The recent insistence by supervising local authorities in Scotland (based on erroneous advice from DEFRA), as to the interpretation of the regulation requiring that the neutral spirit for gin must be rendered to not less than 96% ABV and must be shipped to and used by distillers at that ABV (until dilution in the still), was set to cause problems for the industry.

A referral for clarification to the Gin Guild by a Scottish distiller resulted in protracted correspondence between the Guild and DEFRA and DEFRA has now issued the following advice: 

“We are content that as long as the ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin was distilled to at least 96% ABV initially, it can be used to make distilled gin, even where it is diluted with water for transport.

We do advise, however, that where the ethyl alcohol is diluted before travel that gin makers should have proof (usually by way of a certificate) that that alcohol was at least 96% ABV before dilution. 

It should also be borne in mind that, in accordance with the legislation, the addition of water is only authorised “provided that the quality of the water is in conformity with Council Directive 80/777/EEC of 15 July 1980 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the exploitation and marketing of natural mineral waters ( 2 ) and Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption ( 3 ), and that the water added does not change the nature of the product”.

The above is consistent with widespread industry practice and is compliant with the regulations, even if a literal reading of them may suggest otherwise. This also applies to gin and London gin.”