Will the ban on distilling spirits at home ever be lifted?kazani
“Since 2007, craft distilleries in America have tripled, currently sitting at well more than 1,000 nationwide”, according to C. Jarrett Dietlere in his article Home Brewing is Legal, And Home Distilling Should Be Too, which can be found at thefederalist.com.
Although laws concerning distillation vary from state to state, there is a federal ban in place on distilling spirits for consumption, even for personal use. Owning distillation equipment such as a copper pot still, however, is not illegal. This is because distillation stills could serve several other purposes: producing essential oils, distilling water for disinfection and the production of fuel alcohol to name a few.
There is a movement underway to reverse this ban. The ban is seen as outdated by many, and groups such as the Home Distillers Association are actively lobbying on Capitol Hill to reverse the ban. They want to add a provision to The Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act which would legalize home distillation. This would put home distillation on par with home wine making and beer brewing, which have been legal since 1978 when then president Jimmy Carter signed legislation allowing Americans to produce limited quantities of these beverages at home. The bill has yet to get a vote in Congress, despite numerous co-sponsors in both the House and Senate. As it stands anyway, the provision has not been added to the bill, which for the moment only serves to lower federal excise tax on alcohol.
Many of America’s over 5,000 microbreweries started with a couple of guys making beer in their garage. Since 1978 this allowed the explosion in microbreweries to take place. Through trial and error they mastered their craft until they had a sellable product. Logic would dictate that the same is happening in the craft spirit industry. The difference is that distillers are breaking the law, whereas brewers are not. This is why many feel the law needs to be changed. It’s stifling innovation and preventing the creation of middle class jobs.
The ban has had little effect on distillation equipment sales however, quite the contrary. Producers and sellers of distillation equipment have seen increased sales volume over the past several years as the craft spirits movement has blossomed. Manufacturers as far away as Serbia have even started to tap into the growing American market.
“This is our busiest time. It’s fruit harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s when everyone starts thinking about what to do with the harvest. We have definitely seen a growing number of sales coming from America”, says Momir Vujkovic, sales manager at DES, a factory which specializes in the production of copper pot stills in Subotica, Serbia. “And we are working with our partners in America to increase our presence in the American marketplace as much as possible”.
Despite having only recently started importing and selling those very same stills produced by DES, Bobby Bardossas of God’s Gift Distribution in New Jersey says the response was almost immediate. “As soon as we started advertising and launched the website, the orders started. There is an enormous growing interest in home distillation and craft spirits, not unlike the boom in home beer brewing of the past several decades. Plus pot stills have the added bonus of being multifunctional and are becoming more and more popular among homesteaders and those who decide to live off grid. For them a still can be an important tool for producing things they may otherwise have to buy. It can also be an asset which produces sellable products such as essential oils and can be used to defer fuel costs by producing fuel alcohol, another growing trend.
“We also have the attention of the Eastern European community here in America”, says Bardossas, the son of Greek immigrants himself. “Many immigrants who have come here, particularly from the Balkans, remember helping their fathers and grandfathers distill brandy from fermented fruit back in the old country. Maybe they even did it themselves. Now they have found success in America and want to remember and relive that experience here. It’s both a tradition and a bonding experience for many Eastern European cultures, and we really enjoy being a part of that.”
So will the ban on distilling spirits at home ever be lifted? Only time will tell. But while Congress dawdles on the matter and twiddles their thumbs, the craft spirit movement marches on!