3
  • Chasing the White Dog: An The Home Distiller’s Workbook: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making Moonshine, Whiskey, Vodka, Rum, and a Ton of Other Spirits! The year is 2012, and the ISBN is 978-1-4699-8939-6.

External links

  • “Moonshine – Blue Ridge Style,” a joint exhibition by the Blue Ridge Institute and the Museum of Ferrum College, is on display through March 31.
    A one-hour Irish documentary film about the beginnings of the craft, Déants an Phoitn (Poteen Making), directed by Mac Dara Curraidhn (produced in 1998), is also recommended.
    North Carolina is a state in the United States. Moonshine – information, photographs, music, and video snippets from the past and present
  • The Alcohol and Drugs History Society maintains a moonshine news page.
    Georgia Moonshine – History and folklore of moonshine in the state of Georgia, United States
  • “Moonshine ‘tempts new generation,'” according to the BBC, when it comes to illicit liquor distillation in the twenty-first century.
    Still from the past: Moonshine in Franklin County, Virginia – Video

In Georgia, the production of moonshine has a lengthy history that dates back to the Civil War, when moonshine was legal but restricted owing to a lack of laws. Following the Civil War, legislation was established making moonshine illegal and establishing tax rates for legal alcoholic beverages. The battle-weary people of Georgia regarded it as a means of escaping poverty, as Georgia’s natural resources had been badly reduced as a result of the conflict. Producing moonshine under the cover of night and then selling it without paying taxes undoubtedly boosted the income of the general public, but the high risks associated with illegal business kept it from spreading widely until the Prohibition era, when moonshine operations grew to the point where 1,000 gallon stills were being used in some concealment locations. As a maker, vendor, consumer, or even as a sugar supply, it is said that every other Georgian was involved in the moonshine industry in some capacity. Due to the legalization of moonshine in recent years, a significant portion of the illicit moonshine industry has been eliminated, and law enforcement agencies continue to crack down on stills. Even well-known Southerners, such as NASCAR icon Junior Johnson, are involved in the company with his Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon, which is based on an old family recipe. Junior learnt to race while moving whiskey over the North Carolina mountains. However, this does not rule out the possibility of an occasional bust in Georgia, even here in Burke County. Manufacturing, transporting, receiving, possessing, selling, and distributing alcoholic drinks are all prohibited in Georgia. Failing to submit required reports or bonds, or to pay fees, as well as failure to declare apparatus used in the unauthorized manufacturing of alcoholic drinks as contraband, are all punishable under state law.

OCGA 3-3-27 (2010) 3-3-27 specifies that no person should knowingly and willfully do any of the following:

  • Except as expressly allowed by this law, no distilled spirits may be distilled, manufactured, or otherwise produced.
  • Manufacturing, making, brewing, or fermenting any malt beverages or wine, except as expressly permitted by this title
  • Transporting, shipping, receiving, possessing, selling, offering to sell, or distributing any alcoholic beverages or alcohol, except as expressly permitted by this title
  • And using any alcoholic beverages or alcohol in any manner, except as expressly permitted by this title.
    Failure to file any report required by this chapter
  • Filing any report required by this title that is either knowingly false or fraudulent, or both
  • Failure to file any report required by this title that is intentionally false or fraudulent, or both
  • If you fail to pay any tax or licensing fee imposed or permitted by this title, unless you are explicitly excluded from such payment, you will be in violation of the law.
    Failure to submit a sufficient bond with the commissioner as required by this chapter
  • Evading or violating, or conspiring to avoid or violate, any provision of this title
  • Or Failure to comply with any provision of this title

Any equipment, object, or other tangible personal property used in the illicit distillation, manufacturing, or production of any alcoholic beverages is declared contraband and shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as directed by the commissioner by the officers or agents capturing the property. The following provisions of this Code section are violated: (Paragraph (1) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be considered guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of not less than one year nor more than five years; Paragraphs (2) through (8) of subsection (a) of this Code section shall be considered guilty of a misdemeanor.)

  • A disclaimer is provided: these codes may not be the most up-to-date versions.
  • Georgia may have information that is more up to date or accurate.
  • Neither we nor the state make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, or suitability of the material included on this site or on any other site to which it is connected.
  • Please refer to official sources for information.

There are several alcoholic beverages available for purchase, including whiskey, rum, gin, vodka, and cough syrup (hey, we don’t judge). So, what the hell is the problem with making moonshine illegal? It appears to us that acquiring a clear, unaged whiskey with a gasoline-like flavor and made using grains such as barley, wheat, and maize is a good idea. For years, it has been a part of American culture on par with porn and apple pie—albeit with the misconception that hillbillies are the hayseeds who produce it.

Back In The Day

  • Farmers who lived along the Appalachian Trail in the 1800s would distill their harvests into illicit moonshine to supplement their income and provide for their families.
  • Eventually, in 1978, the regulations around alcohol were relaxed, making it lawful to homebrew beer and wine;
  • nevertheless, home brewing moonshine remained prohibited;
  • legitimate distilleries, on the other hand, can produce it after obtaining an expensive license.
  • So what is it about making moonshine that makes it the lone boozy outlaw?
  • As a result of Uncle Sam’s need to be compensated, distilled liquor was and continues to be taxed more heavily than beer and wine combined, at a cost of $2.
  • 14 for a bottle of 80-proof spirits, according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (moonshine hovers between 80-100 proof).

The Future of Hooch

However, times have changed, and eye-watering booze is now in high demand, largely due to the insatiable thirst of the man-bun sporting hipster. As a result, small startup distilleries in places like Tennessee and California have sprung up, selling their products both online and in liquor stores across the country. Furthermore, business is booming. According to Technomic, a food and beverage analysis firm, 200,000 more cases of moonshine were sold in 2012 than in 2011. This has prompted whiskey giants such as Jack Daniels and Jim Bean to experiment with producing their own brands of moonshine, which they call “Unaged Whiskey” and “White Whiskey.” There is some ambiguity around the definition of moonshine; formerly, any alcohol produced in an illicit still was termed moonshine. Moonshine sold in stores will differ depending on how loosely defined the term is; nonetheless, seek for shine that has been distilled using corn whiskey rather than ethanol, as is done with the original variety. However, the only real distinction between illicit moonshine (such as that produced during Prohibition) and legal booze is that legitimate enterprises are required to pay taxes. So that’s why moonshine is illegal, and also why it isn’t as illegal as it used to be.

All that remains is for you to worry about is going to the liquor shop before it shuts so that you can drink on the same booze that your great, great grandpappy has been swilling down the hatch for decades. 1, 2, and 3 are examples of sources.

Also Read: 7 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Moonshine

Up to date on COVID-19: We are fully operational at this time and ship daily, Monday through Friday. This site is intended solely for educational reasons and does not include advertisements. For further information, please see our entire overview. The 11th of January, 2013 If the idea of digging ditches while wearing shackles around one’s ankles appeals to you, you should read this article on the laws of manufacturing moonshine very carefully before proceeding. Home distillation is governed by federal and state statutes, respectively. Distillers must adhere to all applicable federal, state, and local rules and regulations, as well as any local laws, in order to prevent encounters with federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies and authorities. In this essay, we’ll go over some of the most significant federal laws you should be aware of. However, make careful to look into the rules that govern distillation at the federal and state levels.

Federal Distillation Laws

  • It is permissible to own a still of any size, according to federal regulations.
  • It makes no difference if a person has a 1 gallon still or a 100 gallon still in his or her possession.
  • According to federal legislation, it is permissible to own a still for decorative purposes, distilling water, distilling essential oils, and other similar purposes.
  • As long as it is being used for the aforementioned objectives, it is not required to be registered with anybody or to get any licenses or permissions.
  • Remember that distilling alcohol without a “distilled spirits permit” or a “federal fuel alcohol permit” is against the law in most jurisdictions.
  • It makes no difference whether the alcohol is for personal consumption exclusively, is not for sale, or is otherwise prohibited.
  • A frequent myth is that only stills with a capacity of one gallon or less are allowed.
  • This isn’t correct at all.
  • The actual regulation simply specifies that stills with a capacity of 1 gallon or less that are not used to distill alcohol are not tracked by the Transportation and Safety Administration (see more on this below).
  • The possession of a still greater than one gallon is permissible under federal law, as long as it is not used to distill alcohol or is authorized to be used for distilling fuel alcohol or spirits, which are both prohibited under state law.

Federal Distilled Spirits Federal Fuel Alcohol Permits

In order to legally distill alcohol, a person must follow one of two procedures. The first step is to apply for and get a Federal Distilled Spirits License. This is the permission that industry heavyweights such as Jack Daniels and Makers Mark distilleries hold, which allows them to legally distill and distribute their products to the general public in the United States. Obtaining this authorization, as one might expect, is quite difficult to do. Shortly put, unless a person is planning to start a distillery with the goal of selling their product in liquor shops, they should not even bother looking into acquiring their own distillery license since they will find it to be far too expensive and hard for them to get on their own. Instead, apply for a fuel alcohol permit (which we’ll cover in more detail later).

The second option is to get a Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit (link below). Please be warned that the restrictions of the permission only authorize a distiller to utilize the alcohol they manufacture for the purpose of fuel production, not for consumption.

Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit

To get a federal fuel alcohol permit, please visit the following website: The manufacturer line will be “Clawhammer Supply,” and the serial number (e.g. “6601”) will be written on a sticker that is provided with the equipment by individuals who construct a copper still kit or purchase a stainless distiller from Clawhammer Supply. “Pot still” should be included as the kind. The capacity of a boiler is the size of the boiler (i.e. 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 10 gallon, etc.). In this case, it will serve as the still’s identifying information It should be noted that people who do not intend to use their still to produce alcohol are not required to get a permission or register the still with the federal authorities. In accordance with federal regulations, stills are only need to be reported or registered if the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau requests it from the maker (more on this below). Those who intend to use the equipment to distill alcohol, on the other hand, must provide their order number (which is also their serial number) on any permission documents.

State Distillation Laws

Every state has its own distillation legislation, which varies from one another. Some jurisdictions do not have laws against having a still, but do not allow the distillation of alcohol (for example, Colorado, which imposes a modest fee if one is found doing so), while other states do not allow the ownership of a still unless it is used to make fuel alcohol (for example, New York) (such as North Carolina, which requires a state fuel alcohol permit). Some states may outright outlaw the ownership of distillation equipment, as well as the practice of distilling. To find out what the rules and regulations are in your state, look up state laws on Google. Also, be certain that you follow all applicable rules and regulations.

Still Registration and Reporting

  • According to federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau laws, still makers are required to retain consumer information.
  • Moreover, these documents may also be sought by the federal TTB, and manufacturers are still compelled to provide them if they are requested to do so.

How to Stay Out of Trouble

Exemptions from federal law are not available for the manufacturing of distilled spirits for personal or family consumption. Individuals should never distill or sell alcohol without first obtaining a permit from the appropriate authority. Anyone who want to distill alcohol should ensure that they have obtained the necessary fuel and spirit permissions before starting (listed above). Additionally, verify your state regulations to ensure that owning and/or running a still is legal in your area. Clawhammer distillation equipment is intended for usage only in lawful situations. If you want to learn more about the laws of distillation, we recommend that you read our entire legal overview. Also, consult with a legal practitioner to assist you in navigating the permitting process, since the material on this page is not meant to be relied upon by anybody as the basis for any action or decision of any nature.

To read the exact federal legislation on the issue of distillation, please visit this link.

Is it unlawful to brew moonshine in the United States? Although this is true in the majority of situations, it hasn’t dampened (or diluted) the spirits of bourbon producers across the country. According to ABC News, law-enforcement authorities in Virginia have cracked down on moonshine sales and manufacture in the state during the last three years, a multi-million dollar enterprise that has been going on for decades. Making moonshine has the potential to make you a lot of money, especially considering the millions of dollars at stake in this historic industry. However, there are a few niggling state and federal rules that you must first deal with before you can proceed. Excise tax levied by the federal government One of the reasons that manufacturing your own booze is unlawful is because the federal government charges liquor makers $2.14 each 750 mL bottle of 80-proof whiskey, which is a significant amount of money. The tax on a gallon of liquor with a 50 percent alcohol content is approximately $13.50, rounded up. This does not include the state excise tax you would be required to pay, which may be as high as $12.80 per gallon in Alaska. Taxpayers may lose money if you make and sell your own moonshine since you might be stealing up to $25 per gallon. Distilling is punishable by the federal government. In theory, because the federal rules against distillation are based on tax fraud, it is not unlawful to distill moonshine if the necessary licenses and taxes have been obtained and paid on time. If you’re trying to circumvent Johnny Law, as most moonshiners do, you might face up to five years in federal jail and a fine of up to $10,000 if you’re caught producing alcohol. Make Your Own Distillery in Your Home State Many states may provide permits to “craft distillers,” who are individuals who seek to produce moonshine for their own personal enjoyment. Even in places like Oregon, however, you will not be awarded the necessary permissions to lawfully run a still until you first seek permits and licenses from the federal government, which can take several months. Special federal occupational taxes are also levied in conjunction with these licenses, including an obligatory $500 per year fee for any distiller earning less than $500,000 in a given year. In other words, if you solely want to consume your moonshine income, this drunken pastime becomes prohibitively expensive. No matter where you live in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky,, Louisiana, Maine. Maryland. Massachusetts. Michigan. Minnesota. Mississippi. Missouri. Montana. Nebraska. Nevada. New Hampshire. New Jersey. New Mexico. New York. North Carolina. North Dakota. Ohio. Oklahoma. Oregon. Pennsylvania. South Carolina. South Dakota. Tennessee. Texas. Utah. To learn how to accomplish this, visit our blog article.

Regardless of what you may have seen on the Discovery Channel, home distilling in the United States is still prohibited under current federal law. But why is this the case? It’s absolutely legal to make beer and wine at home for personal consumption, so why not booze as well? First and foremost, here is what the law now states. As long as you are not producing alcohol, it is entirely legal to own a still and even operate one — this means you may create essential oils without a licence, as well as perfume and distilled water without obtaining a permit. Home distillation is commonly seen in popular culture nowadays (picture courtesy of Dave/Flickr). Making ethanol for use as a fuel at home is also permitted, providing you receive a permission from the Texas Transportation Board (TTB). Home fuel permits are allegedly not difficult to get, but TTB officials are permitted to inspect your production location to ensure that you are not using the fuel. Making alcohol for consumption, on the other hand, is a very other animal. Making alcoholic beverages at home is against the law, plain and simple, according to federal regulations. What is the explanation behind this? The government claims a variety of justifications for keeping distillation prohibited. For starters, it has the potential to be harmful. When distilleries combine two potentially explosive components – alcohol vapor and heat sources – they have the potential to produce catastrophic explosions if not handled properly. Obtaining a distilled spirits plant permit (also known as a DSP) in most jurisdictions (including Oregon, where I live) is difficult, and it necessitates a large investment in infrastructure like as sprinklers, ventilation, and other systems to ensure the safety of production employees and visitors. Aside from that, some home distillers are enticed to build their own apparatus, which may be a costly mistake. It is not all metals that are approved for contact with food-grade alcohol, and some can leach heavy metals like lead into the resultant spirit, which is not the type of high that most people are going for. Another reason, to be cynical, is that federal excise taxes are levied. Whiskey and other distilled spirits are taxed at the highest rate of any alcoholic beverage, significantly more than either beer or wine.

(Actually, a tax on spirits was the very first tax ever imposed in the United States, having been enacted in 1790.) Allowing people to brew whiskey at home might result in the government suffering from a major financial hangover.

Individuals of legal drinking age may make wine or beer at home for personal or family consumption, however the production of distilled spirits at home is absolutely prohibited by federal law (see 26 United States Code (U.S.C.) 5042(a)(2) and 5053(e)). It is possible that producing distilled spirits in any location other than a TTB-qualified distilled spirits plant could subject you to Federal prosecution for severe violations and will result in a range of repercussions including but not necessarily limited to the following:

  1. Section 5601 of Title 26 of the United States Code establishes criminal penalties for a variety of crimes, including the ones listed below. Offenders who commit offenses under this section face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both for each violation.
  • 5601(a)(1) – Possession of a still that has not been registered
  • Engaging in the business of distilling without first filing an application and getting a notice of registration is prohibited under Section 5601(a)(2).
    5601a)(6) – Distilling on a forbidden location (1)(B) A distilled spirits facility may not be placed within 100 feet of a dwelling or within 100 feet of sheds, yards, or enclosures that are attached to a residence.
    The provisions of 5601(a)(7) and 5601(a)(8) are as follows: 5601(a)(7) – Unlawful production or use of material suited for the manufacture of distilled spirits
  • And 5601(a)(8) – Unlawful production of distilled spirits.
    If the person making the purchase, receiving, and/or processing of distilled spirits knows or has reasonable grounds to suspect that the Federal excise tax on the spirits has not been paid, he or she is in violation of Section 5601(a)(11).
    The violation of Section 5601(a)(12) is the removal or concealment of distilled spirits on which no tax has been paid.

Engaging in business as a distiller with the purpose to defraud the United States of tax is a crime punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both under 26 U.S.C. 5602, the Internal Revenue Code. Transporting, possessing, buying, selling, or transferring any distilled spirit without the container bearing the closure required by 26 U.S.C. 5301(d) (i.e., a closure that must be broken in order to open the container) is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both for each offense under 26 U.S.C. 5604(a) (1). According to 26 U.S.C. 5613, any distilled spirits that are not closed, labelled, and branded in accordance with the law and TTB standards will be forfeited to the United States of America. Furthermore, pursuant to 26 U.S.C. 5615(1), unregistered stills and/or distilling apparatus will be forfeited as a result of the forfeiture. In accordance with Section 5615(3) of the United States Code, whenever any person engages in the business of a distiller without first obtaining the required bond or with the intent to defraud the United States of the tax on distilled spirits, the personal property of that person located in the distillery, as well as that person’s interest in the tract of land on which the still is located, shall be forfeited to the United States of America. Having liquor or property intended to be used in violation of the law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or a combination of the two punishments, according to 26 USC 5686. Provisions in 26 U.S.C. 5688 apply to the seizure and forfeiture of such alcoholic beverages and property, among other things. A felony is committed by anybody who wilfully seeks to dodge or defeat any Internal Revenue Code tax (including the tax on distilled spirits) and is subject to a fine of up to $100,000, imprisonment for up to 5 years, or a combination of the two, as well as the costs of prosecution. A person who has property subject to tax, or raw materials and/or equipment for the production of such property, in his or her possession for the purpose of selling or removing it in violation of the Internal Revenue Code may be arrested and have that property forfeited to the United States under the provisions of 26 U.S.C 7301. In addition, any property (including airplanes, cars, and boats) used to convey or serve as a container for such goods or materials may be confiscated and forfeited to the United States of America under certain circumstances.

The legislation further states that it is prohibited to hold any property that is intended for use, or that has been used, in violation of the Internal Revenue Code, and that no property rights shall exist in any property that falls under this category.

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