Railway distillery owner uses legal loophole to sell gin without a licence

The founders of a new craft gin distillery in Yorkshire exploited a legal loophole to promote their first batch of spirits before they secured a licence to sell them.

Barry Mageean, co-founder of Taplin & Mageean Distilling (Photo: Taplin & Mageean)

Chris Taplin, 51, and Barry Mageean, 23, registered Tapling & Meegan Distilling on Companies House in August this year, and since then have spent their time converting a 200-year-old railway building at Wensleydale Railway into a still house, but still hadn’t receieved their license to sell alcohol.

Anyone who wants to sell an alcoholic product in the UK needs to apply for a licence to do so, although there are a few exempting circumstances.

Mageean used a technicality he discovered while completing his personal licence course, which states that the law does not apply to trains that are in motion, to promote his gin while he waited for the paperwork to come in.

“There is a maze of licensing and and paperwork to get through when it comes to making/selling alcohol so it made sense to make the most of the railway in our distillery,” Mageean told the drinks business.

The pair held a pre-release tasting debut on a vintage steam train parked at Wensleydale railway station on Friday 7 December before taking paying guests on a 2 1/2 hour gin masterclass once the train was in motion.

“Whilst completing my personal licence course I learnt that trains on a journey were exempt from requiring a personal or premises license to sell alcohol,” he said.

The steam train departed from Leeming bar to Leyburn for the masterclass, before turning back on itself and completing the tour.

This meant that for the duration of the masterclass the carriage was effectively “engaged on a journey,” Mageean said.

“Not only was this a great initial presentation with great feedback, but it also offered a welcome and legal income steam during the propagation stage of the start up.”

Mageean, who spent 15 months working as a lead distiller at Yorkshire gin company Masons before he left to start his own business this year, added that Taplin & Mageean Distilling will become licensed on Thursday 13 December, just in time for Christmas.

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