Is distilling legal if you’re just making it for personal consumption? NO. It is very much ILLEGAL.
I get these questions a lot. Why would they sell stills smaller than a gallon if they weren’t legal? It’s okay if I’m just making it for myself, right? But I’m not selling it, so it’s okay right? NO, IT IS NOT.
Here’s the legal info-
“You may not produce spirits for beverage purposes without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a distilled spirits plant. [See 26 U.S.C. 5601 & 5602 for some of the criminal penalties. You should also review our Home Distilling page.] There are numerous requirements that must be met that also make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use. Some of these requirements are filing an extensive application, filing a bond, providing adequate equipment to measure spirits, providing suitable tanks and pipelines, providing a separate building (other than a dwelling) and maintaining detailed records, and filing reports. All of these requirements are listed in 27 CFR Part 19.
Spirits may be produced for non-beverage purposes for fuel use only without payment of tax, but you also must file an application, receive TTB’s approval, and follow requirements, such as construction, use, records and reports.”
There you have it. In some states (like Missouri), the state law conflicts with the federal one, but federal trumps state, guys. You can buy a still to distill water or perfume, but not ethanol. You can buy a barrel to age store bought white whiskey (that you’ve paid taxes on), but you can NOT use them to age your own hooch. There are heavy fines and jail time involved if you are caught.
The “moonshine” that you see on store shelves is made legally by licensed distilleries. They’re assuming you think the name is cool. Unaged whiskey is clear “new make spirit”. It’s cheap to make and sell to you because it can be sold right off the still.
Laws are meant to be changed, but that’s something to take up with your congress(wo)man…