You really don’t need a lot of money to start a micro distillery. Go on Ebay and you can find little Portuguese pot stills for around £500. Then all you need is a licence from HMRC – obtaining one isn’t the ordeal that it used to be – and you’re ready to go. Or if you are feeling fancy you can take the guesswork out of distilling with a computerised Istill – which can be operated using a portable telephone!

The ease with which you can start distilling led to the rapid growth of micro distilleries in the UK and abroad in the last ten years. At one point, it seemed that there can’t have been a town of any size that didn’t have its own gin distillery. However, turning out a few dozen bottles for friends and family, and creating a successful brand are two very different things. Many micro distilleries haven’t survived the end of the great gin boom.

But many have and they are thriving. Here’s a look at some of our favourites with a bottle to try from each. Regarding size for a micro distillery, there are no particular rules, we’re just doing it on a ‘I know a micro distillery when I see one’ basis.

Doug Miller by his 500 litre Hoga still

Doug Miller from Scratch rum by his 500 litre Hoga still

Scratch Rum

Stevenage is perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a rum distillery but Doug Miller had been making rum here since 2018. The distillery is housed in an old stables just outside the Hertfordshire town and uses one 500 litre copper pot still. The basis of the current Scratch range is what he calls Faithful. It begins with molasses and a very long fermentation, between two and three weeks. It took a lot of experimentation to find a yeast that worked in England’s cold climate. He uses the Jamaican technique of adding dunder – left over from the first distillation – to the ferment. 

Scratch Golden Rum 70cl

Shed 1

You don’t get more micro than Shed 1 – so-called because it is literally housed in a shed. It was started by Andrew and Zoe Arnold-Bennett (they combined their surnames when they married with glorious effect). Based in Ulverston in the Lake District, they launched their first gin in 2016 and haven’t looked back since. In 2019 they moved out of the garden shed and into a former cow shed but the operation is still tiny.  They use the original 100 litre still, and small batch really means small batch with 110 bottles per run.

One to try

Shed 1 Gin Cuckold’s Revenge 50cl
Greensand Ridge

Maturing casks at Greensand Ridge

Greensand Ridge

Located in leafiest Kent just up the road from Master of Malt HQ in Tonbridge, Greensand is housed in converted stables and employs just two people: founder Will Edge and Chris Poole, a former bartender who looks after sales. Founded in 2015, Edge uses a combined pot and column still which means he can make a wide variety of spirits including gin, brandy, rum and a delicious raspberry eau-de-vie in a small space. The rest of the stables is crammed with barrels and fermentation equipment.

One to try

Greensand Raspberry Ghost 70cl


Bristol’s Psychopomp was founded in 2013 by Liam Hirt, a cardiologist, and Danny Walker (see photo in header), a former bartender and one time brand ambassador for Diageo. In 2016 they took on a full time distiller Marc Scott. Then in 2018, they opened a larger distillery called Circumstance which produces some of England’s best whisky. The gin, however, is still made at the original micro distillery near Clifton along with an absinthe and various other spirits. As with many micro distilleries, they offer classes in gin making. 

Psychopomp Negroni 70cl

Micro distilleries

Forest Distillery

The brand was founded by the husband and wife team Lindsay and Karl Bond in Macclesfield in the Peak District. Not only are the gin’s ingredients locally sourced, but the material for the bottle is too. Hence the use of Staffordshire Porcelain made by Wade Ceramics. The bottle artwork is by papercut artist Suzy Taylor. Isn’t it gorgeous! The contents are pretty impressive two, since its launch Forest Gin has picked up two separate double-gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirit Awards. Very impressive!

One to try

Forest Gin 70cl