Gin industry must ‘educate a safety culture’

The gin industry must “keep moving forward” with educating small producers about the dangers of distilling, Bombay Sapphire’s master distiller has warned.

In December last year, The Gin Guild produced a safety poster for distillers to highlight the dangers of handling ethanol solutions.

Created in collaboration with not‐for‐profit organisation the Solvents Industry Association (SIA), the guide was created in light of the increased numbers of “new and often comparatively inexperienced distillers”.

The guide was also aimed at ‘gin schools’ – particularly those using micro‐pot stills, some with open flames.

Speaking to The Spirits Business last month, Bombay Sapphire master distiller Anne Brock said: “There’s a huge interest in gin and I think one of the issues that we have is that people drink gin and it’s a safe liquid.

“Therefore, consumers don’t associate dangers with it. It’s something they use on a regular basis and in their gin and tonics at home. It’s very much about getting the message out that distilling can be safe but you have to take precaution.”

She added: “I think we need to educate a safety culture across the industry. This first step that The Gin Guild has taken is crucial and very important but we need to keep moving forward from here and making sure we continue to educate and make people aware of the dangers.”

Brock says that distillers must consider the design of their distilleries. The Bombay Sapphire distillery, at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, UK, opened in 2014.

“When we went through the design stage, we drew up the designs of the pipework and laid it out,” said Brock. “You then carry out a ‘hazop’ [hazard and operability study], which looks at the design work, and at the processes that are going to be taking place, and make sure that it’s designed to a safe standard. So often before you’ve even started construction, flaws in the way it’s been designed can be identified.”

Brock advises that new distillers should “talk to an experienced distiller and have a budget for safety”.

“Don’t build a distillery until you’ve had someone look it over from the health and safety point of view,” she warned. “It’s much easier and cheaper to design out risks then to try and handle it at the other end.”

For an in-depth analysis of the risks around gin distilling, don’t miss the February 2020 issue of The Spirits Business.

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Author: Nicola Carruthers {authorlink}