California Moonshine Laws

The concept of moonshine in California has been widely known and acknowledged. Though its history goes deep back to pre-prohibition period, its real boom occurred during the prohibition when moonshine was among the few alcoholic drinks available. Authorities even exposed a “baby moonshiner” in Alhambra who spite his tender age (10 years old!) was in charge of a 50 gallon still. Route 66 was known to be a major selling point for moonshiners in the early 19th century as many thirsty travelers resorted to this illegal drink to quench their thirst.

California’s moonshine was known for its grubby and rough taste. The charm of moonshine was so that even some governors and sheriffs were attracted to it. State police did not interfere much in the moonshiners’ business and sometimes used to help them escape from raids by the federal agencies.

Nowadays there are a number of legal distilleries which have been recognized for their great taste throughout the world such as Ugly White Whiskey, Fogs End Distillery, Cutlers Artisan Distillery and others.

      1.Is owning a still legal?

It is legal to own a still provided you have obtained a permit from the state authorities. Also, if a still is being used to distill alcoholic beverage without a distiller’s license, it can be seized by the government and is considered to be illegal according to the ABC Act, California Code Section 25352.

While stills are illegal for making alcoholic related products for consumption, they can be used in the production of distilled water, distilled essential oils as well as other non-alcoholic products (California Code Section 23032). Moreover, they can also be used for scientific and experimental purposes which do not concern consumable ethanol.

You can find all of the related laws over here.

  1. Is it possible to get a “student permit” to distil ethanol as a part of school science assignment?

Yes it is, but only for educational institutes. You cannot obtain a permit if you want to distill consumable ethanol at your homes for the same cause. On the other hand, only a still license is required for using a still exclusively for laboratory purposes. For educational institutes, a federal permit can be obtained by a representative filling out the attached form.

  1. What kind of a permit do I need to distill ethanol in California?

-A Still License allowing you to own a still and distill non-consumable ethanol and other products. (ABC 06 license)
-A manufacturer’s license which will allow you to distill consumable alcoholic products. (ABC 04 license)

-A federal license. Contact the TTB for more information about federal regulations.

You can get the forms from here or by contacting the California ABC.

California Moonshine Still Construction

California Moonshine Still Construction

You can also manufacture ethanol fuel without a state license but you should contact the concerned authorities before doing so. The California code states that even a still license is not required to manufacture ethanol fuel. But keep in mind that a federal permit is required which can be obtained by filling the TTB form 5110.74.

For more information, visit the official website of California Department of ABC.

Finally, we are not lawyers, this info is for your entertainment only, so be sure to consult a crafty moonshine laws lawyer before spending any monies on your own distillation plant!

“Remember, the distillation of ethyl-alcohols is illegal without a permit per federal moonshine laws and is inherently dangerous because of ethanol’s flammability (never operate a homemade still indoors). For more moonshine laws and other moonshine still permit information, visit:”


Links: – Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Distilled Spirits–  California department of Alcoholic Beverage Control