Making your own food and drink at home may sound very enticing to you as it is to many of us – but sometimes there are laws regarding what you can and cannot make.
Moonshine has a very long and complex history, especially when it comes to Federal laws about distilling it at home.
Due to the complexity of moonshine laws, it can be very difficult to know where you stand legally on the issue, so we’ve decided to try to clear it up.
We’ve written this handy guide to try to clear up some of the confusion. So, if you’re hoping to start making your own homemade moonshine – read this first!
What Is Moonshine?
Moonshine is a very high proof alcohol that is usually created without authorization from the Government. In fact, normally you will see moonshine at around 80 proof.
The word itself “moonshine” is likely given to this drink due to the way in which it was made and trafficked at night time to avoid the authorities.
It rose in fame and popularity throughout prohibition in the US and was usually made from homemade stills – this practice continues today from people making the drink in mountains or basements.
The drink can be made with many different fruits or grain but typically people will make moonshine using corn. This is because corn is very abundant and is a great source of fermentable sugar.
Whilst moonshine is normally 40% ABV – the drink is usually created without any expert assistance and therefore the percentages of ABV/proof will alter wildly.
This is part of the reason why creating your own moonshine is illegal and certainly not advised, but there is a lot more to it than that.
Why Is Moonshine Illegal In The United States?
So there are a few reasons for the illegality of making your own moonshine in the United States.
The first reason is likely a continuation from the prohibition era which allows the United States Government to try to protect its people from organized crime gangs and the problems that arise from that.
However, as we briefly mentioned – it’s much more likely that the Government continues to keep homemade moonshine illegal due to its dangers.
Not only is moonshine very high in alcohol content, which is dangerous in itself, but untrained distillers (and residents nearby) are in danger of random explosions and those that drink the alcohol could potentially suffer things such as:
- Severe vomiting
- Extreme alcohol poisoning
- Instant death
As you may have guessed, these risks are significant and therefore the Government continues to keep moonshine illegal – however, there is a loophole.
The Legal Loophole With Moonshine In The US
Technically speaking, moonshine is simply a homemade, illegally distilled spirit. The reason for it being illegally distilled is because the people that are making it have not requested and received a permit.
Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable and legal to request a permit from the authorities to produce your own moonshine. However, they may request an inspection and several pieces of evidence to prove your competency.
You may also be told that you cannot sell your own product, without the right permits of course.
Other than this loophole, there is no legal right for you to make your own moonshine in the United States and the laws explained by the Alcohol And Tobacco Tax Bureau (TTB) are quite clear on this. They say:
- Those that commit offenses may face five years in prison and/or pay a $10,000 penalty
- It is illegal to possess an unregistered still
- You must not engage in any business with an unregistered distiller
- Any homemade distilling will require a permit and authorization
- The purchase, receipt or delivery of unauthorized alcohol without paying the excise tax is illegal
- Evading the payment of tax on the above is illegal
Does This Mean I Can Buy Moonshine?
You can technically buy commercial moonshine but they will not be anywhere near the level of prohibition era moonshine, and it will not be close to illegally produced moonshine.
However, this is not exactly a bad thing because you can be sure that what you are drinking has been tried and tested with evidence of safety.
Is Moonshine Illegal Everywhere?
Not quite. Most countries have legal standpoints on the homemade creation of moonshine but one country we know has no illegalities on moonshine is New Zealand.
This is because New Zealand has not made it illegal for any homemade spirit distilling.
What Type Of Alcohol Is Moonshine?
It’s not exactly clear what alcohol moonshine is, however a variety and a number of experts have agreed that they believe moonshine is likely a homemade and unaged whiskey.
This is probably because the ingredients that are used in the making of moonshine are very similar to that of whiskey, as well as the distilling process.
What Types Of Alcohol Are Out There?
Moonshine can come in a variety of different flavors. Some of the most common to see are:
- Blackberry – this is the most common and absolute classic flavor when it comes to moonshine. As a result, many will use it as a summer cocktail.
- Apple – if you’re looking for a sweet citric kick to your alcoholic beverage, why not add a cider twist to proceedings.
- Peppermint – peppermint is one of the most overlooked flavors for moonshine but it makes it ideal for winter cocktails.
The Bottom Line
Whilst it is illegal to make, produce and sell moonshine in the United States without a permit and authorization – this does not mean that you cannot purchase moonshine entirely.
You can still purchase commercial moonshine and enjoy the beverage legally, even though it is not exactly the same as moonshine that is produced illegally.
We hope this guide has helped clear up some of the myths from the facts.