Can you re-distill spirits in the US legally?

For the most part the distillation of alcohol is a no-no in the US. But if you start with distilled alcohol already, which taxes were already paid, and re-distill it would that be legal or even a gray area?

And that was suppose to be in GQ, so please treat it as such till it can get moved (self reported for the move)


Moved to GQ.

You are allowed to distill a limited amount of alcohol for use as fuel. I’m sure you can keep the fuel for a while, and you’d probably need some kind of quality control procedure to periodically make sure the fuel hadn’t lost potency.

Like Tripolar said, you can get a permit to distill alcohol for fuel on your property. There are rules you have to follow, but I imagine you’d be allowed to redistill alcohol you produced until you reached the appropriate strength for fuel alcohol. I’m not sure if you’d be allowed to redistill alcohol you bought, or if you’d have to start with a wash you produced yourself. Keep in mind this is to produce a certain amount of fuel for personal use. If you want to sell or give it away, it’s a whole 'nother ballgame.

Distilling to produce alcohol for consumption (or producing fuel without a permit) however, is pretty much illegal, period. There are no “homebrew” provisions in the laws regarding distilling. If you put something alcoholic into a still (be it a wash you produced or a bunch of beer or spirits you bought) and collect what comes out the other end, you’re breaking the law. In order to do it legally you’d basically have to start your own micro-distillery, which would involve applying for and obtaining permits, paying for Fed and state licensing, applying for a bond for your distillery (which would have to be in a building separate from any domicile), keeping meticulous records, paying taxes, etc. A good friend of mine looked into it, and apparently it costs a few thousand dollars upfront in permitting/licensing fees, double that if you have an attorney do all the paperwork for you. It’s not impossible, but unless you’re starting a business it’s just not worth it.

Basically, unless you own a distillery, doing what you describe would be breaking the law.

Out of interest to a Brit - one of the first experiments I can remember doing at school is aged around ten or eleven distilling ethanol at school. Now back then we were allowed to drink a bit but I went to a private school, it would proably still be allowed at one of those but probably no longer at what you would in the US call a public school. (Actually a bit afterwards I went to what we in teh UK call a public school but that is not a discussion I want ot waste time with).

In other words: Did you guys do this experiment at all? And if so were you allowed to drink a bit?

(Seems a bit hard to do cheistry to me without this kind of experiment as a teenager but I dunno… we on the other hand didn’t do any personalised disecting of animals [although I watched teachers do it] but I gather from watching US movies that disecting a frog is a normal part of the HS curriculum)

In High School I believe we did that with salt water to make fresh water. In organic chem class in college we would have been playing with ethanol until a student mentioned that he wanted to taste what pure ethanol was like and the professor from that point on used alternatives.