Prepping for the authorities

This hobby is fun & enjoyable, but it is not tiddlywinks. Be safe!

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jonnys_spirit
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Prepping for the authorities

Post by jonnys_spirit » Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:51 am

I'm starting this thread due to recent events which I am experiencing and to help others develop their "cleanup plan". This thread is not for preventative measures such as the oft repeated "Don't Tell Don't Sell". Shit happens and we must move into action aka "cleanup plan". This thread is for identifying actions to take if you are lucky enough to have some warning prior to a visit from authorities and to identify what kinds of things they might consider evidence to widen their inquiry.

Cheers,
jonny
————
i make stuff i break stuff
water into whiskey into water
just getting started in home distilling - been drinking for decades
16g copper pot still, 10l alembic, and a column or two
————

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by OtisT » Wed Aug 14, 2019 7:18 am

Tip 1. Learn your local laws. In the US, laws vary by state. In some states it’s illegal to own a still. In some states, you can own a still but it can’t be “set up” and ready to distill. Other states you can own and have a still set up, but you can’t use it for distilling alcohol.

Laws also vary on what constitutes intention to distill alcohol. In places where you can own a still, you could be found guilty if you are also found to have the means to produce a ferment (barrels, grains, sugar, yeast, etc.). It would be hard to say “I just make essential oil” if you don’t have essential oil and oil making equipment around but you do have a pallet of corn, malt, and a few pounds of yeast.

So Between Uses:
Knowing how far you have to break down your still and equipment to be legal is useful to know for the time between uses. In addition to helping you quickly prepare for a bust, it may prevent a bust if The Man is ever in your place for another reason.

Don’t keep fermenting ingredients around.

If you keep a ferment/distillation batch log book, better hide it well. That can get you in trouble for booze you made previously that otherwise no one knew about. This would also make it hard to claim you did not make the booze that filled all those jars or barrels sitting in your garage.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by Irishgnome » Wed Aug 14, 2019 8:00 am

Otis,

Here is a good source for US laws - State by State: https://hobbydistillersassociation.org/ ... state.html

Cheers
Irish
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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by seamusm53 » Wed Aug 14, 2019 12:31 pm

Stay prepped. They won't call first before a raid. We are all already a target by virtue of our use of this and other similar boards. And we probably are also a target through our purchases of hardware and supplies using credit cards. I suspect very few of us as hobbyists have a production facility other than homes and garages. Most of us make more than we personally consume (Dear God, I hope so). So most of us probably have volumes of stuff lying around in glass or barrels while aging and most of us give away stuff to family and friends hoping for complimentary feedback (That's good!). So I try to follow the rules - Don't tell and Don't sell. And I try not to anger the Mrs. so much that she reports me herself. But now I have a 'friend' whose gotten himself in serious legal trouble and who knows of my hobby. I have stripped my quarters of everything other than could be argued as being for beer and wine making. It may be quite a while before I dare more. Such is the life of a hobbyist still linked to Prohibition prohibitions.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by jonnys_spirit » Wed Aug 14, 2019 1:39 pm

Yep - Dump all the likker. Burn the used oak sticks. Burn the labels. Spent corn into compost bin and cover it with tons of grass and water it down.... Dump the clearing washes and mash in progress - don't try to pass it as "beer", Burn unused grain, move the still parts offsite. Basement still smells like stinky mash so keep the incense burning too.... Take up wine/beer and quickly try to save a little by making as much port or fortified "barley wine" as you can and stick that in your barrels - label as 6-12 months old or whatever (not today or yesterday).... Hide or ditch the proof and tralle (buy new later), spread some corn and oats on your lawn for the squirrels and birds, burn up the foreshots, hide the reflectix, hide the notebooks, drink some of it, Saved backset and feints? dump that too... How many gallon jugs, half gallon jugs, and mason jars in the cellar? move them somewhere else... Moving stuff offsite can be a little hairy so find a spot - a good spot that only you know... Be careful of neighbors with all the dumping and activity out in the compost bin... Clean the site. Say FUCK FUCK FUCK a lot and be thankful for the heads up... Got oak seasoning outside? FUCK!!!

don't forget to breathe and re-center...

Ugghhhh....
————
i make stuff i break stuff
water into whiskey into water
just getting started in home distilling - been drinking for decades
16g copper pot still, 10l alembic, and a column or two
————

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by jonnys_spirit » Wed Aug 14, 2019 1:40 pm

Get the story straight with anyone in your house.... Practice it... Commit it all to memory. Let it go - not that important...
————
i make stuff i break stuff
water into whiskey into water
just getting started in home distilling - been drinking for decades
16g copper pot still, 10l alembic, and a column or two
————

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by HDNB » Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:30 pm

jaysus fellas.

If they really after you does it mean yer still paranoid?

don't yell;don't sell and be a citizen. if you have pissed off the wife to the point she's outtie...immediately dump everything, before you go to sleep.
I finally quit drinking for good.

now i drink for evil.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by Birrofilo » Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:49 pm

Make beer and wine at home. That will justify most of the equipment.

Make a small "cenotaph" in your garage, in marble, with the pictures of some of your parents: that's where you keep the ashes, you know. If you have a decently small still, that's the place. Else, be creative.

Also, make some essential oil. That's a good hobby and ultimately, if really the Enemy comes and searches your house and finds your still, you will still be able to say that you use it for essential oils.

Get a license for fuel production if you can.

Don't print labels, don't make any fancy label, that can be used to say that you sell it. Bottle it in different bottles of different sizes, again to give evidence there isn't a sale activity going. Bury or hide your bottles in the garden if you have one.

Have some commercial bottles, of all price ranges, in your house, the smart assortment of a real passionate in spirits. That will show in the trial that you buy normally (the little quantity you distill is not for evading taxes), that you distill as a hobby linked to your interest for good spirits.

Don't drink to drunkness, or at least do never be seen while drunk. Have in society the role of the respectable tax-paying member of society. A gentleman distiller, not a tax-evader drunkard.

Keep your still at an unsuspectable person's house (your uncle).

Use a pot which can also be used as a normal pot for marmelade, beer etc. You only have to hide the upper part of the still.

Even if they find your still, give them elements to sustain the innocent pursue of a hobby. Don't give any element which may make you suspect of illicit selling.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by shadylane » Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:25 pm

I'd clean up my tiny still house and polish the copper.
I want everything looking good and safe for when the news media takes pictures.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by jonnys_spirit » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:09 pm

Then lay low for a month or two to let the dust settle...

Start over and never ever give up...

Cheers,
jonny
————
i make stuff i break stuff
water into whiskey into water
just getting started in home distilling - been drinking for decades
16g copper pot still, 10l alembic, and a column or two
————

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by fizzix » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:25 pm

shadylane wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:25 pm
I'd clean up my tiny still house and polish the copper.
I want everything looking good and safe for when the news media takes pictures.
laugh1.jpg
laugh1.jpg (8.79 KiB) Viewed 4991 times

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by The Baker » Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:57 pm

shadylane wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:25 pm
I'd clean up my tiny still house and polish the copper.
I want everything looking good and safe for when the news media takes pictures.
Pretty much the only thing you could do.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by HDNB » Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:38 pm

The Baker wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:57 pm
shadylane wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:25 pm
I'd clean up my tiny still house and polish the copper.
I want everything looking good and safe for when the news media takes pictures.
Pretty much the only thing you could do.

Geoff
lacquer that shit when you build it, then you won't get caught out with a haphazard polish job.
I finally quit drinking for good.

now i drink for evil.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by shadylane » Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:42 pm

I got to thinking about it and did a cleaned up.
If/when I get caught. The last thing I'd want is to give Home distillation a black eye.
My hobby is to remove impurities from the beer and wine that's legal to make.
If Uncle Sam can't make that legal
He needs to sell me a get out jail free card. :wink:

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by The Baker » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:03 pm

HDNB wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:38 pm
The Baker wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:57 pm
shadylane wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 5:25 pm
I'd clean up my tiny still house and polish the copper.
I want everything looking good and safe for when the news media takes pictures.
Pretty much the only thing you could do.

Geoff
lacquer that shit when you build it, then you won't get caught out with a haphazard polish job.
Like having a clean, new set of undies in case of an emergency trip to the hospital....

Geoff
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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by Yummyrum » Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:34 am

shadylane wrote:
Tue Aug 20, 2019 6:42 pm
.... The last thing I'd want is to give Home distillation a black eye.
My hobby is to remove impurities from the beer and wine that's legal to make.....
You speak my language Shady . :thumbup:
Thats the truth right there ..... IMHO

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by jonnys_spirit » Tue Aug 27, 2019 1:32 pm

I much prefer to pull the shades close up shop sweep the floor and come back another day. Get your plan together now and review it regularly - don't stockpile too much and as they say - don't tell don't sell... Someone's going to be a dumbass at some point. This is practically guaranteed.

Cheers!
-jonny
————
i make stuff i break stuff
water into whiskey into water
just getting started in home distilling - been drinking for decades
16g copper pot still, 10l alembic, and a column or two
————

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Re: Anybody get any good deals lately?

Post by cob » Tue Aug 27, 2019 2:48 pm

I heard the sirens getting closer then I heard a crash, went to the window to have a look and saw someone
running past my pool room. I called 911 to let them know where their perp had gone. I went into the pool room
and saw an officer with an m16 walking through my yard opened the window and told him i'd meet him at the
back door to clear my shop. at the back door he ask me if I had the key to the man door on the shop. the answer
was that that door is never closed let alone locked, and that all the sliding doors have no latches, and i'm going
back in the house now to watch from the upstairs window because I realized there were a dozen m16 packing cops
walking my ground. they talked the guy out the man door with the threat of dogs, and did a felony take down
there on the sidewalk between the house and shop. after they walked him out of my back yard I rejoined the
cops and suggested we clear my shop in doing so there was nothing to see. blue barrels stacked and empty kegs
and most copper are locked up in a box trailer, stainless is scattered around the shop some boxed some loose.
nothing close enough to see two pieces at the same time. the only thing that I saw him take a second look at
was a dusty dialogram on a not readily accessible shelf.

the bottom line CYA no one can do it for you, and shit happens

thanks bushman for moving this to the thread I intended to post in.
Last edited by cob on Tue Aug 27, 2019 5:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.
be water my friend

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Re: Anybody get any good deals lately?

Post by Bushman » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:07 pm

Wow, cob that is quit a story. My stuff is spread out as well but good reminder.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by shadylane » Tue Aug 27, 2019 5:44 pm

Like cob discovered
You never can tell what might happen.
Keep every thing hidden from view. Preferably behind a locked door.
When building and operating a still, always think safety.
Ya don't want any drama, Police always come with the firemen.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by thecroweater » Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:29 pm

If you get warning dump stuff, there is a tendency of the police and media to report the volume of alcohol present which will include not just spirits but faints and any ferments. Case in point : There was a bust about a week ago on Kangaroo Island (Sth Oz) and the report says 800 litres of alcohol, looking at the photos 780 litres of that may well be wash and back set but ya can see how it looks bad for this guy plus his shed is an absolute pigsty compounding the bad look. The result is this guy looks like he is rough as guts and the last Percy Flowers, all with a piss tin hbs sized still. If you offer a needle and thread chances are you'll get stitched up.
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. Benjamin Franklin

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by cayars » Wed Oct 02, 2019 9:28 am

I think some of this is just being smart. Obviously the less people who know what you do the better, and I think we all know this goes without saying.

Don't have equipment that can be seen from looking in a window. If you are going to get busted/arrested make it from a legal warrant where there has to be some proof upfront.

If you do all grains then it might be wise to also brew beer so you can explain why you have hundreds of pounds of grains on hand. If you malt your own grains then I think this is even more important.

If you purchase grains (corn) from places like tractor supply, then use cash and don't have it linked to your account or neighbor program (whatever they call it). Don't make it easy for LE to track down corn purchasers or any other grain. If you have very trusted family members who know what you do then have them purchase some of the grains for you with cash.

When you purchase supplies from a local brew shop pay in greenbacks without leaving a paper trail of supplies. Don't subscribe to their mailing lists or give them personal info. Best practice is to not even let them know your name (any shape or form).

Take up the wine hobby as well as brewing as it's another "cover" for the equipment you have on hand, even if you use cheap $1 a jug juice you purchased at Walmart or made from Welch's (or cheaper value brand) concentrate or similar. You might even find you like wine also. :) A few cases of bear, a few dozen wine bottles with personalized labels or just masking tape written on them but nothing that says "commercial" or "distribution" in any sense. Brewing legal beer will help cover your wort if found. Label your wort vessels as "pale ail" or "pilsner" or something that might throw someone off the trail. The legal wine and beer brewing covers much of the equipment (not the still) you might have that they find with a legal warrant.

Don't have a large fancy still. If you only have a simple, "small" pot still (call it 5 gallons) then you can claim (if found) it's for distilling water you use for your beer and wine for pure water ferments. You can always claim that distilling is the same as buying an RO/DI unit from Lowes/Home Depot but you never need to change cartridges to get "pure" water. Personally I learned to make pure water (even from salt water) by distilling in the Boy Scouts. :)

Keep liquor you make in commercial bottles without any labels of your own to draw attention. If need be, go dumpster diving behind bars for glassware. Yea, I know Yuck, but you only need some many bottles so it's a once or twice "dive". That or just keep saving your commercial bottles!

Don't keep gallons of feints around but use them in your very next batch to dispose of them as quick as possible vs doing a queens share. The less inventory of illicit alcohol the better if busted regardless if it's 5% tails or 90% heads. Store your aging whiskey in boxes or similar in your attic with other stuff on top that looks like normal storage if need be. LE would have to have a warrant and be checking everywhere to find this. If that's the case you're probably toast anyway but you don't want things to be obvious or easily found.

If you over produce and need to age then maybe consider asking a VERY trusted close friend or family member to stock some spirits for you and again if possible put them in normal commercial spirit bottles to not draw any attention. Or bury 5 to 10 gallons in your "garden" to age.

Needless to say having "barrels" of any size that can be easily found is not a good thing!

I know several guys who take "hiding" stuff to an extreme. If they want to age a spirit for a couple of years it will be buried in the ground. After a couple of weeks you can't tell there there was ever a whole dug so you would have to know where the stash is buried and aging. This is something I personally do as well and I've got many gallons like this. Once or twice a year they will get "aired out" but other than that are glass enclosures filled about 3/4 full with some wood chip (tasted and charred). I know guys who bury full coolers but I like gallon jugs/jars.

Sometimes you just need to be aware of surroundings. For example, how do you get rid of your grains (if not using sugar)? Do you have a compost pile that is evidence or do you double/triple bag it and chuck it in your trash? Does your trash pickup guys manually dump your trash or do they use the automated dumpers so no employee would ever see your trash? Do you discard your grains elsewhere that could get you busted?

Last but not least, know your local and state laws. Know what would be considered a felony vs a misdemeanor. Even if your local LE was to write you a summons (has a warrant and searched your house, even arrested you) the local prosecutor is going to need to make a case. Most really won't put a lot of time into anything that isn't a felony conviction because their time is "precious". If everything points to a guy with a still who might be using it for pure water and he's brewing or making wine then you likely might walk and you never see a court room. If on the other hand, if they find gallons of feints, some produced alcohol, some nice equipment (especially flutes with plates and glassware, IE eye candy) then you might have a prosecutor out to get you or make an example of you. Literally, the "lower tech" your setup seems the better off you are.

Just be "smarter" than those around you and only let those who are truly your close circle of friends know what you are doing (if you must). Don't be a guy who brags he can make "better licker" than you can purchase as that will eventually bite you in the ass.

In 20+ years of doing this, I can say I personally have 4 family members (dad, x-wife, son, daughter) and 1 lifelong friend (grows corn and helps me malt) who knows what I do. I have many other friends (of 40+ years) but they don't have a need to know and I don't have a need to prove anything so they have ZERO need to know.

Loose lips, sink ships! If you don't tell anyone and don't do anything stupid, then no one will know what you are doing. The licker I make is just for me and my family and my one close friend who helps me.

I have many other close friends I do share spirits with on occasion, but I always tell them it's something I got from a friend (they don't know) and leave it at that. I like the feedback I get from them on the spirits I make that they think someone else made! I never share more than a quart or half quart.

What is kind of funny. I've got one 45+ year old friend who has trusted me with knowing he is trying to distill spirits (whiskey &
vodka/gin) but is bad at it (got a nice column still as well)! I've wanted to comment and help him so many times but I just hold my thoughts and comments. Something about his wife and/or his kids just gives me pause and I trust my inner instincts! I fully trust him but not his step kids or wife so I keep quite on my own endeavors. It's really hard to refrain from commenting but how do I know one of his kids won't get popped for drugs and cop a plea deal? That's the kind of thing that gets you in trouble.

If no one knows, then now one complain, and no one (LE) shows up at your door!

If someday personal distillation was to become legal in the US, like brewing or wine making then I'd come out of the closet but until then I like to think it's a "need to know" basis. So for now I'm fully in the closet. :)

Carlo
a closet distiller :)
Programmer specializing in process control for ExxonMobil (ethanol refinery control), WT, Omron, Bosch, Honeywell & Boeing.
More than a decade working for NASA & FAA Tech with computer code used on Space Shuttles and some airline flight recorders.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by pope » Wed Oct 02, 2019 10:21 am

"hide the reflectix" ha! The only place I use reflectix is on my mash tun for brewing beer! I should probably start using it for the boiler though.

Definitely take up making beer (heck, it's delicious), and I have a few cases of red wine I've made and I have a diy draft setup, my hlt, mash tun, and boiler, plus my fancy conical which I did, in fact, buy for brewing beer. A wine kit off amazon is like $40, make a bad batch (or maybe a good batch) of wine and let the bottles gather dust if it helps you sleep better at night. Maybe keep your low wines in corny kegs. I don't know what to do about barrels, I'll go down in tears and they can pry the barrels out of my dead hands.
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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by cayars » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:17 am

If you have barrels and not filled with wine, then likely you are screwed. :)
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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by pope » Fri Oct 04, 2019 6:37 am

Probably yes. One thing I’ve always done is if I shared what I made and a friend or family member said ‘can I buy some from you’ I always said essentially ‘no way in hell, that’s a line I’ll never cross without proper licensing, permits, and a commercial premises’. One day it would be wonderful to legitimize though I also just wish this pasttime could itself be legitimate.
"A little learning is a dang'rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again." - Alexander Pope

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by magnetic_tarantula » Tue Jun 16, 2020 9:39 pm

I had my home raided a few years. While I imagine any lawyer, mine included, would say don’t say anything. I spoke to the “authorities“ and Didn’t lie about anything I had done. I kept meticulous notes.

I fought the multiple felony charges, and ultimately they dropped the charges. I believe the reality of a trial for the State of California and the TTB, is that they knew they were fighting a losing case. I took care of my family, held a professional job with a license, I didn’t sell anything, didn’t put anyone in harms way. It would’ve been difficult to paint a picture of me in the way they thought.

One of the funny things about my case I can look back and laugh about now is what complete fucking morons the agents were. At the time I thought maybe they were just trying to play me to talk, but after interviews afterwards(with my lawyer there), they just had no clue.

Eventually they gave me all my equipment back(except my still). I got all my fermenting stuff back, 150lbs of sugar(yeah.....150lb.....WTF else could that be used for but Rum???), I built my Own heat controller/element setup that hooked up to a keg....again what else but distilling???

As others have said, keeping your mouth shut only goes so far. What happens when your ex wife calls the police because she is pissed? Live a life where you don’t enjoy a hobby that’s awesome?

I say live your life, pay attention, fight to the end(if you are otherwise a good responsible tax paying citizen).

I fought the law and I won.

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by bubba » Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:41 pm

plus up on this string . all how i knows to do is say +buddy have a drink+
i may be mistaken but i think in TN. having a cooker and running is a misdemeanor .
i wish to link to john fords film .spec. The Majesty of the Law
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Risin ... oon_(film)

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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by Birrofilo » Sat Apr 03, 2021 8:51 am

A "suggestion" came to my mind.
You can certainly buy 95% alcohol at the store in the USA or in any other disgustingly prohibitionist and puritan country. Buy many bottles. Buy 20 bottles. Keep them at home, empty.

When the Adversary finds in your house gin, amaro, limoncello, sambuca etc. you just explain that you are into the hobby of buying alcohol and preparing herbs macerations with it.

There is a technique, which is called Autodistillazione in Italian, which allows you to produce clear gin or anything without use of a still. Study that or ask me to describe it in this forum. Use it.

Buy and have several ready-made essences for whisky, rum, gin, tequila, brandy of the kind that is to be diluted with pure alcohol (store-bought). This stuff:
https://www.beerewine.it/distillati-liq ... senze.html

With this simple procedure, you can amply justify almost anything you have at home, including whisky (which you produced by just soaking malt into pure alcohol, or by diluting an essence), wood, barrels, fancy labels, grains, alcoholmeters, pumps etc.

In your still, use a kettle which can be used for beer as well.

Everything you have at home can be justified by the legal homebrewing, maceration, use of ready-made essences or autodistillazione activities. You only have to hide the upper part of your still!

If you give your gin, whisky etc. to friends and relatives, it's things that you produce starting from pure alcohol bought in a store.
Last edited by Birrofilo on Sun Apr 04, 2021 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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River Rat
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Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by River Rat » Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:36 pm

I think the two most important things we can do is:

-Be a good upstanding member of society (aside from our hobby which happens to be illegal)
-Do not sell, do not keep anything around that would make it look like you're selling

I think at every stage, from the bust to the legal proceedings, people would be wondering if they should pursue the case or not. I would like to think at some point along the way the authorities would make the right decision and drop it.
I know several LE officers from different agencies around here and have never met one that gives a flying fu#% about somebody making a little shine for theirself. I understand that might not be the case everywhere. Still, being a good person goes a long way.
Plain ole pot rig.

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MartinCash
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Location: Southern end of the land Down Under

Re: Prepping for the authorities

Post by MartinCash » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:58 pm

seamusm53 wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 12:31 pm
...We are all already a target by virtue of our use of this and other similar boards. And we probably are also a target through our purchases of hardware and supplies using credit cards...
Not all of us live in a country with laws as draconian as yours, you know... :ewink:
4'' SS modular CCVM on gas-fired 50L keg.

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