UK distilling IS legal!!

Discussion and plans for legalizing our hobby.

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Re: UK distilling IS legal!!

Postby TheBounder » Sat Apr 23, 2016 6:38 am

LG11 wrote:We have a distilling exemption certificate at work and I have one at home, but there are strict rules in place. The facts are inthe UK you need to distill 1800 ltrs as stated elsewhere OR the Ethanol has to be rendered unfit to drink by methalation or similar. The or similar is slightly tricky as you have to use something that will make separation by distillation in practical/not possible, this generally only leaves you with methanol as a viable option cost wise. Now from a practical view point how does affect home brewers? For a start you wont get a license to distill unless your a business and can distill at least 1800 ltrs, there is no if or buts on this. At work we have customers come taste various things we distill for them and we hold a license to do so, we have to be a commercial LTD company and we MUST render the sample unfit to drink within 4 hours of production (this is a nightmare that is often broken).
I hold a certificate of exemption at home also but this is for research purpose and does not allow me to make spirits, again I have to render anything I distill unfit to drink. It took around 5 years to get an exemption but to get caught without (and they do catch you) is instant destruction of your credibility as a scientist (in my case) and carries some utterly out of proportion penalties.
So my advice in the current climate in the Uk is based on weekly chats with C&E and a good relationship with them................
There is a tax avoidance clamp down going on, now publicly this is being targeted at big business but the reality is different. The CUSTOMS people are well aware that big business has the punch to cover its arse and going after them is pretty fruitless as a country on its own, so first in the firing line is the BIO FUEL people. These are currently being hunted down and a nice stack of them are being processed ready for court, the first 100 or so will be very harshly treated to put others of and so likely will face prison time.
Those that follow will get stiff fines for being stupid enough to continue, there are so many BIO FUEL people in the UK that C&E are making nice inroads on the tax avoidance targets. Little reaches the press about who is paying up because the public want big business to pay and the GOV just want the cash, so they tell you how much they have got back from avoiding tax and leave it at that.
Next in the food chain is the people who distill on a commercial scale for profit without a license, these are portrayed as organized crime gangs and therefore get little sympathy from joe public. But consider the following......................
We sometimes act as expert witness in criminal cases against people who operate illegal stills, I have acted as such 4 times this year alone.
When you buy 'Cheap' booze from some guy that knows a guy you assume its from someone thats gone on a 'booze cruise' to europe and therefore hasnt paid duty, but think about it. Often you buy cigs or booze way below what its sold for abroad, and if you consider fuel and profit etc how can these people actually make a single penny??
The truth is most 'cheap booze' in the UK is produced here on small industrial sites or garages, often they are NOT eastern Europeans gangs and criminals. They are just as likely to be someone you know well, someone you have known for years, someone who started off making a bit for a hobby................... Someone who used to give it away then decided to charge a little, someone who after a while decided to make a little bit more and stick a label on, someone who after a little while longer decided that he could make more from the garage.
And so on, this is actually based on all 4 cases I have spoken against in court this year. ALL were normal people who's hobby got out of hand and they got too confident and cocky in one case, sometimes things just snowball and before you know it your standing in the Dock looking at 4 years inside or in one case 7 years!
So by all means have a hobby, keep it quiet and be careful who you give it away too. DONT get tempted to sell it even more so at a loss as this WILL get you a free holiday at the worlds worse holiday resort!
Enjoy what you do but be sensible, personally at the moment I wouldnt give it away outside your immediate close circle. I certainly wouldnt print a bloody label and stick it on a bottle.
Keep in mind that because you want it to be legal your judgment is impaired and you think what your doing causes no harm, the reality is that courts and C&E hold a different view and you are public enemy number 2. Your also a easy target to go after with little resource (especially now with new legal aid rules), your all a fine target to get tax in the coffers and good old fine money in the GOV bank. You also help get the crime figures down without much effort.
Please be sensible and while I wish it was legal it just isnt in the UK. I hate giving evidence against people like this, but when I hear the stupidity of some people I cant help think they asked for it. Take a leaf out of a good poachers book, take your meat and enjoy it quietly.


I thought I would share a few things from the recent case I did. Just basic facts about it

Guy been making beer and wine as a hobby for 12 years
Claims he only been making spirits 3 years
So how was the fine and back tax worked out?

Our job in part is to asses the equipment found and report back its capacity IF run for 24 hours a day 7 days a week......
Now this is very much stacked against you and assumes the following by default.
You dont eat,drink,sleep and you have the funds to buy and all the ingredients etc to run your still 24/7
Very few cases work on real figures as the court and C&E want maximum revenue from you

The guy claimed he probably made around 100 bottles over three years! This is obviously unlikely and therefore his evidence in whole was disregarded effectively.
So he had a nice sized still and the court assumed that he had one before this one of similar size, we worked out he could produce around 1000 bottles a week! If run 24/7 without a break in production for TWELVE YEARS

He was given 7 years inside and fined £110,000 in back duty, slightly unfair considering they wouldnt let him pay tax at the time.
Funny enough it was almost exactly the amount he had in assets like like his house etc so these were seized and are being sold, the remaining money should just be enough to pay 4/5ths of his legal fees.

Worth noting I believed him when he said he never charged for what he made, I also believe it was purely a hobby that got a little out of hand, he seemed to like the fact he produce was highly regarded by those that tasted it.
So how was he caught?
His son was mugged and a policeman turned up to take a witness statement and saw a small glass condenser on the draining board having just been washed up. The police then searched the house with probable cause and found the still in the garage and 26 bottles of drink, he life was ruined from that point on

Firstly, the 18hl requirement was always discretionary in UK law. It has been rendered impotent in the last few years by the number of craft distillers using small stills who have been licensed and approved by HMRC.

Secondly, The only exemption in law from being licensed as a distiller and observing all the distilling/warehousing regs is section 13(2) of the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979 providing HMRC with the powers to make a Commissioners' Direction and this is only for when spirits are produced fortuitously (eg stripping alcohol from beer to make low-strength beer). The effluent low-strength spirits have to be destroyed. I am not sure how or why anybody could be given an "exemption certificate" unless it is under the aegis of a Commissioners' Direction.

Alcohol duty fraud is mainly the smuggling of beer and wine into the UK from the near continent. It is brought in in trailer loads, not "white van" so is hugely profitable and is based on organized criminal activity. Spirits fraud (mainly branded spirits also illicitly diverted) is much lower compared to beer and wine. Any any home distiller caught is very unlucky indeed (or dim). HMRC's latest iteration of its Alcohol Strategy was published a few weeks ago - it has a foreward by the Treasury Minister Damian Hinds so is easy to locate on the web. One thing that is mentioned is making approvals easier to obtain although there is little detail in the document. HMRC has recognized it has been over-officious and the law is archaic, especially for craft distillers and rectifiers/compounders.

Finally, UK law has just been introduced to require any business to business sales of duty-paid liquor to be regulated under the Alcohol Wholesale Registration Scheme (AWRS) at the lobbying of legitimate wholesalers undercut by the fraud. It is hoped this will assist in preventing smuggled booze being so easily distributed. Home distillers are not worth worrying about - the UK government has been resourcing AWRS as a high priority.
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Re: UK distilling IS legal!!

Postby Dan P. » Wed May 11, 2016 1:55 am

Interesting, Bounder, thanks.
I fear LG11 is a troll that I have come across before a number of times under a number of aliases. He's an extremely pedantic scare-monger of English/British origin who labours under the delusion that he is very, very, extremely clever, so don't try and understand him, because you are too stupid. And probably drunk. Which he is definitely NOT! His greatest hits include classics like "Alcohol Vapour Explosion; It Will Happen to You!" and "Methanol Poisoning… It's Only a Matter of Time!"
Dan P.
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