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I had a strange conversation with a gentleman yesterday. He tells me that he wants to put a small still on a trailer and move it to various locations mostly wineries. And distill the unwanted wine into God knows what. He tells me he has clearence from the TTB to do this...I personally don't understand the legality behind this it appears to me that this guy knows absolutly nothing about distilling or the Federal Law. My only remark was,from what I know from distillation is that if you start with garbage you will end up with garbage....Has anyone ever heard of a mobile distilling facility or if it is even legal?

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My understanding is that they were popular in Europe long ago. Specifically during harvest time, it was a way for farmers to utilize their crop and maximize profits. It generally created Brandies, grappas and cognacs. I don't think it is particularly common today. As for its legality in the US... who knows.

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That's the traditional way cognac was made in France. There were dozens of these mobile distilleries, wood fired, going around Cognac making the brandy. Now the focus is away from small family wineries making brandy, and a focus on mid-size, with huge production, and their own stills. There are only a few mobile distilleries left in Cognac, but I think much Armagnac is still made this way since it tends to be small family producers.

There is at least one mobile brandy distillery in South Africa.

As for legality in the US... I want to see his TTB DSP. If so, I will build a mobile operation in a heartbeat.

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The wines that you use for brandy, especially cognac, are actually ones that aren't fit to drink. You use high acid, thin, dry, weak wines (7-8%abv), with little flavor. So bad drinking wine can make the best brandy.

I had a strange conversation with a gentleman yesterday. He tells me that he wants to put a small still on a trailer and move it to various locations mostly wineries. And distill the unwanted wine into God knows what. He tells me he has clearence from the TTB to do this...I personally don't understand the legality behind this it appears to me that this guy knows absolutly nothing about distilling or the Federal Law. My only remark was,from what I know from distillation is that if you start with garbage you will end up with garbage....Has anyone ever heard of a mobile distilling facility or if it is even legal?

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I believe I know who this is in regards to. He doesn't have a DSP yet, he has just talked to enough TTB agents that he got one to say it was allowable. So, nothing official yet Jonathan.

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Mike ~

I'd be surprised (understatement) if the TTB had actually permitted such a thing in the US. Mobile stills are nothing new: the French have had them for generations, though the practice seems almost to be on its last legs. Communal stills were common in colonial North America, though it's true most were stationary. I have come across the occasional still on wheels in my moonshine research, but again: moonshine, not fully legal distilleries with DSPs. It's not a matter of collecting refuse or garbage and making rotgut out of it, though, but of providing a service (distilling) for farmers, grape growers, etc., who do not have the resources or expertise to do so themselves with produce they raise sometimes specifically for distilling. The result is often a few cases of eaux de vie for the growers' personal use.

The guy's got his history right and it's a practical way to eke out a living (if not actually to build a retirement portfolio). But to do it in the US? Va te faire foutre!

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That's the traditional way cognac was made in France. There were dozens of these mobile distilleries, wood fired, going around Cognac making the brandy. Now the focus is away from small family wineries making brandy, and a focus on mid-size, with huge production, and their own stills. There are only a few mobile distilleries left in Cognac, but I think much Armagnac is still made this way since it tends to be small family producers.

There is at least one mobile brandy distillery in South Africa.

As for legality in the US... I want to see his TTB DSP. If so, I will build a mobile operation in a heartbeat.

Jonathan,

I do agree with you partly, here at Fiore we produce Brandy and pumous brandy etc....and you are right as wines they are unfit to drink. Those wines are purposely made in that fashion. There are a lot of things that a decent self conscience winemaker-distiller takes into consideration when he produces those wines to be distilled. One of the things he watches very very carefully is that there is no S02 present neither free nor total. Because you know what S02 will do to a distillation? And yes I'm aware that a mobile distillery was allowed in France I don't know if it still is but I know that it existed in the late 50's but I'm not talking about France because the law is somewhat different there. What I'm talking about is the good ole USA. How would the bonded area work? Who pays the tax and when? Before I got my license I had to send a blueprint specifying where the distilling would take place and the location of my stills.

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Have a look at the commercial availability of mobile stills in South Africa: http://www.edesa.co.za/distillation_equipment_for_sale.htm

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Wonder if he got the idea from the mobile still on the back ofwww.flickr.com/photos/spiritsreview/536072801/in/set-72157600337854534pickup truck Mr Sutton used to have.

I've seen a number of mobile still in France and one in Belgium (but the guy who owned it knocked out the back of a building and then - since he couldn't get a tractor or team of horses in then out the same hole easily because of the size of the building) got a bunch of his friends to haul it in one night. www.flickr.com/photos/spiritsreview/536072801/in/set-72157600337854534

Christian Drouin Calvados also uses a (formerly ) mobile still www.flickr.com/photos/spiritsreview/5036577580/in/set-72157625059998510 obviously of a fairly recent vintage - I seem to remember them saying it was post war - will check my notes on that.

As to legality in the US ?

Good luck with that !

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It seems to me that the purpose of the rules laid out in 27 CFR 19 all trace back to "protection of the revenue". (For any one who doesn't yet distill, the revenue is the excise tax). I fail to see how a mobile still, regardless of the setup, could offer any "protection of the revenue". This has to be a dream....

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It seems to me that the purpose of the rules laid out in 27 CFR 19 all trace back to "protection of the revenue". (For any one who doesn't yet distill, the revenue is the excise tax). I fail to see how a mobile still, regardless of the setup, could offer any "protection of the revenue". This has to be a dream....

A dream? More like a nightmare,some one trying to figure a way around the DSP permitting. Coop

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A mobile wine bottling company doesn't have a BW registration. If all your customers had DSPs, maybe a still on a sledge, hauled by truck, would be possible. But it would be a narrow market. Your customers would have to be interested enough to get the DSPs, but 'thrifty' enough to not go and buy their own still.

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The concept is what we've been discussing with local wineries. Except we would pick up the 'bad' wine in drums and transfer to our site. I know, tax transfer and all involved.

But the mobile distilling idea really doesn't make sense to me.

Temperature control of the stack, weather problems, county zoning permits, just think of all the local things you went through as a distillery versus what a winery goes through in you area. In my case it isn't any real difference. But I know in some areas the hoops are much smaller to squeeze through for a distillery.

And not to mention the non-productive time of setup and taredown, trusting the local water conditions, etc.

No, even if the TTB blessed this I can't see it being viable for anything more than a publicity thing for festivals at the wineries. Sort of like cooking down apple butter in the orchard just to show how it's done.

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Hello,

I can't comment on the legality in the USA but it is certainly not a new concept.

In the early part of last century the French had self propelled (steam powered)alembics which looked like a cross between a road roller and a still on wheels.

The vehicle would travel around wineries to distil the lees into "marc".

The wood fired steam boiler powered the wheels while travelling and then the distillation whilst stopped at a customer.

I've an article on it somewhere in my attic.

Regards

Alanw

Distilling Consultant

Scotland

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Jonathan,

I do agree with you partly, here at Fiore we produce Brandy and pumous brandy etc....and you are right as wines they are unfit to drink. Those wines are purposely made in that fashion. There are a lot of things that a decent self conscience winemaker-distiller takes into consideration when he produces those wines to be distilled. One of the things he watches very very carefully is that there is no S02 present neither free nor total. Because you know what S02 will do to a distillation? And yes I'm aware that a mobile distillery was allowed in France I don't know if it still is but I know that it existed in the late 50's but I'm not talking about France because the law is somewhat different there. What I'm talking about is the good ole USA. How would the bonded area work? Who pays the tax and when? Before I got my license I had to send a blueprint specifying where the distilling would take place and the location of my stills.

Mike, with natural So2 almost always ending up in wine during fermentation how are you ensuring a zero SO2 level? Do you treat the wine with anything before distillation or just stir it up?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had a strange conversation with a gentleman yesterday. He tells me that he wants to put a small still on a trailer and move it to various locations mostly wineries. And distill the unwanted wine into God knows what. He tells me he has clearence from the TTB to do this...I personally don't understand the legality behind this it appears to me that this guy knows absolutly nothing about distilling or the Federal Law. My only remark was,from what I know from distillation is that if you start with garbage you will end up with garbage....Has anyone ever heard of a mobile distilling facility or if it is even legal?

I had this idea about five years back to set a mobile distillery up but lacked the funds(sounds familiar anyone? ;) ). Currently there is already precedent with the TTB of running a mobile distillery(I should know I worked for one of the companies that set the precedent wow?!? almost 9 years ago). This idea really I think only works in winery dense areas such as CA or maybe WA or OR, and you wouldn't be able to cross the state line. I think the real market would be in being a value added service to wineries who want to have estate desert wines and less in making your own product. That said it would be a paperwork nightmare and would make filing for you DSP look like the 1040EZ.

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  • 4 months later...
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