Scotland should follow New Zealand – and democratise distilling

Scotland should follow New Zealand – and democratise distilling

by Dr Sutherland MacNeill
article from Monday 23, July, 2018

IT'S BEEN OVER TEN YEARS now since ol' Popcorn Sutton (pictured) ran his last run of moonshine in the Appalachians and over twenty since New Zealand took the hillbilly out of home distillation in a country not so different culturally to Scotland.

It's strange that New Zealand, despite being largely of Scottish stock, never went down the road of indigenous whisky like the USA and Canada did. Nonetheless there is a thriving and innovative distilling culture there in what is the only western country where it is remains legal to distill alcohol for personal use.

I've written before of how dominated by huge multinationals our whisky sector is and while craft brewing has helped rejuvenate many a watering hole despite the smoking ban there has been essentially no work done on legalising home distillation. We seriously debate shooting galleries for heroin addicts, legalising cannabis for retail yet we retreat to puritanism in the UK over making spirits or even smoking tobacco in a park

It is an issue within the EU as well. While the EU has essentially banned distilling at home, many members like Hungary and Slovakia consider home production of slivovice, or palinka, or whatever the local plum brandy is to be a right and a tradition and they continue to soft-pedal enforcement against their citizens. 

It is for many in New Zealand a hobby, as it is in Switzerland where small stills are allowed to produce some schnapps for the tables, maybe from mirabelle or apples from the farm. Critics claim it can make people go blind or it can blow up a house. In fairness though it is questionable what damage a still of a few litres with a heating element can do and making a high quality product is part of the fun. Why on Earth would someone want to make something unpleasant and dangerous?

In the new trend of 'legalising everything that's banned, and banning everything that isn't' I'd feel safer knowing the guy down the road was sipping a glass of rye whisky or vodka or apple schnapps than filling his greenhouse with super strength skunk. 

Making moonshine or your liquor of choice does not mean turning into a toothless hillbilly like ol' Pops, but again surely that should be one's personal choice and not that of the state? Ghandi famously made salt from seawater in protest of the Salt Tax in India. Who will be the first to do the same for home distilling?

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