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Questions for my essay on home distilling

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  • Ricksaunders
    I have the impression from what i ve read that modern home distillers are quite the opposite of the cartoon hillbilly moonshiner. That you are more often than
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 14, 2010
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      I have the impression from what i've read that modern home distillers are quite the opposite of the cartoon hillbilly moonshiner.
      That you are more often than not college educated, often in detail-oriented professions like engineering, chemistry, chef. Certainly this is not always the case but do you think this a fair assumption to make?

      Also i'm curious about your opinion as to why, considering the cultural and economic success of beer and wine home brewing, is home distilling still illegal?

      Is it the $13.50 in taxes (according to an ATF rep) makes per distilled gallon? Is it the cultural misrepresentation of distillers as criminals and ignorant hillbillies who make their product with old radiators and battery acid etc etc or a combination of the two?

      Any idea what kind impact the legalization of home distilling
      in New Zealand has had in that country? Positive? Negative?

      Thank you so much for your time and kind consideration!
      -Rick
    • tgfoitwoods
      Rick, May I compliment you on your clarity of perception. There are lots of engineers here, and tinkerers, and a few scientists, some bakers, but especially
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 15, 2010
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        Rick,

        May I compliment you on your clarity of perception. There are lots of engineers here, and tinkerers, and a few scientists, some bakers, but especially gourmets, chefs, and just "foodies", people who care immensely about what they eat and drink. If there is anything that characterizes our group,it is the confluence of the side that strives to produce the cleanest vodka in the most efficient way, and the side that is driven to reproduce and/or create the finest liquor flavors.

        I think our status at present (in the US, at least) is analogous to where homebrewing was before president Carter legalized it, a group of creative craftspersons carrying the social and political baggage from America's Prohibition. This blighted status is kept alive by a steady stream of fear-mongering half-truths that are not so much the product of malice, but of ignorance, perpetuated by incurious news media.

        Certainly the proof-gallon tax is jealously guarded by our federal government, and governments have a hard time granting freedoms. There is also, in most states in the US, a costly annual license, which represents income and control, both strong government attractors. Take a look at Washington State's ~2-year-old distilling license law, which allows distillers to operate for a fee of $100 per year, so long as >50% of their materials are grown in the state. Oregon must be doing something similar, because microdistillers are cropping up there like fall mushrooms.

        Speaking of microdistillers, are you in a place where you can visit some? Not only are their products wonderfully varied, but they are (I suspect) mostly from our ranks of the less-than-legal, originally, and they are proud to talk about their craft. Schedule some tasting tours, if you can.

        I have only hearsay about New Zealand, and the kiwis in this group can set me straight, but I hear the experiment has been wonderfully positive.

        I wish you luck with your (thesis? paper?), because I believe that good information gives us our best chance at getting legal.

        Zymurgy Bob, a simple potstiller

        --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Ricksaunders" <ricksaunders@...> wrote:
        >
        > I have the impression from what i've read that modern home distillers are quite the opposite of the cartoon hillbilly moonshiner.
        > That you are more often than not college educated, often in detail-oriented professions like engineering, chemistry, chef. Certainly this is not always the case but do you think this a fair assumption to make?
        >
        > Also i'm curious about your opinion as to why, considering the cultural and economic success of beer and wine home brewing, is home distilling still illegal?
        >
        > Is it the $13.50 in taxes (according to an ATF rep) makes per distilled gallon? Is it the cultural misrepresentation of distillers as criminals and ignorant hillbillies who make their product with old radiators and battery acid etc etc or a combination of the two?
        >
        > Any idea what kind impact the legalization of home distilling
        > in New Zealand has had in that country? Positive? Negative?
        >
        > Thank you so much for your time and kind consideration!
        > -Rick
        >
      • Gannon
        Hey Rick, I d love to read your essay when your done! I m not nearly as eloquent a writer as most but I d to answer and give my opinion on some of your
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 15, 2010
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          Hey Rick,

          I'd love to read your essay when your done!

          I'm not nearly as eloquent a writer as most but I'd to answer and give my opinion on some of your questions.

          I've been in the IT industry for 12 years now with 10 years of home brewing and 4 years of commercial distilling. Most of the distillers I've met have been chemists or physics majors, and all extremely smart.

          My opinion.. Taxes and media induced fear of "Moonshine kills!"
          Make sure that you note the taxes as 13.50 per proof gallon. Proof gallon being 1gal of 100 proof(50%abv) gallons. And http://ttb.gov/ are the ones that handle that now.

          As for the last question.. I'd like to hear this too! I think if home distilling were to become legal in the US you'd start seeing more quality spirits come to shelf as people really start figuring things out.

          Cheers!
          John


          --- In Distillers@yahoogroups.com, "Ricksaunders" <ricksaunders@...> wrote:
          >
          > I have the impression from what i've read that modern home distillers are quite the opposite of the cartoon hillbilly moonshiner.
          > That you are more often than not college educated, often in detail-oriented professions like engineering, chemistry, chef. Certainly this is not always the case but do you think this a fair assumption to make?
          >
          > Also i'm curious about your opinion as to why, considering the cultural and economic success of beer and wine home brewing, is home distilling still illegal?
          >
          > Is it the $13.50 in taxes (according to an ATF rep) makes per distilled gallon? Is it the cultural misrepresentation of distillers as criminals and ignorant hillbillies who make their product with old radiators and battery acid etc etc or a combination of the two?
          >
          > Any idea what kind impact the legalization of home distilling
          > in New Zealand has had in that country? Positive? Negative?
          >
          > Thank you so much for your time and kind consideration!
          > -Rick
          >
        • Ion Brown
          Rick, I m in New Zealand, but can t tell you what it was like here prior to legalization. When I started distilling I found an abundance of good information
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 15, 2010
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              Rick,
                             I'm in New Zealand, but can't tell you what it was like here prior to legalization.
             
            When I started distilling I found an abundance of good information from some extremely well informed and                                                  dedicated people from N.Z. and the world    The web sites of " home distillation of alcohol" and "the alcohol            library" ,  plus  information in superb books were put together by them.    I thank them so much.
              
                Because it is legal here, manufactured stills are available, to a reasonable standard, You just go down the road and buy one from your local brew shop. The shops are in most towns through N.Z. and are a one stop shop for most things.

            I make Vodka and Gin.  The tincture ingredients are available nowadays because the interest in food. Not long ago olive oil could only be bought at the chemist and used in strange places, not cooking, and juniper  berries were greeted with a blank stare !  

            I have found the people I know that distill, are very mindful of the privilege they have and frown on anyone jeopardizing this great hobby, besides, if they where making it to the standards they set for the selves, they would be hard pressed to make much out of it. A manageable size home distilling boiler would be  25ltr  50ltr 

            Being legal ,allows good information to be past around, it and stops the bad information which stifles KNOWLEDGE   It allows those that don't have the tools to make a still, still be involved.  It is the same as brewing and making wine.... just a great interest  and great fun

            Regards   Ion                        
                



          • azeotech
            I ll 2nd all that Ion has said, I m from NZ too, and started stilling in 1991 after several years of homebrewing when I first became aware of the law repeals
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 27, 2010
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              I'll "2nd" all that Ion has said, I'm from NZ too, and started stilling in 1991 after several years of homebrewing when I first became aware of the law repeals and the first (crude though) stills were appearing in the home brew shops.

              It was quite an exciting time and all due to the fantastic efforts of Peter Eastwood (and associates?) who lobbied for the repeal of the laws after glaring loopholes were revealed. I may be able to find more accurate information if I dig into my "archives", or others may be able to provide details too...

              These links may be interesting for some nz pespective on NZ moonshine...

              http://www.hokonuiwhiskey.com/

              http://www.nzgeographic.co.nz/articles.php?ID=143

              http://www.odt.co.nz/your-town/gore/33177/hokonui-moonshine-lures-us-film-crew

              Our biggest "alcohol" problems still seem to be with pre-mixed RTD's (Ready to Drink "lolly pop" cocktails/spirits etc targeting the teen/youth, esp female market) and commercial sales.

              The ability to create one's own spirits has not apparently resulted in a vast increase (any at all?) in alcohol poisoning episodes, rampant alcoholism (although no doubt it helps support those who can make the effort to make it themselves, or know someone who does), or vast decrease in tax revenue, etc.

              While the commercial hobby stills may not be perfect, and still have some undesirable features (solved by upskilling oneself and building your own), they do at least provide a baseline of safety, procedure and responsibility for those keen enough to purchase the tools for the job, but not go to the trouble of researching and "rolling their own".

              It's not a bad model to follow.... Individual freedom, individual responsibility. Having said that, I've seen some truly shocking set-ups for sale on NZ auction sites that surprised me given that good information is out there...

              These kinds of efforts and setups could well be created with or without laws though, but at least the knowledge is out there
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