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Distilling FAQ

Answers about Hobby Distilling



Is distilling legal?
Yes, but there are many conditions. In the United States, Federal and state permits to distill alcohol is required by the TTB. Using a still for distilling water, essential oils extraction typically do not require federal permits. A federal permit for distilling fuel is simple to apply for and likely will not even have any fees. Check with you local and state authorities for regional laws for your area as their will be rules specific to your location on whether you can even own a still. While the hobby of making beer or wine at home is legal federally and allowed in many state jurisdictions, hobby distilling alcohol without a Federal excise tax license (distilling manufacturers license) is not legal. Applications for distilling alcohol fuel can be submitted on-line through the TTB online. Fuel application forms can also be found here or here.
Is it legal to own a still?
Yes, and a permit is not required by a federal agency. However, Title 26 - INTERNAL REVENUE CODE section 5179(a) Requires stills intended for alcohol manufacturing or recover to be registered. Many state authorities do have laws regarding licensing. PLEASE, Check with you local and state authorities for regional laws in your area as their may be rules specific to your location. ( additional resources here )
Do you report my name to a government agency when I purchase a still from Barley Haven?
NO. Part 29 of title 27, Code of Federal Regulations, requires manufacturers to report names of purchasers of stills to the TTB. We are a retailer, not a manufacturer, so we are not currently required to report your name to any federal or state authority. If this situation changes we will post updates here (last updated 05/11/2014).
Can I use the same still for both essential oils and alcohol?
No. If you are using your still to make essential oils, it is very important to know that the oils will remain on the surface walls inside the still and eventually form an oil crust. You should always clean all the parts of your still with warm water to prevent clogging. Once a still has been used to make essential oils or fuel, the still CAN NOT be used to make alcoholic spirits. Once a still has been used for distilling a product not fit for human consumption it can not be used for distilling alcohol or water. Denatured stills can not be used for essential oils for human consumption. A separate still is required for each distillation purpose.
How do I use a still to make essential oils? [ Also known as Steam Distilling ]
If you are steam distilling herbs such as lavender or hemp for extracting the essential oils, a reflux column is packed with the herbs and water is boiled in the distiller to extract the hydrosoluable oils of the botanicals. Use a metal mesh at both bottom and top of the distiller to hold the herbs in the column tower of the still.
Drinking moonshine will make you go blind.
NO. Ethyl alcohol is created during fermentation of sugars. Distilling concentrates the ethyl alcohol. Drinking moonshine will not make you go blind unless you added a toxic substance to it or used a totally inappropriate device to distill..like a radiator. The radiator myth originates from the prohibition era.

Another still common myth is about Methanol being present in moonshine. Methanol, also called methyl alcohol or wood alcohol, would not be present in your moonshine unless is was created during fermentation or was purposely added. Methanol is made from fermenting wood Don't ferment wood unless you want to make gas for your car. Methanol is poisonous to humans.

Fusel alcohols are what commonly increases the likelyhood of a bad hangover (on top of not drinking enough water). Fusel alcohols can be reduced during the fermentation process by using more complex sugars and selecting a better yeast strain for fermenting your wash.
I was told to dump the heads / foreshots / tails because they are "bad for you".
NO. This myth is inaccurate. The heads & tails are just lower in alcohol and not particularly flavorful. Dumping the tails is wasteful. Ideally you keep the tails to be distilled again with your next wash..or dump them if you don't care.
Making Alcohol Without Distilling
In countries where it is illegal to distill alcohol for consumption there is another option. You can ferment up to 20% ABV which is fine for many cocktails. Fermenting alcohol without distilling will leave behind some of the fermentation flavors which means you will produce a different flavor. Another option is to purchase vodka or grain spirit and use this alcohol with flavorings.


This information provided here is only to assist and educate, and should not be a substitute for legal advise from a lawyer regarding laws applicable to you in your state.

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