Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Distillation Prohibited

The Washington Post ran a "local color" piece about Franklin County, VA today: Ingrained in Culture of 'Liquor Country': Va. Moonshiners, Agents Still Tangle in Cat-and-Mouse Game by Jerry Markon, complete with a slideshow.

I always like to make or grow things myself at home if possible, and I do have some distillation expertise from organic chemistry labs in college. Unfortunately, federal and state authorities are adamant about collecting their taxes on distilled spirits. I may ferment at home for my personal use, up to 200 gallons of beer and wine, but I may not distill a drop. That would be as illegal as these more ambitious projects:

Investigators said the Halifax distillery, much like all moonshine pipelines, operated like a drug organization. Tightly controlled by someone at the top, distilleries employ still hands and transporters, who move the liquor in vans or trucks with campers. It is then delivered to a wholesaler, or perhaps a broker, who finds customers.

Many moonshine consumers are in the District, Baltimore and other cities near Interstate 95, officials said, but cases are almost never prosecuted in the Washington area because the focus is on people who make the liquor, not those who drink it.

The operation Smith is accused of heading "wasn't little Snuffy Smith with a little old still coming out of the woods, and I'm making four gallons of liquor and me and mama are sharing it on the porch," McEntire said. "This was putting out over 1,000 gallons of a week. That's a significant amount of liquor." Agents estimated that the operation probably cleared at least $6,000 a week.

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