This is a quick post telling you how I managed to get a license to distil my own gin from my house.

It’s actually easier than you think:

In order to get a license to distil gin from your home you need to:

  • Fill out form L5 and apply for a rectifier’s license
  • Explain how you are going to make sure that all duty is paid and how you are going to distil safely
  • Send it off and wait

Now in more detail.

Why I Needed A License

You may have already followed my blog series on how we started Pipehouse Gin. The way the business works is quite straightforward. I have a license to distil gin in my home at small scale for personal consumption. I have a couple of small stills which I use for recipe testing and working through hundreds of iterations and ingredient combinations.

Then when I have created a perfect recipe we go and find a commercial distillery with enough capacity to produce the gin in bulk for us. The distillery has all the alcohol duty licenses and stamps to make gin that I can actually sell in a shop.

Simple right? It means I can experiment with crazy combinations and concoctions without having to invest too much money. And then when I get it right we can produce in mass and sell it.

But in order to do that, I needed a license.

What Type Of License Do You Need?

There are three types of licenses. A distiller’s license, a rectifier’s license, and a compounder’s license.

A distiller’s license s pretty much impossible to get for your home. And even if you have a commercial premise there are a lot of hoops to jump through. And even if you jump through all the hoops they might still reject your application if your still is under 1,800 litre capacity. Which, you know, is a lot of gin.

But the good news is that despite the name, you don’t actually need a full distillers license to distil gin.

When we make gin we are re-distilling a neutral spirit with your botanicals. Which according to the law makes you a rectifier and not a distiller. And a rectifier’s license is much easier license to get.

This guide here from HMRC is pretty good (if long) on the different licenses. A rectifier’s or compounder’s license is much easier to get than a distiller’s license.

Here is a screenshot on the section explaining the differences between rectifiers and compounders.

So a rectifier’s license is what I got.

How Do You Get A Rectifiers License

To apply for a rectifier’s license, you need to fill out form L5 and mail it off.

The application is simple and only includes one section where it asks for more details. The section “specified trade”.

There are two main reasons why they might reject the application:

  • Alcohol duty – They want to be sure that all the taxes on alcohol has been paid. So I made sure to say I would be using duty-paid alcohol.
  • Safety – Fire and high proof alcohol don’t go well together. They don’t want you blowing up your street. So I made sure to emphasise safety.

Here is what I put:

I am applying for a rectifier’s license because I intend to produce very small quantities of rectified spirits using purchased duty paid alcohol. The final product is intended for strict personal home-use only and is primarily to experiment with gin and see what botanicals can help improve the flavour. The spirits created shall not be available for sale anywhere.

I intend to use a personally designed small pot still that has a maximum capacity of 2 litres. A typical run with this still will only produce 0.5-1 litres of spirit for my personal consumption. Neither the still nor premise is intended for commercial alcohol production.

The rectification will take place in a specifically set aside area of my kitchen. An area with no open flames. Safety will be given the upmost consideration and all stages of production will be thoroughly documented & monitored. Including temperature, the strength of alcohol, the quantity rectified and time taken.

I also attached that as a cover letter that I sent off with the application.

At the end of the application is the following:

Please attach an entry of premises, that is, a detailed plan showing the position and description of the rooms, vessels, plant or
equipment you intend to use for your trade then send the completed form to:
HMRC
Excise Processing Teams
BX9 1GL

For that I included a simple drawing of my kitchen showing where the still would be and a very basic diagram of the still. And that was it.

A few weeks later the following arrived:

Awesome!

Summary

In order to get a license to distil gin from your home you need to:

  • Fill out form L5
  • Explain how you are going to make sure that all duty is paid and how you are going to distil safely
  • Send it off and wait