Is distilling TINCTURES legal?

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IJesusChrist

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Here is the process:
Buy Everclear (or similar ~90% ethanol product), make tincture of herbs/spices, then distill off, to isolate just ethanol and volatile oils.

Anyone know if this is illegal? There is no increase in alcohol concentration, and the starting liquor is already distilled (and not directly fermented).
 

apache_brew

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Sounds like a sick bird to me.

I thought you could turn water into wine? Why bother with tinctures?
 
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IJesusChrist

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Yeah I like to challenge myself with human devices.

The herbs/spices I use have a very bitter alcoholic extract, so it's undrinkable as just a tincture. So you distill off to catch the Volatile with the alcohol but leave the bitter tannins and alkaloids.
 

Ogilthorpe2

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Here is the process:
Buy Everclear (or similar ~90% ethanol product), make tincture of herbs/spices, then distill off, to isolate just ethanol and volatile oils.

Anyone know if this is illegal? There is no increase in alcohol concentration, and the starting liquor is already distilled (and not directly fermented).
Better to beg for forgiveness than ask permission.
 

Stand

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I have no idea what the legal rules would be on that, but it would probably depend on the state . . . Actually I don't know if you are even technically distilling if you are not changing the alcohol percentage. My general guess would be that the only way anyone would give you trouble is if you tried to sell it.
 

bwible

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Read homedistiller dot org or one of the other distilling forums. Legality aside, I don’t think you want to do this, just as a matter of basic safety. You don’t distill anything with that high a percentage.

Liquid ethanol above a concentration of about 50% abv is very flammable, and the vapours are also flammable and highly explosive in the right concentration of air-vapour mix. In these ways ethanol is similar to the dangers from petrol. Be aware of this.

Never charge the boiler with any higher than 40% ABV. Doing so creates an explosion risk.

Ethanol vapours are almost invisible, and the flame from burning liquid ethanol is almost invisible in med-strong light.

Do not allow vapours or liquid product to be anywhere near a heat source, especially a naked flame.
 
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Stand

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+1 to the idea of doing it in water if that works and just adding what you distill back. That can't possibly be illegal and sounds safer.
 

SBaker

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"Is it legal?" Probably not in the US unless you are legal distiller. How much do you plan to make? If you're doing it for your own use I don't think the ATF is going to waste the manpower to shut you down. Just do it and keep it for yourself or good friends.
 

VikeMan

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I'm not a distiller, but I am curious. Why would distilling everclear not change the alcohol concentration?
 

AirLock Sniffer

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Surprisingly it is not unlawful under federal regulations to own a still, but it is unlawful to use it, with some exceptions. Small scale distillation for "essential oils" or somesuch. And of course with proper permits, for fuel use in automobiles.

State and even local laws, are much different, and mere possession is unlawful and may get one into trouble.

I read somewhere that the intent in the 1979 legislation that decriminalized homebrewing of beer and winemaking in the US was also to allow home distillation of spirits as well, but some sort of clerical error was made and the language omitted from the bill. The permits both at federal and state level are prohibitively expensive for someone wanting to run a few gallons of hooch.

Just making extracts and the like is unlikely to attract the ire of federal authorities, as it is legal. Start purchasing large quantities of C&H sugar and Fleischmann's, that would be different.
 

apache_brew

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I'm not a distiller, but I am curious. Why would distilling everclear not change the alcohol concentration?
aside from the safety concerns that @bwible mentioned above with heating high proof concentrations, there is a maximum amount of around 95% ethanol that can be extracted through conventional distillation practices. the only way to obtain 100% ethanol is with a lot more chemistry and engineering.
 

jseyfert3

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I'm not a distiller, but I am curious. Why would distilling everclear not change the alcohol concentration?
aside from the safety concerns that @bwible mentioned above with heating high proof concentrations, there is a maximum amount of around 95% ethanol that can be extracted through conventional distillation practices. the only way to obtain 100% ethanol is with a lot more chemistry and engineering.
Distilling works because as your heat an ethanol/water mix, both the ethanol and water start evaporating, but at different rates with the ethanol evaporating much quicker than the water does when the %ABV is low. So when you collect and condense the vapor you end up with an ethanol/water mix with a lot more ethanol than your starting mix had.

As the %ABV starting mix increases, the rate of water evaporation also starts increasing, which means you concentrate the ethanol less and less as the starting %ABV is higher and higher. At 97.2% ABV the evaporation rates of ethanol and water are exactly the same, which is called an azeotrope. Since the evaporation rates are the same, you can’t concentrate it further, the concentration of water and ethanol collected on the output will match that of the input exactly.

Fun fact: Above 97.2% the rates reverse, and water evaporates faster than ethanol. This means if you stuck 99% ethanol in a regular still you would have less than 99% ethanol coming out of the still!
 

Birrofilo

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In Italy, Austria and other countries, you can distill with a still which has a 1 litre kettle. This was so even before the recent depenalization in Italy. Gaggia, the famous coffee-machine producer, sold a 1lt distiller for the home (it was introduced together with the first espresso machine for the home, the Baby Gaggia, in the early '80s).

The reason for the 1 litre exemption was due to this kind of innocent work: school experiences, herbal preparations, home-tinctures, water-vapour tinctures, that kind of stuff. Also, all stills with more than 1 litre kettle in theory should be numbered and registered by the producers, in Italy. Stills with 1 litre kettle never had to be numbered and registered.

The US being a strange country, it is possible that this is not allowed, but I do think that, if you read well all the laws, you might find exemptions for tiny stills also in your jurisdictions. Certainly high-school teachers don't need a distilling license, and chemical laboratories, chemists' etc. don't need either. And wine producers (who need to distill to determine the alcohol content precisely) also do "distill" technically.

Read your local norms and you might easily find exemptions for little stills.

PS I see that, in the US, federal laws allow the possession and use of still for non-alcoholic products. So yes, you can make tinctures (extraction in water vapour). I would also say you can re-distill a bought spirit because you are not actually creating a new distillate but you are only manipulating the distillate you bought.
 
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Are you trying to get a higher alcohol concentration or to leave behind some of the alcohol soluble compounds extracted from the maceration?

If you are looking for more alcohol content you can dry the Everclear with table salt. Adding table salt will chemically combine with the water causing the alcohol to float on the much denser salt water. The NaCl is hydrophilic and combines with the water, the alcohol is no longer miscible in the now salt water and so being much less dense floats on top.

As for separating out specific compounds from the ethanol keep in mind each compound will have it's own evaporation point, most oils have a fairly high evaporation point. I am not sure that it is possible to distill the oils over with the ethanol to any great degree. You will also likely char a lot of material in the bottom of whatever you are using as a still.

P.S... There are some other methods that you may be unaware of, there is also apple cider extraction which works well and lasts a long time like the alcohol extractions.

You can do alcohol extraction and distill off the alcohol and then add your remaining material to apple cider, though again I would warn of the likelihood of burnt material.

You could also distill off most alcohol and then slowly over low heat evaporate the rest off and create a powder form of the extract and then add that to whatever you desired.

I myself have some trouble with the potency of some of tinctures I make and I am experimenting with ways to make them more palatable and remove much or all of the alcohol content. Though once you get below about 27%-28% alcohol you have issues with it keeping for long enough periods of time.
 
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IJesusChrist

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This process is how absinthe is traditionally made. You make a very strong tincture of herbs, including wormwood, then you distill it all over. There are plenty of volatiles that come over with the ethanol, of you taste it, it tastes "like the idea" of absinthe. But then you add mint and some more oily things to the distillate to make the green color and final product.
 

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