The Law on Distilling Alcohol for Personal Consumption

Last Friday we went to a meeting at our local MP’s office to discuss the legality of distilling alcohol for personal consumption - see EU Directive 92/83/EEC.

In brief, distilling alcohol without a license is illegal within the EU and, according to info from the Treasury, licenses are only issued where there is “a genuine commercial need”. Why does there need to be a commercial need? We’d like to be able to distil legally, just like we can ferment legally. The current law is outdated for a number of reasons so trying to change it is worth a shot!

Valid concerns include potential dangers and loss of revenue from excise duty. In short there is little – almost zero – danger involved today thanks to modern domestic distilling technology. Much of the modern equipment is manufactured in New Zealand where it’s legal to distil for personal consumption. There is an informative pdf article called HDA Safety in the Downloads section of the American Hobby Distillers Association website regarding the potential dangers. And on the issue of lost revenue from excise duty, ideally there would be an exemption from paying excise duty for those distilling for personal consumption (just as there is for fermenting). If that is not acceptable, then we could have a licensing system – not dissimilar to the current shotgun license or television license. The license fee would be a sort of prepaid excise duty.

There being no way to get a license to distil alcohol for personal consumption could encourage criminal behaviour, trading on the black market and make it harder to collect data about the subject. If we decided not to issue shotgun licenses unless there was “a genuine commercial need” we might be sending citizens towards the criminal fraternity. Hungary are currently fighting with the EU to allow its people to distill up to 50 litres of pálinka without a license - here is an article from 2014.

Our meeting last Friday concluded that we’d ask for more information from the Home Office as this is the ministerial dept responsible for "shaping the alcohol strategy, policy and licensing conditions".

We're looking forward to getting their response.