Distilling hard liquors overseen by feds

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: Kahlua is $40 a half gallon. Would you or your readers have a recipe for homemade Kahlua? Thank you. — The Dude, Lewiston

ANSWER: Sun Spots regrets to inform you that you are out of luck when it comes to making Kahlua, even with a recipe, seeing as the federal government looks askance at people distilling their own spirits. While you might not think of Kahlua, which is rather sweet, as hard liquor, it is, and violating those laws is the equivalent of making moonshine.

Sun Spots spoke to Jeff at Maine’s Department of Liquor Licensing. He said distilling is regulated by the federal Tax and Trade Bureau (for alcohol, tobacco and firearms). If you really want to get into making Kahlua, you’d need a license from them. The cost of said license is steep, however, because it’s designed for manufacturers who want to make spirits for sale, not individuals.

Readers are probably wondering why citizens can make their own beer and wine (for personal consumption only, and there is a quantity limit) but not hard liquor. It is partly a matter of health safety. Improperly distilled spirits can lead to blindness and death in those who consume them.

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Sun Spots also likes Kahlua, but being of a thrifty nature, she generally buys the other “off” brands of coffee liquor. They are still pretty tasty.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I was watching a show on the History Channel about whiskey and how they make distilled spirits. They were showing how cognac is made in France. It starts with grapes then wine, is distilled and turns to cognac. I have a bottle of cognac that used to belong to my father. It was bottled in France. It’s still in the box it came in and has a U.S. stamp over the cap, never broken. I would like to know who could tell me what it’s worth. Thank you. — No Name, Lewiston

ANSWER: You didn’t say what kind of cognac, so that limits Sun Spots’ Web searches a bit, but she did find www.finestandrarest.com, cognac.com and www.brandyclassics.com. There are also websites devoted to specific kinds of cognac, such as Remy Martin. Another place to check current prices would be eBay.com.

Sun Spots did notice that your letter was hand-written. She suggests you visit the Lewiston Public Library for some help looking up your cognac online (you will want to take with you a copy of all the information on the bottle’s label). Helping people navigate the Web is becoming a bigger and more important part of the library’s mission every year, and Sun Spots has been assured by LPL personnel that they are ready and willing to assist patrons with these tasks. (They will have more time to help if you visit during the week, while children are at school, instead of a busy Saturday.)

Readers may also be able to help. Perhaps someone locally is a collector or connoisseur of fine wines and cognacs.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I am looking for a cedar garden structure sometimes called a tuteur or obelisk for climbing vines. The size would be approximately 81 inches tall and 2 feet at the base. Is there anyone in Sun Spots’ land who could make this at a reasonable price? If so, please email me. Thank you. — Joni, joniherling@yahoo.com

DEAR SUN SPOTS: In response to the April 21 column, the invaluable “snipping tool” is available for Windows Vista, but, as I recall, it needs to be downloaded separately. — Pam M., pammmm@roadrunner.com

DEAR SUN SPOTS: The 1961 class of St. Dom’s High School will be holding it 50th class reunion on May 28. We are looking for five classmates with missing addresses. They are Leonard B. Lacroix, Albert A. Moreau, Anthony R. Murphy, Roger L. Poisson and Alfred J. St. Amant Jr.

If anyone knows of the whereabouts of any of them, please call me. Thank you. — Gert Doyon Chasse, 754-8152, gdchasse@hotmail.com

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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