Several years ago, I bought a simple stovetop still from Amazon. I would tell you what I did with it, but I don't want to implicate myself in a federal felony.
The still is a gasket-sealed pot attached to metal tubes that run through a cooling chamber filled with ice. Heated at the right temperature, it separates and concentrates a liquid mixture's more volatile elements. Theoretically, the process can be used to turn fermented beverages such as wine, cider, or yeast-exposed sugar water into distilled spirits.
You should never do that, however, because home distilling, unlike home brewing and winemaking, is still prohibited by federal law. Flouting that law, the Treasury Department's regulators warn, "can expose you to Federal charges for serious offenses." The penalties include up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for possessing an unregistered still, distilling on prohibited premises, or sharing the resulting booze.
Although modern-day revenuers have been known to target hobbyists as well as money-making moonshiners, such cases are pretty rare. That may help explain why still vendors openly advertise their wares as useful for producing not only "essential oils" but also brandy, whiskey, rum, tequila, and vodka.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Stovetop Still".