Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners Have Distillery Bond Issues

Distillery Bond

Trouble, like moonshine, could be brewing for some Virginian men looking to get a distillery bond.

On a recent episode of  Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners,” one of the stars expressed difficulty in getting a $200,000 surety bond. The Discovery Channel airs the show, which “tells the story of those who brew their shine — often in the woods near their homes using camouflaged equipment — and the local authorities who try to keep them honest.”

Brewing moonshine without proper distillery registration is an act that’s illegal at the federal level. Tim, one of the show’s main characters, has begun the process of legitimizing his practice by registering it with the proper authorities. He runs into trouble, though, when he’s told he needs a $200,000 bond.

When filing an application to register a distillery plant, applicants must provide a surety bond that will cover distilled spirit operations at the site. The bond provides a financial guarantee that the distiller will

  • comply with all provisions of certain laws and regulations relating to distillery activities
  • pay all taxes imposed by 26 U.S.C. Chapter 51
  • pay all penalties incurred or fines imposed for violation of any such provisions

Although their intended purpose is to ensure distillers comply with regulations and practices safe techniques, the bonds also keep some individuals from registering a distillery, whether for personal or professional production.

According to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, “There are numerous requirements that must be met that make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use.” The need to provide a surety bond is one such requirement listed.

The difficulty involved in getting a distillery bond depends on the bond amount needed, which will vary depending on who exactly is requiring the bond.

For example, Tim, who’s looking to register a legitimate moonshine business, says he needs a $200,000 surety bond to register a distillery in his area. Such a high bonding threshold means most moonshine producers won’t qualify for and/or be able to afford the needed bond, which frequently keeps smaller producers out of the market. As a result, the inability to be bonded can keep smaller distillery owners, such as those featured on “Moonshiners,” from being able to legally register a distillery.


Sign Up for Surety News!

About the Author

Danielle Burrow
Danielle Burrow is the Chief Operations Officer at She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 2011.