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How To Start A Distillery 

Starting a distillery will take you on a challenging but exciting journey to share your handcrafted spirits with the world. Starting a distillery requires a lot of planning, dedication, and a solid understanding of the industry.

This guide will walk you through the process of kickstarting your distillery.

Research The Distillery Industry

At the beginning of your distillery journey, it’s important to thoroughly research the industry.

Learn as much as possible about every aspect of distillation, alcohol production, and the competition in your chosen spirit category. 

Jacob in a henley distillery photoshoot

This in-depth research helps ensure you understand what’s already out there and how to tailor your product to suit your target audience.

Whether you want to produce gin, rum, vodka, or whisky, doing your homework will help you stand out and meet the demands of your potential customers. 

Your Distillery Blueprint 

Clearly defining your goals and initial business milestones is essential for success. It’s time to outline your distillery dream in your business plan.

Here are a few pointers to help get you started:

  • Brand identity 
  • Business goals 
  • Market analysis 
  • Production capacity 
  • Operational plans
  • Marketing strategies
  • Funding 
  • Budgeting

Within your business plan, highlight your unique selling points as these set you apart from your competition.

The plan should also clearly outline the financial projections of the distillery including the revenue, expenses, and profitability for the next 3 – 5 years.

Register Your Business 

As with any business venture, starting a distillery comes with several legal and regulatory requirements. In the UK, there are specific regulations relating to the production and sale of alcohol.

This means you’ll need to apply for licences and ensure your distillery adheres to the relevant regulations before your craft spirits make their debut. 

It’s best to get the licences granted and equipment installed at around the same time. Timing is important as you won’t be able to start distilling until you’ve got all the paperwork in place.

Requirements For UK Distilleries Include:

  • Obtain an Alcohol Production Licence (A.K.A Distillers Licence)
  • Adhere to Health and Safety Regulations
  • Obtain environmental permits where necessary 
  • Comply with Trading Standards as well as labelling and packaging requirements (e.g. list ingredients, allergens, alcoholic strength, and producer details on labels)
  • Pay the relevant spirit duty/ alcohol tax depending on the spirit type and alcohol content (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau)
  • Adhere to regulations set by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) 

Develop Your Product 

The heartbeat of any distillery is the craftsmanship. Focus on developing a staple product that will form the foundation of your distillery. 

Spend time sourcing high-quality ingredients and establishing relationships with suppliers. Consider trying locally-grown grains and British-sourced botanicals in your spirits. 

When developing your spirits don’t be afraid to unleash your creativity and experiment with different botanicals, techniques, and recipes. 

Visit An Existing Distillery 

Visiting distilleries is an inspiring and immersive way to gain practical knowledge and advice.

It’s an opportunity to engage with masters of the craft and learn about their practices, see the distillation equipment they use, and observe their operations in action. 

Connecting with fellow distillers and industry experts will help you avoid common mistakes, overcome challenges and elevate your distillery.

At The Henley Distillery, we are delighted to offer immersive gin-making tours that can give you invaluable insight into what running a distillery is really like.

Develop Your Brand Identity  

Just like your product, your brand identity needs to stand out too. Your brand identity should tell your story and resonate with potential customers.

Choose a memorable distillery name that captures the essence of your values and spirits. 

Spending more time on your brand’s visual identity will help make sure it’s compelling, consistent, and reflects the quality of your products. 

Network For Success

The final step is to shout about your distillery! Network, connect, and flourish through collaborations and partnerships. Put your distillery out there with events such as festivals and consumer shows.

Do what you can to get to know like-minded individuals within the distillery industry.

Reach a wider audience by creating an engaging website that showcases your spirits and expertise. Use social media platforms to connect with your audience and promote your brand. 

Not sure what to share? Give your customers glimpses behind the scenes, create captivating visuals, and include customer testimonials. 

Overall, starting a successful distillery is hard work but if you’re truly passionate about the industry then it can be well worth it.

Once you are up and running, you can focus on what you love; crafting exceptional spirits and sharing your unique journey with the world.