What are the legal requirements to start a micro-distillery?​

Legal requirements for starting a micro-distillery vary by country and within the same country based on the type of products a distillery makes and the different operations it conducts. The Craft Distilling Business has extensive expertise in this process and can assist clients with obtaining all necessary licenses to get up and running. Please contact us and let us know what products you wish to make and your country.

If you don’t plan to distil from scratch and rectify with duty-paid spirits, like crafting gin or botanical spiced rum, HMRC no longer mandates a rectifier’s license. However, obtaining an AWRS is essential for wholesale selling of your product, and having one also streamlines the process of purchasing duty-paid spirits. Typically, it takes between 6 to 12 weeks for us to secure an AWRS for a new setup.

If you intend to produce spirits from scratch, like whisky, you’ll require a distillers’ licence, warehouse keepers’ licence, bonded warehouses’ licence, and an AWRS. Typically, it takes between 3 and 9 months to acquire these licences for a new distillery.

The equipment cost for a small gin distillery can be as low as £11k, and for a tiny whiskey distillery, it is £60k.

However, startup costs for a micro-distillery can vary significantly based on size, location, and equipment, reaching several million dollars for larger, complex setups. Distilleries focused on products like whisky also need to consider the costs associated with ageing their stock, which can delay revenue generation.

Essential equipment for a micro-distillery includes a still, bottling and labelling equipment, storage vessels, and possibly barrels for ageing spirits, among other things. The size and type of equipment will depend on your production scale and the spirits you plan to produce.

Pot stills are traditional and straightforward, primarily used for crafting spirits with rich and complex flavours like whisky, gin,  and brandy. They operate by heating a pot of liquid, causing it to vaporise and condense into alcohol.

Column stills, conversely, are more efficient and commonly employed for producing lighter spirits such as vodka and light rum. They function by continuously cycling the liquid through a series of plates or other reflux methods, separating the alcohol from other components based on boiling points.

Hybrid stills combine elements of both pot and column stills, offering versatility in production. They can produce a broad range of spirits, enabling distillers to tailor the process to achieve specific flavour profiles.


The time from setting up a distillery to producing the first batch of spirits can vary. Setting up the distillery itself might take a few months to a year, depending on the scale and complexity. Once operational, the production time will depend on the type of spirit; for example, gin can be produced relatively quickly, whereas whisky needs to be aged for several years.

Quality products, effective branding, and marketing are crucial. Additionally, navigating the regulatory landscape efficiently and maintaining good relationships with distributors and retailers is key. Innovation and uniqueness in product offerings can also set your distillery apart in a competitive market.

Marketing strategies might include social media marketing, attending industry events, offering distillery tours, tastings, and creating engaging stories around your brand. Building a strong online presence and engaging with your community locally and globally can also help drive sales.

Yes, the distilling equipment we manufacture is perfectly capable of producing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic spirits. Whether you’re interested in crafting traditional spirits or exploring the growing market of alcohol-free alternatives, our equipment can accommodate your needs.

We provide comprehensive guidance and recipe development services for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic spirit production.

Distilling is safe when proper techniques are used. Concerns about methanol are often overstated; in standard distillation processes for spirits, methanol is present only in very small amounts and is easily managed. For instance, during the distillation process, the initial fractions that contain methanol, known as “foreshots,” are routinely discarded, mitigating any risk.

Additionally, when customers distil spirits from a pre-existing alcohol base, such as neutral grain spirit used in gin distillation, methanol and other unwanted compounds have already been removed in previous distillation steps by the supplier. This makes the process even safer. We provide comprehensive training and education on these safe practices to ensure that all our clients can distil confidently and safely.

For small distilleries, automation can be a major expense with little return, as most processes are straightforward and benefit minimally from costly automation. As the scale of a distillery grows, however, automation becomes more important and can offer significant returns on investment.

We recommend a stepping stone approach: start with minimal automation and gradually integrate more advanced technologies as your business expands.

Maintaining and cleaning a micro-distillery is relatively straightforward. This ease of upkeep is partly due to the nature of the distilling process itself, which involves alcohol—a natural sanitizer that significantly reduces the risk of contamination. Additionally, the equipment used in micro-distilleries is designed to be simple to clean and maintain. As distilleries scale up, they often incorporate Clean-In-Place (CIP) systems, which automate the cleaning process and further simplify maintenance.

Distilling craft spirits can be a very profitable business. The key to profitability lies in creating a unique product that stands out in the market, managing production costs effectively, and implementing strong marketing strategies. The craft spirits sector has seen a significant rise in popularity, which has opened up opportunities for artisanal and niche products.

The process of distilling spirits is both enjoyable and rewarding. It offers the opportunity to experiment with different ingredients and techniques, allowing for the creation of unique flavours. This aspect combines elements of science and creativity, making it a satisfying venture for many. We equip our clients with the necessary tools and training to ensure they not only produce high-quality spirits but also enjoy the entire process from start to finish.

Fogg Micro Distillery Diagram – The Craft Distilling Business
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Registered Office: Nightingale House, 46/48 East Street, Epsom, KT17 1HQ.
Company No. 10638119   |  VAT No. 263799944

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