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Making Liquor Legally at Home

Originally published on January 11, 2016

Author Victoria Redhed Miller

Today's blog post comes to us from Victoria Redhed Miller, the author of the book, Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home.

This unique resource shows you everything you need to know to get started crafting top-quality spirits on a small scale.

In the post Victoria shares her struggles to not only make liquor legally at home but how, once realizing there was not a reasonable way for an individual to legally distill liquor at home, she engaged in the process of changing the law.

Back in November 2012, I applied for a Craft Distillery license in my home state of Washington. I wasn't interested in opening a commercial distillery; as an experienced home brewer, I simply wanted to learn a new skill and to do it legally.

I thought it was going to be easy. I thought that the Washington State Liquor Control Board was going to pat me on the back for going to the trouble to get a license, even though I only wanted to distill liquor as a hobby. Since I was NOT going to opening a commercial distillery, I also imagined that somehow the licensing process was going to be easier. Boy, was I wrong!

 

The stainless-steel boiling pot, showing the ball valve drain and fitting for thermometer near the bottom.

In most of the world today, including the United States and Canada, it is illegal to distill liquor without a license. (In the US, distillers must have a Federal permit as well as a state license.) What I didn't know was that I was the first person in Washington to apply for a distillery license as a private individual, and that I was inadvertently exposing a major flaw in the system: there is simply no provision in the law for someone like me. That is, the licensing system is completely biased toward commercial distilleries. The bottom line is that I am required to have a license to distill liquor, but they won't give me one unless I open a commercial distillery.

I could have left it at that. I could have decided at that point to give it up, and either not distill liquor at all, or else quietly pursue the hobby illegally. Instead, I am actively engaged in the process of changing the laws, both state and Federal, to allow limited home production of distilled liquor while making it a lot easier for hobbyists to do so legally. The current laws, most of which date back to around the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, no longer make sense given that we are allowed to make beer and wine at home legally. The Liquor Control Board had no idea of this until I applied for the license!

 

My 2-liter essential oil distiller.

This isn't just about making booze. It's about shining the light of reason on unfair, outdated laws and having them make sense for everyone. I don't believe unrestricted production of alcohol is the answer, but continuing to make it impossible for enthusiastic hobbyists to pursue their passion legally is definitely not the answer.

My little stillhouse, converted from a shed I originally built for, well, pigs.

I wrote Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home in part to clarify all the legal issues involved, as well as to make my case for why the laws should be changed. Most of the book is about how to make top-quality distilled liquor, though, and a lot more. Even if you aren't interested in pursuing distilling as a hobby, by understanding something about the process that goes into making liquor, you'll appreciate your next shot of Scotch or bourbon a little bit more. I promise.

My first bottle of homemade rum! It’s worth investing in nice labels.

Victoria Redhed Miller is also the author of Pure Poultry: Living Well with Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks

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