Legal Notes of Home Distilling

February 7, 2011

I had said before that distilling alcohol is illegal here in the United States because of safety reasons due to fusel alcohols. However, on my recent trip to Pacific Distillery, they believe it is illegal to distill without a license has to do with taxation. They said that tax on beer and wine is low at $0.05 for a 12 oz beer can, $0.21 for a 750 mL wine bottle, but hard alcohol is charged $2.14 for 750 mL of 80 proof spirit.  I calculated that tax per serving, so it is still $0.05 for beer, about $0.04 for a serving of wine, and $0.13 per serving of hard alcohol. So in the government’s mind, the tax revenue lost to homebrewers is small, but the tax revenue lost to home distillers would be massive.

However, in New Zealand, spirit sales were down, and due to some loopholes in the law, the cost of enforcing distillation laws were becoming too costly, so in 1996, New Zealand made home distillation legal. What happened? Pacific Distillery said spirit sales soared (I have been unable to confirm this), and tax revenue went up. Speculation is that people began buying more out of stores to taste test against their own products, just like how there are probably more breweries in areas where there are more homebrewers: people want to see what other people do. I actually expect something like this phenomenon to happen with the increase of home cheese making to drive sales up in craft cheeses.

Further reading:

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4 Responses to “Legal Notes of Home Distilling”

  1. Rainier Distillers Says:

    Great article


  2. […] I recently finished reading Chasing the White Dog by Max Watman, published in 2010. “White dog” is the term used for unaged whiskey, as all distilled spirits are clear until they have been aged in wood barrels, which is when the spirit turns gold. Watman takes you through moonshine history, research, interviews, and his own attempts at making moonshine. And when I say “moonshine,” I mean not licensed for distilling. […]


  3. […] to be regulated for health and safety. The stuff a hobbyist would make isn’t for profit, and he argues that it should be legalized. He says that with the way current laws are written, where one household can make not sellable 300 […]


  4. Nice! Thank you for sharing!


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