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January 11, 2013

Is Making Moonshine Legal?

Unless the thought of digging ditches with chains around one's ankles is appealing, potential distillers 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, distillers 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 at the state level.

Federal Distillation Laws

Federal law states that it is legal to own a still of any size. It doesn't matter if an individual has a 1 gallon still or a 100 gallon still. According to federal law, 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). According to federal law, It is 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 Permits

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 an individual is opening a distillery with the intention of selling their 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). Be advised that the conditions of the permit only allow a distiller to use the alcohol they produce for fuel purposes, not for consumption.

Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit

Here's the link for the federal fuel alcohol permit: For those that happen to build a copper still kit or purchase a stainless distiller from Clawhammer Supply, they'll write "Clawhammer Supply" in the manufacturer line and their order number for the serial number (e.g. "6601") on a sticker that is supplied with the equipment. List the type as a "pot still." The capacity is the size of boiler (i.e. 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 10 gallon, etc...). This will be the identifying information for the still.

Note, those not planning to use their still for alcohol 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). However, for those who are going to use the equipment to distill alcohol, the use your order number (which is also your serial number) on all permit paperwork.

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. Google state laws to find the rules and regulations in your state. Also, make sure to comply with these rules and regulations.

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 an individual ever distill or sell alcohol without a permit. If an individual chooses to distill alcohol, make sure to obtain all applicable fuel or spirit permits (listed above). Additionally, check state laws and make sure that owning and / or operating a still is permissible. Clawhammer distillation equipment is designed for legal uses only. Read our complete legal summary for more information on the legalities of distillation. And make sure to hire a legal professional to help you navigate the permitting process because this information on this website is not intended to be relied upon by anyone as the basis for any action or decision whatsoever.

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

  • I would like to start a micro distillery what is the best way to get this started in North Carolina?

    Posted by James on October 17, 2022
  • Hey Jeeze, the 10th amendment gives a state the right to govern itself.

    Posted by J on December 08, 2021
  • Which parts have the serial numbers on them?

    Posted by Bobio on March 16, 2021
  • Does this stuff ship to Canada.Is it legal?

    Posted by Brian on November 30, 2020
  • I’m all for legalizing home distilling. Let me know what the fee’s will be

    Posted by Eldon on December 02, 2020
  • I was behind trying to get home distilling through Congress has there been any new talk of trying again . I have sent emails to rep.s have not heard from them yet

    Posted by Eldon on December 02, 2020
  • Moonshiners to the rescue in this pandemic. Make the alcohol and sell it to disinfect and to prevent the spread of the covi19 virus. We have to take care of each other and now is our chance.

    Posted by Dave on May 26, 2020
  • Love all the comments folks…heree is mine…Let All.. Americans just Do It..Make Our Own Moonshine/Alcohol…then what? We need to come together as our forfather did and protest all laws and regulations that forbid Us a Free Right…such as bootlegging..this Capitalism is bullshit and the 10% only being the ones getting rich and the politics behide it is all wrong…Protesting and Uniting is the only way to Change the Laws….

    Posted by Bob on April 28, 2020
  • Well how do I apply for a personal use disstiller permit

    Posted by Craig Green on April 22, 2020
  • I have found wevils in my mash grain . Should I THROW Away or use it anyway. thanks ,rwk

    Posted by on March 16, 2020
  • >>>I live in Missouri and is it correct…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?<<<<

    Maybe but federal law supercedes State law. Didn’t that occur to you???


    Posted by John on February 25, 2020
  • Grandma loves my apple pie made with a touch of apple shine, but she strictly forbids any of the grandkids from drinking alcohol,,

    Posted by Amish Al on December 13, 2019
  • If im mowing the lawn am I considered to be the lawnmower lol

    Posted by BOozer on November 25, 2019
  • It’s a shame we fight for our country and we die for our country we let aliens in any change the law you can’t do that it’s just not America what the hell is going on stop the government that’s stopping us big breweries and the congressman’s with all the money back and that’s stopping us you’re not free in America you still have somebody to tell you what to do until that day is over with you can forget it
    Posted by p/b roger on November 18, 2019
  • Paul Pantone GEET fuel system runs on 12 percent alcohol. Engine is the still ! See YouTube😃 yeast water sugar ferment. When done dump it all in the bubbler that next goes up center of exhaust through reactor pipe on to engine water and all check this out.

    Posted by Gerard Dugas on September 11, 2019
  • Where can I find a lawnmower that runs on apple moonshine? will pay shipping

    Posted by George on July 01, 2019
  • bootlegging is still happening as moonshine permits are 100 k or more

    Posted by on March 27, 2019
  • Don’t you have to make reports and keep records of production and use with a Federal Fuel Alcohol permit?

    Posted by Kras on November 27, 2018
  • best place to buy still 1 to 5 gal.

    Posted by carson on June 18, 2018
  • So is this : Grow your own, OR own your groan?

    Posted by Juanno on May 21, 2018

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