There are two theories behind the origin of the word Moonshine. The first theory goes back to the time of the prohibition (1919 to 1933) in the United States of America. During these times a lot of farmers and private people used to distill their spirits in their homemade stills. To avoid the suspicion the illegal stillmen used to distill at night under the moonlight. The distillation was manly carried out during full moon, so the stillman had enough light to carry out the delicate process.

The second theory was that illegally stilled spirits had to be transported into the towns and pubs by smugglers. These smugglers got a great hype during the eighteenth century and were called moonrakers. But during these times the moonshine mostly consisted of apple brandy, corn whiskey and other fruit distillates.

A renovated still at the George Washinton distillery
Renovated Moonshine Still

The Excise Act

During the early times of the Scottish Whisky history all the Whisky in the highlands was prohibited, because the taxmen could not reach the distilleries and also the taxes were far to high and complicated. Finally in 1823 the Excise Act was passed and the duty was set to 10 £ sterling per imperial gallon. The new law was so popular that almost all the distilleries got registered and legal during the next decade. This is the reason why you find 1824 as the most common founding date of any old distillery.

Alcohol meter inside a whisky glass
Measuring the Alcohol

Distilling Today

So how is the legislation today? Can you now just go into your backyard and distill your own Whisky? Certainly not. But what are the legislation? We have set up a list where you can find all the legislation for the different countries.

USAOnly with
UKOnly with
CanadaOnly with
AustraliaOnly with
GermanyYes, up to a distilling Volume of 0.5 L. Over 0.5 L only with
New ZealandFor private use
IrelandOnly with
DenmarkOnly with
A decorative home still
Home Still

Do you come from a country not listed here please email me (

Disclaimer: does not promote illegal distilling. Neither are legal information on this site binding in any way.