I recently purchased a still. It turns out that New Zealand is practically the only country in the world where it is legal to distill alcohol for personal consumption without a licence. Below are my notes on the whole process so far...
The still is beautiful. I did a lot of research and discovered that I needed a pot still as I was trying to retain fruit essence rather than simply producing alcohol. Apparently most people just want alcohol which they add artificial flavours to. Go figure... Anyway I purchased from http://www.alembics.co.nz/products/traditional-alembics/ purely for function but it ended up being a work of art that I'm quite happy to leave out.
It turns out that alcohol isn't the only thing you can make with a still. You can also distill flowers or other vegetable matter to make essential oils and something called a 'hydrosol'. The hydrosol is similar to essential oils in that it contains the essence that you've distilled, but is water-based and far weaker which makes it much easier to use. If I was more into betting then I would bet that there will be a huge business opportunity creating hydrosol over the next couple years.
So far my attempts to make brandy have been largely unsuccessful. I thought I'd shortcut the process of creating a mash by using wine, and since I was going for a fruity brandy I picked Banrock Station's 'fruit fusion'. This had the added benefit of being lower in alcohol - the still I was using multiplied the alcohol content by 3.5 and I like my brandy around 37%.
Unfortunately while the result smells reasonably good, it tastes... pretty awful really. Far worse than anything I've ever bought anyway. I'm not sure if I started with the wrong raw product or if I did something very wrong in the process. Anyway, next time I'm intending to make pear brandy - I just need to find an affordable source of pears as the ratio is apparently 10kg of fruit for 500mL of brandy.