In the time of night, when moonshiners come out to produce clear whiskey called Moonshine. The question that strikes them is, is Moonshine legal in the U.S.? Will they face any issues or criminal charges for their actions?
The product of distillation and producing uncaged whiskey still that has a corn base and high content of alcohol is called Moonshine. The reason for its unique name comes from the process of making it. It is usually done under the moon’s light, hence called Moonshine. The Moonshine still kit is an apparatus used to produce it. However, its legality is still under question.
It all seems fun and games until Alcohol, and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau comes in to tell you whether producing Moonshine is legal or not. To understand the issue, let’s start by discussing the history of copper moonshine still and what it means.
History of Moonshine
The history of Moonshine is as old as the United States itself and holds a special place in the heart of all Americans. It is something very close to the culture of America and tied to the character of citizens of states.
The term moonshiner came from the word moonshine; the definition is simple: people who participate in producing are called moonshiners. The term picked heat in the 1880s when the practice of concealing illegal alcohol and transporting it was at an all-time high. Bootleggers are termed smugglers who perform the task of transportation.
Moreover, bootleggers transported the Moonshine at night to avoid getting caught and raced through the roads. Accordingly, they developed such excellent driving skills that they started running as a fun hobby. Soon it got severe, and bootleggers developed a love for racing that transformed into the art culture in the Southern United States. It eventually became the reason for forming the NASCAR racing series. Surprisingly, the first NASCAR race winner was Red Byron, who got his skills as a moonshine runner.
Alcohol is mainly produced by distilling grain; however, the earliest moonshiners used rye or barley. For 150 years, Moonshine in the United States has been made from corn.
Is Moonshine Still illegal Today in the U.S.?
The short answer to this is it is illegal. However, it has more depth than you think.
Everyone believes Moonshine still is illegal. However, this is a different story. Neither Moonshine is illegal nor having a still is illegal. The phenomenon is complex, but let’s start with some background.
Moonshine is a beautiful drink that you will see in stores near you. Moreover, owning any still in America is perfectly legal. The apparatus can be used for much more than just producing whiskey. It all boils down to how you use your home distilling kit.
Moreover, distilling liquor at home becomes illegal if you don’t have the proper permit. Any alcohol production intended for distribution and sale is regulated by federal authorities and the state. And the law explains that everyone trying to produce something of their own must have a permit, which is very expensive and hard to get because it can be dangerous.
Why is Moonshine Still Illegal?
By now, you may have understood that producing any distilled spirit is considered illegal in the U.S., but what makes Moonshine still unlawful is a topic to understand.
For a layperson, it might seem unreasonable for the government to make distillation illegal. However, once you start digging into the matter, things get interesting. One of the core reasons for restrictions on Moonshine is because of taxes.
Right after the American Revolution, when the government wanted money and was desperate, they started charging taxes on everything. Alcohol was their giant money magnet. However, the moonshine distiller didn’t like this idea and did everything to avoid paying taxes. Things began to get serious, and it led to the Whiskey Rebellion. George Washington led a crackdown against farmers who were against paying taxes.
Then came the Civil War Era, which made producing Moonshine without paying taxes, an illegal activity. In 1862, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) officially passed the 1862 Revenue Act. This act imposed taxes on many things, alcohol being one of them. Moreover, distilling without a permit became even more difficult.
Since this act was passed, making spirits in American homes without proper permits has been illegal. So if you are such a big fan of producing uncaged whiskey at home, getting a permit might be your only option.
There are some states, like Missouri, where one can produce up to 100 gallons of spirits per year. Yet, it is not worth taking the risk as things only go downhill from here. The state law might save you, but the mightier federal law will eventually catch you and make your life troublesome.
Federal Distilled Permit
This type of permit states that you want to start a business producing and selling alcohol to beloved Americans. It is the permit used by big companies like Jack Daniels etc. But, it is not something easy to get your hands on with home distilling equipment.
The process is quite complicated and will cost you time and money. Moreover, the success ratio of getting such a permit is significantly less. So it is better not to waste your precious time and move on to the following type of permit.
Fuel Alcohol Permit
In this case, there might be better permits to get, but it is still worth something. As the name suggests, this permit allows you to use the produced alcohol as fuel for your lawnmower or something else and not in your body.
Remember that this permit will only save you if you are distilling for equipment rather than yourself. It can be helpful if you plan on making ethanol a fuel for running your gas-powered goods.
Nonetheless, it opens doors for you to make perfumes, essential oils, and even distilled waters. Just let the authorities know, and everything will be perfect. Also, before getting a permit, get information related to your state to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Is Moonshine Dangerous?
You have now understood Moonshine’s history, legality, and why it is illegal. Now, let’s dive into why the government is against this harmless white drink or if it is just a hoax.
According to the federal government, all this is done for the safety of the consumers. For starters, it is a challenging task to play with chemicals and produce whiskey. The toxic heavy metal particles can negatively affect the health of moonshiner. There have been some cases of people going blind or even blowing up the copper still.
As for alcohol, we all know it has had a bad rap because of its danger. Homemade Moonshine still strengthens whiskey and affects your health even more negatively. But this is an argument for another day.
Some moonshiners believe this is all fake agenda by the governments to charge us filthy taxes on our fun time pass.
What Makes Moonshine Different?
Suppose one could buy alcohol or whiskey from any nearby liquor store. Then why go the extra mile of producing something independently and participating in illegal activity? The reason for this is many. For starters, the apparent difference between something made in a sanitized environment and made in the woods.
Secondly, the primary difference between these two whiskeys is aging. After producing Moonshine, it is bottled and distributed among buyers. Thus, it is clear and looks like water. In contrast, the commercial whiskey has a golden color to it. It happens because of the aging process that the whiskey goes through. It is kept for several years in oak barrels. Moreover, it mellows the liquor. On the other hand, Moonshine has a better kick to it.
By law, commercial Moonshine is now considered legal, whereas the story for individual production is different. Since the 1970s, producing beer or wine for one’s use has become OK. But can supply or sell it to others commercially.
Crafting beer and distilling alcohol might be the same process. It is not the case; working with a home distilling kit requires precision and being careful. The government only imposes such regulations to make it safe for U.S. citizens. But only some listen to them, as people still keep producing uncaged homemade and selling them to others.
Even though it is legal in some states to produce and distribute whiskey, the suspension by Federal Law makes it useless to make Moonshine on one’s own. You may face jail time if you get caught producing or transporting Moonshine. According to federal law, offenders can face up to 10 years in prison. Moreover, the government can also forfeit the land used for illegal activities.