If you want to create your own booze, I have good news for you: With home distilling kits widely available online and an abundance of of information about how to make liquor through books and websites, it’s easier than ever to make hooch at home.
But there’s still one problem for all you aspiring Jasper Newton Daniels out there: It’s a federal crime to distill liquor at home for personal consumption.
Of course, it shouldn’t be that way. At a time when millions of people make their own beer and wine and the legalization of pot in many states has also opened the door for people to grow their own cannabis, the federal law against home distilling seems like an antiquated holdover from the prohibition era. While the authorities point to the fact that these regulations have been put in place to protect consumers – it can be dangerous after all to make liquor at home without the proper precautions – most home distilling enthusiasts believe the real reason both the state and federal governments haven’t changed the law is fear of what such a change would have on the billions of dollars in tax revenue liquor sales generate every year across the country.
One only needs to look at the continued growth in demand for craft beer to realize this is a ridiculous argument. Not only has the craft beer industry exploded since home brewing was legalized in 1978, home production has also served as a training ground for many creative entrepreneurs who have helped reshape the craft beer and broader beer industry as a whole.
There have been signs of hope on the legislation front. Two years ago, a bill was brought up in Congress (H.R.2903) sponsored by Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen that would have legalized home distilling of liquor for personal consumption. The bill, which spawned a similar bill in the Senate (S.1562), was called the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of 2015 and was focused in large part on streamlining and reducing taxation of the burgeoning craft distillery market. Nestled in that bill was also a stipulation that would have made home distillation legal at the federal level.
While seeing fairly strong bipartisan support, both the House and Senate bills never made it out of committee. However, both the bills have been resurrected this year with the same sponsors of both the House and Senate, but the problem is both curiously left out the provisions for legalization of home distilling. Given the strong anti-legalization posture around marijuana coming from Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department, one has to wonder if the backers of these bills predicted strong headwinds against the legalization of home distilling under the Trump administration.
All of this ignores the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people that make their own spirits at home today. Home stills are legal to sell under the guise that people will make such concoctions as hop oils (which are legal), not spirits such as whiskey (currently illegal for home production). The reality is most people who buy home stills use them to make booze. The reason they can get away with it is local law enforcement have bigger fish to fry than chasing after home distillers (unless, of course, they sell their wares to others).
One possible route towards legalization in coming years could be at the state level. Missouri has already made it legal to make spirits at home, and given what we’ve seen in the cannabis world, there might be a movement towards doing so in spirits. There is also a push by home distilling interest groups to get language inserted in the current bills up for consideration to allow for home distillation, but so far there’s no sign that the sponsors of those bills will make any amendments.
Bottom line? If you want to make booze at home, you easily can, and soon there might even be innovation by some aspiring entrepreneurs to make doing so easier. Just make sure to tell anyone who asks that you’re making “essential oils”.