The 9 Best Books For Home Distillers (Read These!)

*** Please be advised that it is illegal to distill spirits at home in most countries. This guide is for informational purposes only. To find out if distilling is legal in your country, check out our article: Is Home Distilling Legal In My Country?.*** 

The hobby of home distilling is growing in popularity every year with the rise in popularity of boutique spirits and craft distilleries.

Although it is illegal in many places to create and sell distilled spirits, it’s often not illegal to own moonshine-making equipmen and, in many regions, users can apply for a permit to produce ethanol without too much hassle.

In this article we’re going to share out top 8 books for anyone looking to get started in the hobb of home distilling.

The 8 Best Books For Home Distilling In 2023

The following are our top 9 books if you’re wanting to get into distilling. From learning about the history of prohibition era moonshine, to building your own stills, and mastering your gin botanical recipes. These books cover everything, from brazing copper, to the science of distilling to how to start your oown nano distillery.

  1. Moonshine
  2. The Compleat Distiller
  3. Making Pure Corn Whiskey
  4. The Artisan’s Guide to Crafting Distilled Spirits
  5. Making Fine Spirits
  6. The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible
  7. Designing And Building Automatic Stills
  8. The Joy of Home Distilling: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, Schnapps, and Brandy
  9. How to Master Moonshine

1. Moonshine – By Matthew Rowley

To set the scene i’ll reccomend “Moonshine” by Matthew Rowley. This book won’t talk azeotropes or physics, but it will give you the perfect high level overview to the whole distilling process.

This book is jam-packed with useful information while also being a lot of fun to read. It takes you on a journey through the history of moonshine production, from its beginnings in the 1800s to today’s libations. 

I found this book to be one of the authoritative publications on America’s most-guarded drink, with “recipes, tall tales, drinking songs, historical stuff, knee-slappers,” and more. In this illustrated tome, you’ll definitely learn about the history of moonshine, how to consume it, and more.

For those less ‘practical’, it also has a bounty of coctail recipes and infusions you can make with store bought alcohol at home.

Here are some of my favorite aspects of the book:

This book is very informative. Moonshine not only teaches you how to make your own moonshine, but it also gives you a comprehensive overview of the alcohol’s illustrious history in America.

He then shares some detailed plans on building a copper pot still – which is a great starting point for a begginer – but there are probably better and cheaper designs on this site and the rest of the internet.

He describes in step by step instuctions the whiskey making process in a way that you can follow along at home without any prior experience to make some pretty good hooch.

Rowley utilises wit and humor to create a book that is as entertaining as it is educational. Moonshine! is a fantastic book on the subject because of this, as well the great whimsical illustrations.

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Moonshine!: Recipes * Tall Tales * Drinking Songs * Historical Stuff * Knee-Slappers * How to Make It * How to Drink It * Pleasin the Law * Recoverin the Next Day
  • Matthew Rowley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 05/01/2007 (Publication Date) - Union Square & Co. (Publisher)

2. The Compleat Distiller (2nd Edition) – By Michael Nixon and Michael McCaw 

The book was released in December 2010. This is the most thorough book ever written on the subject of home distillation. From elementary concepts through a thorough explanation of the physics behind it all, everything is covered. 

Nixon discusses fermentation procedures with high yields are described in detail, allowing for flexibility while maintaining efficiency. Every form of a small still design is analyzed, revealing a plethora of ways in which they could be improved. The methods for extracting essential oils and smells from plant materials are contrasted and detailed instructions are provided. 

The first part of the book comprehensively covers every subject of the process in a manner that is the perfect balance of scientific theory and practical application. This book not only explains what’s happening but WHY it is happening too – through a palatable but accurate scientific description.

The second part of the book is a deep dive back into high school chemistry, physics, and chemical engineering. Without the context of having run a still before, and an appetite for scientific theory this may be quite hard to digest, but regardless of if you choose to read, or skip over, for now, it’s a great reference book to keep on the shelf at all times.

This book doesn’t pretend to be a recipe book for going from wash to whiskey in under two hours. In fact, you won’t even find a step-by-step guide. Instead, you’ll learn key theories behind every step of the process, and next time your reflux ratio changes unexpectantly, or you’re struggling to hit azeotrope, you’ll have the knowledge to understand the causes and the tools to fix it!

This book is for you if you have a basic understanding of distillation principles and want to learn more. It goes over the chemical and mechanical processes that occur during the distillation process in great depth.

Our recommendation?

If you are completely new to distilling then this book may be confusing (in my opinion). It’s a mecca of knowledge, but if you’re just starting out this may be a little intimidating.

But, For intermediate/advanced hobbyists (or professionals) then this is quite literally a distillers bible.

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The Compleat Distiller: Revised Second Edition
  • Nixon, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 227 Pages - 12/10/2010 (Publication Date) - bowker identifier services (Publisher)

3. Making Pure Corn Whiskey – A Professional Guide For Amateur and Micro Distillers  by Ian Smiley

I think this is the best home-distilling book that focuses on small-scale whiskey manufacturing. Every step of the process of turning fresh grain into whiskey is described in depth, including simple and inexpensive equipment fabrication methods and full operation instructions. 

The book has everything cleverly designed for home and hobbyist distilleries as well as micro-distilleries. All of the equipment and processes were based on those used in commercial distilleries.

It is really a wonderful book for anyone who is just getting started, or looking to take their whiskey to the next level. I found the fundamentals of distillation were described in a straightforward and easy-to-understand manner. At the last pages of the book, there is a brief history of moonshine production as well as several wonderful whiskey mash recipes. 

Many inexperienced distillers have trouble making cuts. Ian does an excellent job of teaching how to make cuts between the first portion of the collected alcohol that can be blended, 

By the time you’ve finished this book, you’ll have a thorough understanding of not only how to create whiskey, but also how to craft and hone your whiskey into something that belongs on the top shelf!

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4. The Artisan’s Guide to Crafting Distilled Spirits By Malle and Schmickl  

Learn why The Artisan’s Guide to Crafting Distilled Spirits was dubbed “the standard reference work for all home-distillers” by Die Zeit magazine.

The standard reference work for all home distillers

Die Zeit magazine.

Bettina Malle and Helge Schmickle wrote the book, which is divided into twelve chapters that include “The Foundations and Traditions of Distilling Alcohol,” “Mashes,” “Stills,” “Distilling,” and more.

This is originally a german book called “Schnapsbrennen als Hobby” which has been translated to english and added to – so it’s not a direct translation. Because of its german roots, this book focusses on fruit washes and making schnapps, where most american books have a bias to whiskey making.

What makes this book an excellent resource for anyone interested in moonshine and the distillation process in general? Malle and Schmickl are both seasoned distillers with a strong background in chemical engineering and chemistry, which shows in the text.

Even if you’re an experienced home distiller, you’ll find something useful in this book. This fantastic book has something for everyone when it comes to manufacturing moonshine, with loads of tips and ideas on how to make a better batch.

Our Recommendation?

This book is a fairly broad brush to most aspects of distilling. That is, it touches on every aspect of the process but does get into perhaps enough detail in most cases.

The exception to this is on the topic of making fruit mashes for distilling schnapps and brandies. There is clear expertise on this topic and the book provides information that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere.

So, if you’re an amateur just starting out, or have a particular bent for fruit distillates, then this is a great book to get going.

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The Artisan's Guide to Crafting Distilled Spirits
  • Hardcover Book
  • Bettina Malle (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 09/01/2015 (Publication Date) - Spikehorn Press (Publisher)

5. Making Fine Spirits – by Zymurgy

Zymurgy Bob was there right at the outset of the artisanal distillation movement, and even before it began. He’s been working with fermenting and distilling alcohol since 1951. He’s been monitoring small-scale distillation forums and answering thousands of inquiries since the internet’s inception. 

This book begins with plans to build a tiny test still in a day and step-by-step directions on how to run it and test your processes. Bob shares his wealth of knowledge and expertise in this book. Recipes and instructions on how to enhance and scale up to any size are included.

This is an excellent guide to get you started if you’re new to distilling and want to make a high-quality naturally flavored alcohol like whiskey, brandy, or rum using a classic pot still. 

With extensive instructions on how to run it and plans to make a small coffee pot. You’ll discover how to turn store-bought wine into a delectable brandy. You’ll learn how to build a larger 5 gallon and 15 gallon pot still, as well as how to design and ferment washes to make the best spirits, in the later chapters of this book.

Our Recommendation?

This is an incredibly enjoyable read. The author has a meticulous understanding of pot distillation so if you’re looking to hone in a world-class whiskey or rum then this is a must-read.

Where many other distilling books provide one generic recipe, Bob teaches how to craft brandy and whiskey that would blow the socks of many commercial brands.

The other highlight of this book is the detailed plans to make a small coffee pot still, and then a larger DIY pot still. If you’re a DIYer then these tutorials offer some great insights.

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Making Fine Spirits
  • Zymurgy Bob (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/26/2023 (Publication Date) - Amphora Society (Publisher)

6. The Alaskan Bootlegger’s Bible By Leon 

This book will teach you how to produce beer, wine, liqueurs, and moonshine whiskey. The author draws on more than thirty years of experience to show you how to do it right. He not only shows you how to manufacture almost any type of beer, wine, liqueur, or whiskey you can think of, but he also shows you how to make the necessary equipment. 

What’s the best part? This book not only teaches you how to produce moonshine and other fine spirits, but it also explains the equipment you’ll need in detail so you can get it right the first time.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive guide to the production of moonshine and other alcoholic beverages. It also includes detailed instructions for making the necessary equipment, such as plans for making your scales, and even a malt factory out of an old freezer. 

The book features eight various types of stills, each with fantastic illustrations that make it simple to construct them at home. This book will keep you entertained with Alaskan stories and bootlegger lore while teaching you how to create everything from beer and flower wines to horse dung whiskey and bathtub gin. Should you buy a book, this is the one. It is equivalent to obtaining an entire shelf of books for the price of one! 

What do I like about this book?

The fact that simply, nothing is left out of this handbook.

Carbon filtration, flavoring and aging, and the post-distillation process are all discussed in depth to ensure you have everything you need to get started.

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The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible, Second Edition: Makin' Beer, Wine, Liqueurs and Moonshine Whiskey: An old Alaskan tells how it is done.
  • Kania Sr, Leon W (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 195 Pages - 06/02/2019 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

7. Designing And Building Automatic Stills – By Riku

The knowledge of an artisan distiller and the engineering precision of an equipment designer must be balanced. This book shows graphically what can be accomplished when both of these abilities are used. 

Automatic Reflux Control (ARC) is the newest approach in amateur distillation, and it takes all of the guessings out of regulating a still to ensure that it produces the best output with the least amount of trouble and oversight. 

The idea behind ARC is to use the temperature in the top section of the still to retain both the output and the reflux ratio at optimal levels, ensuring outstanding results.

This book is a must-read if you’re planning to create your own reflux distilling system. There are excellent illustrations to assist you in comprehending the Reflux still designs.

If you buy this book, you’ll also get access to the ARC forum, which is administered by the author and gives answers to book-related queries, fresh research, and help with ongoing construction and operation issues.

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Designing & Building Automatic Stills
  • Riku (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 117 Pages - 01/26/2023 (Publication Date) - The Amphora Society (Publisher)

8. The Joy of Home Distilling: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, Schnapps, and Brandy

The Joy of Home Distilling is one of the most comprehensive books on the market, and it’s a must-have for anyone new to moonshining. This book offers everything you need (and more) to brew the ideal batch of moonshine, from step-by-step directions that go over the various distillation procedures to one-of-a-kind recipes you’ll want to try.

Furthermore, the book contains vital legal information that might assist you in adhering to the law and staying out of problems when brewing your own brew.

This book may be used by both beginners and intermediate distillers, making it a more advanced guide. Even if you have prior experience with moonshining or alcohol distillation, you will find this book to be extremely useful. 

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The Joy of Home Distilling: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Own Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, Brandy, Moonshine, and More (Joy of Series)
  • Morris, Rick (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 10/21/2014 (Publication Date) - Skyhorse (Publisher)

9. How to Master Moonshine By Marshall

Do you prefer watching the process of manufacturing moonshine to reading about it? This is the book for you: How to Master Moonshine.

This educational book shows you how to manufacture rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, and moonshine, among other alcohols and spirits. Author R.W. Marshall goes over safety recommendations and proven-effective recipes to help you manufacture and consume spirits that are likely to be a hit, designed to battle misleading material on the Internet.

Marshall’s comprehensive reference to moonshine and spirit making is one of the most complete currently available on the market, with 181 pages. This extensive guide introduces readers to the legend and how-to of moonshine and other spirits, and it includes so many recipes that you’ll have a hard time deciding which one to attempt first.

How to Master Moonshine is jam-packed with fascinating facts and trivia, making it one of the most entertaining books of its kind. You’ll want to make sure you have this book on your shelf if you’re seeking for a book that’s not only easy to follow but also enjoyable to read.

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How to Master Moonshine: Modern, safe methods for making your own alcohol (recipes included!)
  • Marshall, R. W. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 180 Pages - 11/30/2014 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

Conclusion 

Just around the corner is the perfect batch of moonshine. You’ll be able to prepare a range of moonshine and spirit recipes as well as have a better grasp of the distillation process thanks to the top moonshine book titles mentioned in this guide.

📖 Keen on other spirits? Read our other carefully curated articles on books for other spirits:

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