Legal Considerations

......When considering the possibility of making or buying a small still for the production of spirits at home, or even reading about it, people need to feel comfortable about it. There are two concerns: one is the possible danger to health while the other is the question of legality. In a separate menu item we discuss health matter quite thoroughly and show that there is not the slightest danger. In the present section we discuss the question of legality.

......The first thing to appreciate is that the law on home distillation is based on a completely false premise, a false premise resulting from misinformation fed to politicians and civil servants. They are seldom chemists, biotechnicians or chemical engineers and cannot be expected to be knowledgeable on a technical subject, so they simply parrot what has been handed down to them by previous generations. However, the advent of the Internet enable you and millions of people like you worldwide to understand the subject of distillation so well that you can no longer be fobbed off with myth, folklore and childish superstition.

......What is this mythology and folklore and what are the facts? We'll deal with them individually and in point order.
1. Myth.


2. Myth.


3. Myth.

Distillation makes a particularly strong and virulent type of alcohol so must be controlled.

Distillation doesn't make alcohol. It never has, never will, and is incapable of doing so. This .is worth repeating ----distillation doesn't make alcohol. Alcohol is made by fermentation, a perfectly harmless pursuit as millions of beer- and wine-makers will testify.

Distillation produces stronger alcohol (this is true), and the stronger the alcohol the more likely it is to affect your health and lead to drunkenness and unruly behaviour (this is the myth). Therefore it must be controlled.

Alcohol strength is irrelevant. It is the quantity of alcohol consumed which matters, witness the fact that 85% of people pulled over for drinking and driving have been drinking beer, not spirits. The same goes for the hooliganism at sporting events so common in Europe ---the fans drink can-after-can-after-can-after-can of 5% beer until the quantity consumed adds up to a large amount of alcohol. (This is not meant as a criticism of beer-drinkers, we love beer,-----it merely points to the irrelevancy of alcohol strength.

Making it legal for amateurs to distill spirits would lead to a loss of sales by commercial distillers, the laying-off of employees, and loss of tax revenue to the government.

To be cynical about it, a potential loss of tax revenue is a very powerful motivating force.with governments and the most likely reason for the ban on home distilling. The fact is that in.New Zealand, in the years leading up to the lifting of the ban (1996) sales of spirits had been steadily declining. The same is true of many other countries. But in New Zealand, as.soon as amateurs were free to distill their own spirits there was an immediate rise in.commercial sales. (And also a rise in tax revenues of course).

The reason for this surprising turn of events is attributed to the upsurge in interest in spirits which occurred as soon as it became a hobby. It was no longer a remote commercial enterprise but something for fun-loving youth and hobbyists to get their teeth into.

The realization that hobby distilling poses no more problems than beer-making and wine-making, and should be afforded exactly the same rights and freedoms without fear of prosecution, has been slow to come about but is finally taking hold. New Zealand led the way in 1996 but other countries undoubtedly will follow suit as soon as the light dawns.

......The most important example of this trend, a very significant trend, can be found in the United States where a bill is currently before Congress --- (Bill H.R. 3249) designed to legalize home distilling. It was sponsored by Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan and has been referred to the Ways and Means committee. Its progress can be followed by reference to

.. .. So------ a lifting of the ban is quite likely to occur in the near future, and those of you who have a yen to indulge in this hobby can start to feel quite comfortable at the thought. It is no longer a heinous crime on a par with mugging old ladies and child abuse. Governments are finally waking up to the fact that it is a perfectly innocuous activity (which might even bring in a little tax revenue!) so if you anticipate the actual date of legalization by a day or two it would be quite understandable.