Reality Kicks In

Now the hard work really began. Being granted our very own Rum Distillers Licence was the most exciting part of our journey so far. It wasn’t easy getting our licence- the checks HMRC carry out are pretty exhausting and you need to have such expansive business plans and distillery plans that are then scrutinised to every tiny detail. Annoyingly, if you are creating a distillery with a colossal budget and your smallest still is at least 18 hectolitres, HMRC legally cannot refuse your licence which seems ridiculously unfair to all the craft distillers out there!

After months of preparation we finally submitted our application only to realise that we had misunderstood the guidelines! We assumed that you applied for your licence and once granted, you then bought all the necessary equipment as detailed in the plans but we were quickly informed by our excise agent that it was the other way round and that we had to have the distillery fully operational by the end of the 45 day consideration period or it was an automatic no! Doing it this way round meant that we ran the very real risk that we would pour our limited savings into a business that could be refused and leave us without any savings and no viable business. We decided we’d have to take an enormous leap of faith and hope that our extensive plans and research would be enough to secure it. That was probably one of the most stressful months of our lives but by some miracle we managed to pull it all together and with just 2 days to spare, we got the distillery fully operational and were awarded our hard earned yes!

I remember feeling that we might as well have been starting the whole business again, it suddenly seemed like we were at the bottom of a huge learning curve. Although the business had been up and running since November, we hadn’t had to fill out any of the HMRC warehouse or distilling records or any of the technical duty submissions. The forms are meant to be self- explanatory but let me assure you, they are anything but! We had to check with several other distilleries that we had interpreted them correctly and even then there were bits that we got wrong! There was a lot of trial and error in those first few months and even now there’s parts of the business we realise we’ve been doing completely wrong! I guess every day is a school day when you’re running your own business.

I’m trying to keep the blog posts a bit shorter so they’re easier to read but I’ll tell you more next time about the realities of running your own micro rum distillery on a shoestring budget.