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Home Distilling and the Law

Distillation Familiale: Les Bouilleurs De Cru Conservent Leur 'Privilège' which however makes clear that exemptions to the amended regulations introduced in 2003 affect mainly an aging and retired group of brewers - clearly a way of phasing out the practise without provoking too many waves in La France Profond which is where such distilling has its largest following.

The writer of the article (see link below), one Daniel Roucous - ( says:

"The privileges allowed distillers did not come to an end as planned on January 1st 2008. Parliament opted to extend it rather than as provided for by the Finance Act 2003 cut the rights by half.

"The so-called distillers privilege gives them the right to distil up to 10 litres of pure alcohol without paying excise duty. This is called the free allocation. Excise duty is an indirect consumption tax and for the type of brandy produced by the affected distillers is currently set at 14.50 euros per litre of pure alcohol. It is this "privilege" that dates from 1923, that the amendments introduced by the Finance Act 2003 (Section 107) had planned to remove from 1 January 2008. In fact the privilege was halved since the law provided that in removing the exemption it would be replaced by a 50% reduction in excise duties for an upper limit of 10 litres of pure alcohol per year meaning the affected distillers would have paid excise tax of 7.25 euros per litre of pure alcohol distilled in their traditional 'alambics'.

"The affected distillers are not those with a large distilling portfolio. They are small farmers pensioners, war and military service veterans over 75 years and for the most, owners of a few hectares of fruit orchards. The law (sections 315 and 316 of the General Tax Code), defines the distillers as : owners, tenants, sharecroppers or tenants who are distilling or distilling of wine, cider or perry, marc, lees, cherries, plums and sloes exclusively from their harvest, owners, tenants, sharecroppers or tenants who practice the distillation of wine, lees and marc from grapes or chaptalised must within the limits and legal requirements, orchard owners, farmers , tenant farmers who implement fresh fruit exclusively from their harvest to distillation. The list of materials that can be distilled is limited to those listed, and thus excludes potatoes, beets and others. Note that to be considered "distiller", it is know no longer necessary to meet the following conditions: be affiliated to the MSA or agricultural system of family benefits, practice farming as a principal activity, refrain from marketing alcohol in the canton and the surrounding communities where the distillation occurs. Registered companies are not entitled to the benefits under the system of distilling shown above.

"The beneficiaries of the "privilege" : having identified the distillers, it is important to distinguish among them those who exempted from excise duty and those not partially benefiting from the Finance Act 2003. Here's what Article 317 of the General Tax Code says: the distillers as mentioned in the previous paragraph that could qualify for this benefit during the 1959-1960 campaign are exempt from excise duty on the first 10 litres of pure alcohol. This also applies to distillers who were eligible during the 1959-1960 campaign, but unable to benefit because they were doing military service. The "privilege" is a personal right of the distiller. It is not attached to land but to the person who cannot pass it own to a surviving spouse. Equally it cannot be passed on by inheritance laws, to heirs and especially to the children of distiller beneficiary.

"All other distillers who do not meet the conditions above and especially orchard owners, tenants, sharecroppers whose harvested produce is exclusively for distillation, have since 1 January 2003 (Article 317 of the General Tax Code) benefited from a 50% reduction in the right to the use of a maximum 10 litres of pure alcohol per year. But this reduced duty 10 litres cannot be sold on in any way.

"Ban on home brewing. Note all home brewing is prohibited. Bouilleurs de cru must distil or have distilled on their behalf and in a public workshop or on the premises of coops of the itinerant (now of fixed abode) professional distiller meeting the conditions set down by Customs and Excise.

Municipal councils or farmers unions may request that at least one public workshop distillation is open in their commune."

The law relating to home brewing is explained in this article: click here

Article: Mike Alexander
December 2011

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