Distilling Contractor

Is it legal to make and sell my own gin?

Juniper Tree

While gin has seen a real surge in popularity in recent years, it’s now clear that it’s gone from being the latest thing to a permanent fixture in consumers’ hearts. With so many to sample, and the surge of craft and artisanal spirits out there, you might have wondered whether making your own gin is worth a dabble.

Gin & Tonic

First of all, what is gin? Isn’t it just vodka with juniper added? Well… not quite. Gin is made by distilling a neutral grain spirit with botanicals, such as herbs, spices and roots. The type and proportions of botanicals used will affect the flavour profile. Unlike vodka, gin is always made with juniper. It is often enjoyed as-is, or as a base for cocktails – including, of course, the legendary gin and tonic.

We’ve established that gin is both here to stay and, well, absolutely delicious, but can you make and sell your own? Yes, you can, by following these steps:

  1. Licensing: Where there is alcohol and consumable products, there will always be necessary licences and permits to obtain first! Usually, you will need a distiller’s licence, allowing you to distil spirits. If you wish to sell your product, you’ll need an AWRS (Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme). Then you will need to register with your local council to book an Environmental Health Officer Inspection, which may come with the need for food safety and hygiene certification.
  2. Production standards: Just as important is ensuring your production is compliant. This includes all processes relating to hygiene, food safety and alcohol content. This will also demand a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) system, and putting a rigorous pest control system in place. For UK-based small distilleries, SALSA is a robust, effective and affordable food safety certification body which could be a good option for you.
  3. Packaging and labelling: Your gin bottles must comply with labelling requirements set by regulatory authorities. This includes providing accurate information about the product’s alcohol content, ingredients, and producer details. Additionally, your packaging must meet certain standards for safety and suitability. You can read more about that here.
  4. Excise Duty: Your production of alcohol and sales will be subject to excise tax. If you plan to operate a bonded warehouse, you will need to register with HMRC. Then register for the Alcohol and Tobacco Warehousing Declarations (ATWD) – an online service for excise warehouse managers – to send returns and payment warrants to HMRC.
  5. Decide how you will sell your gin: Whether that’s direct to consumers via a website or physical shop, via wholesale or retailers, or perhaps a combination of all of the above!
  6. Launching a new brand is always a challenge, so you will need to develop a marketing strategy to include everything from branding to digital promotion and in-person tastings.
  7. Finally, ongoing compliance, as well as regular contact with regulatory bodies to ensure you’re up-to-date with all legal requirements, is essential. Failure to comply can have serious consequences – more on that here!

As you can see, while making and selling your own gin is more than possible, there is a lot involved and set-up costs can be high so your best option is usually to work with a distilling partner, who can not only help you develop your gin recipe and put it into production, but also guide you through all of the legal side – saving you money, too!

Gin Still

Before you do that, though, you probably want to know whether gin-making is a profitable venture! Well, as we mentioned above, gin’s popularity has really exploded in recent years, and that shows no sign of changing. It’s also a very innovative industry, which is great news for those wishing to take gin’s rich history in the UK to new and exciting heights.

  • The power of the craft market – craft and artisanal spirits continue to thrive in the UK, where consumers appreciate the personality and traditional production methods that go into their drinks and love to sample new brands. This favour enables such brands to command premium prices and so better margins.
  • Embracing export – as much as the Brits love a gin, British gins have garnered a good reputation in international markets, too, so it’s definitely worth considering export for your brand.
  • Gathering your tribe – the beauty of an audience who are passionate about artisan spirits is that they will happily champion your brand and help it grow, so explore all avenues for promotion open to you, from building a community on social media to hosting tasting events – try teaming up with other local businesses selling products that complement your own.
  • It’s red tape… but it’s good red tape. A lot of wannabe drinks producers are deterred from launching their venture by all of the regulatory hurdles involved, but – as well as being very important for health, safety and fair business – the UK actually has such a well-established regulatory framework in place that it does operate very smoothly. This means you’ll always know what you need in order to operate, and where you stand – so less stress!

While you will need a clear production plan in place and you will need to obtain the necessary licensing to make and sell your own gin, the UK gin market remains buoyant, which opens up exciting opportunities for launching innovative gin products to a ready audience. To remove the headache of navigating everything from set-up costs to production and legalities, leaving you free to plan your launch, we recommend working with a third-party distilling and bottling partner. For an informal chat about your gin venture, feel free to get in touch!