First things first: Credit for this debunkment goes to Dominic Roskrow who in a blog article dived into the unfathomable depths of British excise regulations. But without a doubt this issue is important enough to be repeated here, albeit in condensed form without legalese.
For centuries it has ben regarded as something like an iron law that Scotch whisky had to be distilled in stills with a minimum capacity of 400 gallons or later 1800 litres. But recently some distillers successfully applied for a distilling licence for significantly smaller stills, such a the London Distillery Company. How on earth could that happen?
For the legal nitty-gritty please refer to Dominic’s article. In short, the 1800 litres have never been the rock bottom lower limit for a legal still, but a limit below which a licence could be denied, if the revenue to be expected was disproportionate to the amount of work involved for excise in controlling the operation. The original intention was to get rid of the work involved hunting down small stills that could be easily moved to a hidden location to operate illcitly. But times have changed since the early 1900s, so chances of getting a small still approved have indeed increased, especially since 1995 when there also was a law change that made challenging a refusal much easier and less expensive.
Do I sense a wave of micro-distilleries coming up?