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January 11, 2013

Is Making Moonshine Legal?

Know Your Rights - Moonshine Laws

Unless the thought of digging ditches with chains around your ankles is appealing, you better read this article on the legalities of making moonshine very closely. There are federal and state laws regulating home distilling. To avoid trouble with the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and officials, you'll need to comply with federal and state laws, as well as any local laws. We'll summarize federal laws in this article, which are important to know. However, also be sure to check out laws regulating distillation for your state.

Federal Distillation Laws

Federal law states that it is legal to own a still of any size. It doesn't matter if you have a 1 gallon still or a 100 gallon still. According to the feds, it is legal to have a still for decoration, distilling water, distilling essential oils, etc. The still does not need to be registered with anyone and no permits are needed as long as it is being used for the aforementioned purposes. However, be advised it is illegal to distill alcohol without having either a "distilled spirits permit" or a "federal fuel alcohol permit." It does not matter if the alcohol is for personal use only, not for sale, etc. 

A common misconception is that only stills 1 gallon and smaller are legal. This is not true. Actual law merely states that stills 1 gallon or less that are not being used to distill alcohol are not tracked by the TTB (see more on this below. It is perfectly legal to own a still larger than 1 gallon so long as it is not being used to distill alcohol or it is permitted to be used for distilling fuel alcohol or spirits.

Federal Distilled Spirits & Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit

If a person wishes to legally distill alcohol, they have two options. The first option is to obtain a Federal Distilled Spirits Permit. This is the permit that industry giants like Jack Daniels and Makers Mark distilleries possess, which makes it legal for them to distill and distribute to the public. As one might imagine, this permit is very difficult to get.

In short, unless you're opening a distillery with the intention of selling your product in liquor stores, don't even bother looking into getting a distilled spirits permit; it's way too expensive and complicated for a home distiller to obtain. Instead pursue a fuel alcohol permit (which we'll describe next).

Option two is a Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit (link below), which is free and easy to get. We've never heard of anyone being denied the permit and have never heard of anyone even being checked up on. Just be advised that the feds will expect that you're putting your alcohol in you lawnmower, and not drinking it!

Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit

Here's the link for the federal fuel alcohol permit: If you happen to build a Clawhammer Supply moonshine still kit, you'll write "Clawhammer Supply" in the manufacturer line and your order number for the serial number (e.g. "6601"). List the type as a "pot still." The capacity is the size of boiler (i.e. 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 10 gallon, etc...).

Note, if you're not planning to use your still for alcohol you do not need to get a permit or register the still with the federal government. Federal rules state that stills only need to be reported / registered if the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau asks the manufacturer to do so (more on this below). Though, again, if you are using it to distill alcohol, you will want to get a federal fuel alcohol permit (or a spirit distillers permit, if that's what you're using it for).

State Distillation Laws

State distilling law is different in every state. Some states have no laws on owning a still, but prohibit the distillation of alcohol (such as Colorado, which charges a small fine if one is caught doing so) while other states prohibit possession of a still unless it's for fuel alcohol (such as North Carolina, which requires a state fuel alcohol permit). Some states may prohibit possession of distillation equipment and distilling altogether. You'll need to Google the laws in your state to find out.

Still Registration and Reporting

Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulations state that still manufacturers need to keep customer info. Additionally, these records may also be requested by the federal TTB and still manufacturers are required to submit them if asked. 

How to Stay Out of Trouble

Federal law provides no exemptions for the production of distilled spirits for personal or family use. Under no circumstances should you ever distil or sell alcohol without a permit. If you choose to distill alcohol, make sure to obtain all applicable fuel or spirit permits (listed above). Additionally, check your state laws and make sure that owning and / or operating a still is permissible.

Click here to read the actual federal laws on the subject of distillation.

  • Am wanting to purchase your spice kits but you want ship to North Carolina. It’s not alcohol it’s spices so why can’t you ship to North Carolina. Btw email is lower case letters. Love your site keep up the good work.

    Posted by Steve on October 11, 2017
  • I live in Missouri and is it correct that in the show me state I’m not required to have a permit to distil alcohol up to 200 gallons a year as long as I’m twenty one years of age and I don’t sell any of my moonshine but rather that I keep it in the family?

    Posted by Pjilip on September 17, 2017
  • I’m considering getting a ttb permit for a distilled spirits plant, but I cannot find any information on whether I can use a homemade still for commercial production. Any help? Thanks!

    Posted by Jim on August 08, 2017
  • Your stills are awesome and very easy to put together and fun also, I’ve used the 5 gallon still about 6 times, and by triple distilling I got 180 proof, as I stated I’ve used it about 6 times reason being not because of the still, but faulty wires, my house burnt down lost everything including the still so I will be in the market very soon for another still, so until then…your stills are awesome…

    Posted by Donn on August 03, 2017
  • Do you ship still to Canada?

    Posted by Brad on October 23, 2016
  • I live in Tennessee, Monroe County. I bought one of popcorn Suttons stills and use it at demonstration shows. Do I need some sort of permit or registratin or whatever, to own this still and use it at shows. i do not distill anything.’

    Posted by bill leistner on September 27, 2016
  • Folks, it’s PERFECTLY LEGIT TO MAKE BEER, WINE, AND MEAD IN FLORIDA. it’s a homebrewer-friendly state. You can ferment, you just cannot distill.


    Fla. Stat. §562.165
    (1) Notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary, a person who is not prohibited by §562.111 from possessing alcoholic beverages may produce beer for personal or family use, and not for sale, in the amounts provided in this section without payment of taxes or fees or without a license. The aggregate amount of such beer permitted to be produced with respect to any household shall be as follows:
    (a) Not in excess of 200 gallons per calendar year if there are two or more such persons in such household.
    (b) Not in excess of 100 gallons per calendar year if there is only one such person in such household.

    (2) Notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary, a person who is not prohibited by §562.111 from possessing alcoholic beverages may produce wine for personal or family use, and not for sale, in the amounts provided in this section without payment of taxes or fees or without a license. The aggregate amount of such wine permitted to be produced with respect to any household shall be as follows:
    (a) Not in excess of 200 gallons per calendar year if there are two or more such persons in such household.
    (b) Not in excess of 100 gallons per calendar year if there is only one such person in such household.

    (3) Any personal or family production of beer or wine in excess of the amount permitted in this section or any sale of such alcoholic beverages constitutes a violation of the Beverage Law.

    (4) Wine and beer made under the provisions of this section may be removed from the premises where made for personal or family use, including use at organized affairs, exhibitions, or competitions, such as homemakers’ contests, tastings, or judgings. Wine or beer used under this subsection shall not be sold or offered for sale.

    Posted by Andrew Jennings on March 01, 2016
  • Hi I live in Canada and was curious about the shipping if you can contact me that would be great, thanks

    Posted by KEvin on January 04, 2016
  • Can a person purchase grain alcohol, then further distill it? The federal tax would have been paid if you purchase the grain alcohol from a legal entity.

    Posted by Chele on December 22, 2015
  • If a person were to be looking for a still in Canada, would you guys be able to sell it to them? Any idea on Canadian laws, etc.?

    Posted by David on November 08, 2015
  • I’m am going to make a legal distillery making moonshine

    Posted by ERic on September 16, 2015
  • Pair mass work off as I grind is this bad. Do I need to kill off this batera

    Posted by swiss on September 15, 2015
  • Oregon’s Reg’s

    Production of Alcohol for Fuel
    ORS 471.403 prohibits the distilling of alcoholic
    liquor without a license. Producers of alcohol for fuel
    will not violate ORS 471.403 if they comply with the
    following requirements:
    (1) Any person who produces motor fuels containing
    distilled spirits must possess a Federal Alcohol Fuel
    Producer’s Permit, pursuant to Title 27, CFR, Section
    19.935, and must comply with all pertinent federal
    regulations in effect as of January 1, 1984.
    (2) Prior to beginning operation, the person must
    furnish the Commission with a copy of the Alcohol
    Fuel Producer’s Permit and a copy of the application
    for the permit.
    (3) Alcohol produced or held under the permit
    may not be used, sold or made available for human
    [Publications: Publications referenced are available
    from the agency.]
    Stat. Auth.: ORS 471 & ORS 472, including ORS
    471.030, 471.730(1) & (5), 472.030, 472.060(1) & (2)
    Stats. Implemented: ORS 471.205 & ORS 471.730(8)
    Hist.: LCC 14-1979, f. 8-27-79, ef. 8-29-79;
    Renumbered from 845-010-0785; LCC 1-1984, f. &
    ef. 4-3-84; OLCC 6-2003, f. 4-25-03, cert. ef. 5-1-03

    Posted by John on September 15, 2015
  • What can I do to help the cause?. How can I get a permit in Massachusetts to distill ethanol? I only make 12 gallons of 65% abv per month.

    Posted by Lucas on September 13, 2015
  • Here’s the site for getting a fuel alcohol permit in the State of Tennessee:

    Posted by Robert on February 06, 2015
  • Please add me to e- mail list

    Posted by Charley Watkins on November 13, 2014
  • i would like to know all the laws regulationd on making selling owning ect alckoholl and all liqers and equtment i am wanting to start making but i want evrething on my end to be legel so can you send me all the inf on evrething pleas and thank you

    Posted by earnest on November 08, 2014
  • Your site is awesome. Love the history of it all and hope to purchase a personal still one day.

    Posted by Mark Hanmer on October 21, 2014
  • this is to clawhammer& need reply. can I distill seawater to use as my mashing water? really need to know yes or no.

    Posted by bill on September 25, 2014
  • Since I, too, am a lazy slug and don’t have the time or inclination to pore through mounds of law books, I have taken the liberty to provide the following link to the Home Distiller’s Association which provides information for those of us who live in Florida and may want to make a small batch or two of home-made spirits. The bottom line is that it’s ILLEGAL to own a still in Florida unless you pay a $4,000 fee to the State for a Craft Distiller’s permit. Outrageous.

    Posted by Dan Colley on June 14, 2014

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