Playing with fire – Safe handling of gin

The excitement and interest in gin is a cause for celebration. An explosion in brands is one thing, but with the increased numbers of new and often comparatively inexperienced distillers and also ‘gin-schools’ (particularly those using micro pot stills, some with open flame etc), also gives rise to an increased risk of explosion, due to the use of ethanol as part of the distilling process.

The risks of using ethanol are not to be underestimated. Storage, application and production processes all carry risk. That risk should be understood by all involved in the use, operation, distilling and related processes (such as transport and bottling). Steps should be taken to mitigate, control, and avoid danger.

The Solvents Industry Association (SIA) is a not for profit organisation that supports the UK solvents industry and consumers in the promotion of the safe and responsible use of solvent materials.

The SIA, working with the Gin Guild, the international not for profit member funded gin industry body which aims to represent the distilled gin industry as a whole, has issued a guide to safe handling of gin and other ethanol-based liquids.



Key points:


Safety Data Sheet:

Always read the label and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) supplied for information on safe handling.

Sources of ignition:

No smoking or non-ATEX rated electronic devices in the distillation area.


Ethanol vapours are flammable. Do not leave containers open

Personal Protective Equipment:

Wear eye protection and gloves at all times when handling ethanol products.

Static Electricity:

Static electricity discharges can ignite ethanol vapours. For more information see the SIA website:


Dispose of any wastes according to local regulations. Do not pour distillation products down the drain.


Store flammable products away from the distillation area, direct sunlight and sources of heat.


Ensure that the working area is well ventilated to avoid concentration of ethanol vapours.


Nicholas Cook, the Director General of the Gin Guild, said “The industry has seen great expansion over the last few years. There is concern that newer players in the industry, particularly those producing distilled gin on a very small scale, in and under circumstances which are not purpose designed and built for the purpose, are exposing themselves to considerable risk.”

“Distillers need to be aware of the dangers of using ethanol, and of the need to ensure, regardless of the size of their operations, that they operate on the basis that this is an industrial issue and (albeit on a scalable and relatable basis), that they need to comply and observe with good industry practice.”

“I have a particular additional concern with members of the public exposed to micro distilling via some ‘gin-schools’ on what is effectively a ‘hobby style’ basis. The risks are no less and of course there is the added complication and danger that those undertaking the process are not trained and are involved in what is very much a one-off application.”

“I hope that the poster issued by the SIA and ourselves will be clearly and prominently displayed in all relevant properties and that it will act as a timely guide for all who are involved in dealing with ethanol. Hopefully this will also act as a prompt for many to seek further guidance and assistance in order to mitigate the dangers involved.”

Andrew Norman, the General Secretary of the SIA said “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with the Gin Guild to raise awareness amongst large and small gin producers of the potential hazards of handling ethanol-based products”

“We are all aware that spirits can easily be ignited through cooking or producing cocktails, but the familiarity of the products which are readily available in our everyday lives can often lead to complacency, with the risks often underestimated.”

“The issue of this outline guidance is a timely reminder to all in the industry, large and small, of the risks involved in working with ethanol. We would welcome the opportunity to provide further detailed assistance and guidance on request. The distilling industry is an exciting and vibrant Industry which could benefit from education, training and guidance in order to mitigate risk and to ensure safe operating practice”

Relating to general HSE guidance on the risks associated with the use and storage of flammable liquids, the following publications may also be of assistance:

  • SIA Safety Film – Solvents and Static Electricity

For media or other enquiries please contact:

Solvents Industry Association 07758 118675

or The Gin Guild at 020 33 97 87 47