So You Want to Set up a Gin Distillery?

We get asked this regularly, so here is our guide to setting up a gin distillery.  There may be things we’ve managed to erase from our memories (not always smooth sailing), but the one thing we must emphasise is everyone we spoke to wanted to help. 

  1. First point of call is HMRC. You may have heard that you can’t get a license to distil and rectify unless you have an 1800 litre still.  This was never made law.  It was only a guideline to stop people from blowing themselves up in their sheds, caves and other dwellings.  The HMRC are helpful and can guide you through the process of getting your government licences.

  2. Become a member of the Alcohol Wholesalers Registration Scheme.

  3. Register with HMRC for Duty Stamps if you are going to sell your spirit in 300ml bottles or larger.

  4. Now the real fun starts!  Contact your local licensing department, where you will hopefully find a kind, knowledgeable soul who will help you through the minefield that can be all the local licenses you need: personal, premises etc, as well as directing you to the courses you may have to take to obtain them.  What you need differs from area to area.  We have been very lucky with the friendly people we’ve come across.

  5. Now we head off to the planning department.  Where is your still situated?  Do you need a change of use putting on the building.  Would there be an increase of traffic that impacts your neighbourhood?  How do your neighbours feel about it?  Have you ever fallen out with them or like us, have they become an intrinsic part of your taste-testing team?  
    If you are on an industrial estate, don’t take it for granted that it will be easy peasy lemon squeezy as the building may still need change of use.  What will be the environmental impact?

  6. Trading Standards and Environmental Health will find you.  Either sit back and wait for a mysterious knock on the door, or get on the phone and have a chat. They will talk about weights, measures, types, standards, restrictions…You may feel you have thought of everything, but these guys will surprise you! They have many knowledgables and are happy to impart.

  7. Lock yourself in a dark, quiet room.  Think it all through and decide whether you really do still want to do this….

    You decided you still want to do this!  So:

  8. What will you need and where are you going to store it all?  Large bottles, small bottles, bottles shaped like bottles, bottles shaped like skulls, dolphins, unicorns.  Corks: large corks, small corks, corks that fit, corks that don’t fit, do you want corks?  How are you going to seal your tops: wax, paper, plastic, Cellotape, granny’s crochet? Packaging: boxes for single bottles, boxes for triple bottles, boxes for posting boxes of bottles, 99% of boxes will be the wrong size, custom boxes can cost more than your gin!  Labels: design, front label, back label, side label (?), colour, size, texture, type, matt, gloss, applied by hand or machine, wording. Logistics and supply of all raw materials: where are you getting them, will they have them the next time you ask, is it twice the price than before because it’s a Tuesday  Marketing: social media, advertising, promotion, POS, walking round town with a sandwich board, wrapping your car, your van, your dog.  Invoicing, banking, bookkeeping, credit agreements: don’t get us started!

  9. Don’t forget the still!

You may feel you need to collapse with a drink.  The one good thing is, if you bite the bullet, you will always have a supply on tap!


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