It is against federal law to operate an alcohol distillery without a permit, and there are many state and local laws against operating a still, according to an article at NPR.org. Jim Tom Hendrick starred in a Discovery TV show about moonshining and operated an illegal still until he started his own company, Sugarlands Distilling, in 2014, according to West Virginia Metro News.
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, there are stiff legal penalties for people who produce distilled spirits at home. It is a felony offense to possess an unregistered still or produce alcohol without a license, and each felony can lead to possible punishment of up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, according to TTB.gov.
The TTB issues federal permits to companies that operate distilled spirits facilities, but these are not available to home users. Under federal law, a still may be used at home legally only to produce ethanol or ethyl alcohol fuel, not to create products for consumption. All home still owners must apply to the TTB for approval as a Fuel Alcohol Producer and file required reports, according the TTB. Some states like Missouri have laws that permit home distilleries, but those laws are overruled by federal regulations, according to NPR.