Distilling your own alcohol at home is still illegal in the United States at a federal level, so no matter what a state’s law may say, you cannot manufacture your own alcohol. Federal law allows private citizens to own a still to make non-alcohol products, such as perfume and fuel, as long as you have the correct license. Many states have their own laws regarding distilling, and these laws may supersede federal laws.
If you want to begin distilling your own alcohol at home, you need to understand your own state’s laws and also consult with a lawyer who is familiar with how the courts interpret the laws. Some states allow residents to own a distillery if they have a license, but the conundrum is that they must obtain the license to purchase the distillery! Some states allow individuals to brew their own beer at home but in a limited amount so that they are not able to sell their homemade alcohol commercially. The primary purpose is safety; during the Prohibition era, people brewed whiskey that had toxic elements in it and sold it to people desperate for a drink. Many became severely sick and even died as a result.
Because homemade alcohol is not available for commercial use, it generally must be consumed at the residence where it is produced. Twenty-nine states allow individuals to transport their homemade alcohol products to a contest, such as at a fair, to be judged. Those states are:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
Some states allow owners of a vineyard to use their own grapes to produce wine. However, to sell wine commercially, a license has to be obtained. Again, getting legal advice that is specific to the state is the best option moving forward to ensure that a lawsuit is not forthcoming. Laws often contain technical language and references to other requirements, so trying to interpret them on your own, unless you have experience in law, can quickly become confusing.
The bottom line is that while we live in a free country that values individual liberty over government interference, distilling laws exist to protect people from consuming alcohol that may be poisonous. Instead of philosophizing about whether you should or shouldn’t be able to operate your own distillery, the best idea is to talk with a lawyer to make sure that you don’t run into trouble.