Distilling Spirits at Home

  • Civil Law
March 24, 2017

If you have joined the ranks of Colorado’s many homebrew hobbyists, you have probably reviewed the relevant regulations and are aware that there is a general prohibition against home-distilling spirits.

The State of Colorado does not prohibit ownership of a still, but it does prohibit distilling spirituous liquors for personal consumption.

The Colorado Revised Statutes draw a distinction between malt liquor and hard cider and “spirituous liquors.”

Malt liquor, which homebrewers can lawfully produce for personal consumption, is defined to include beer and any other beverage obtained by the alcoholic fermentation of any infusion or decoction of barley, malt, hops, or any other similar product, containing more than 4% alcohol by volume. Similarly, hard cider is defined to include those beverages made by fermentation of the natural juice of apples or pears, containing at least .5% alcohol by volume and less than 7% alcohol by volume.

In contrast, spirituous liquors include, among others, brandy, rum, whiskey, gin, and powdered alcohol. Beverages of this type are obtained by distillation and mixed with water and other substances in a solution. Home-distilling spirituous liquors for personal consumption is prohibited under Colorado law and is considered a Class 2 Petty Offense, carrying a $250 fine for each offense. Manufacturing, selling, or possessing to sell spirituous liquors without an appropriate license, however, is classified as a Class 2 Misdemeanor and would therefore jeopardize the professional license of anyone charged with manufacturing, selling, or possessing to sell spirituous liquors.

There is another classification of liquor under Colorado law, however, that creates an exception to the general prohibition on distilling spirituous liquors without a license. Fortified wine is a wine, malt liquor, or hard cider to which a distilled spirit is added. Commonly, the fortifying spirit is brandy, but as fortified wine has grown in popularity, many different styles of fortified wine have been developed using various spirituous liquors as the fortifying agent.

Though federal regulations allow home brewing/distilling fortified wine with an alcohol volume of up to 24%, fortified wine in Colorado may not contain more than 21% alcohol by volume.

So, if you are a hobbyist interested in producing fortified wine at home, distillation of spirituous liquors for fortification of wine, malt liquor or cider is not unlawful in Colorado, so long as the alcohol content of the resulting fortified wine remains under 21% alcohol by volume.

As always, remember to brew responsibly and only for personal consumption, and stay updated on new or changing regulations. For more information, contact the attorneys at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C.

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