Distilling your own alcohol for commercial purposes at home is illegal in the United States at a federal level. No matter what a state’s law may say, you cannot manufacture your own alcohol if you plan to make it available for sale. Federal law does allow private citizens to own a still to make non-alcohol products, such as perfume and fuel, as long as they have the correct license. Many states have their own laws regarding distilling alcohol for personal use.
It is legal to distill alcohol in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Rhode Island. Iowa has no laws about distilling homemade alcohol, so it isn’t explicitly illegal there.
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 Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
If you want to begin distilling your own alcohol at home, you need to understand your state’s laws. It would benefit you to consult with a lawyer who is familiar with how the courts interpret the laws in your particular state. Some states allow residents to own a distillery if they have a license. However, this is a conundrum because you 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. This whiskey was sold to people desperate for a drink, many of whom became severely sick and even died as a result.
There are states that 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 to ensure that you do not put yourself in danger of facing a lawsuit. 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. If you have a goal to 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.