As a consumer, you may be enjoying Maltese-based spirits as more and more hit the market – but you probably didn’t know that none of these were produced on the island.
Indeed, it is a serious challenge to produce spirits on the island, leading producers to look abroad to distilleries that can hit their standards while following the law.
The producers of one Maltese gin, Vovis, spoke to Lovin Malta about the situation, and why it needs to change.
“There is a law which regulates the production of distilled spirits, Chapter 41 of the laws of Malta – Spirits Ordinance,” Andreas from Vovis Gin told Lovin Malta. “However the laws regulating the distillation of alcohol are archaic and do not reflect the realities of today. It is one of the main reasons why there are no licensed distilleries in Malta.”
“We currently produce our Gin in the Netherlands.”
Andreas pointed out how the current law was leading producers down a dead end.
“By way of example, the law states the alcohol produced during the distillation process needs to be directed towards a locked receiver, located in a spirit store, which can only be accessed in the presence of ‘the proper officer’,” he explained.
“If one had to follow this procedure, there will be no control on the final product, as it will be difficult for the distiller to cut out the part of the distillation which is not wanted in the final product.”
He explained that under the current law, Maltese spirits would practically be forced to be low quality – and cost a pretty penny.
“The only way the distiller would have control of the distillation process is if ‘the proper officer’ is present throughout the distillation process, which process may take over 8 hours. The presence of ‘proper officer’ is not free of charge, and will come at a cost, and subject to availability,” he said.
“The distiller will have an indication of the product that was produced when ‘the proper officer’ is present, which would be too late if something went wrong throughout the distillation process.”
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Incredibly, Malta’s law is so old-school, it even includes financial rewards for anyone who snitches on local producers.
“The law is so archaic, it also includes provisions to reward informers,” Andreas pointed out. “Any officer or informer can receive a reward by the President of Malta, up to €232.94, for information which leads to the arrest and conviction on breaches of the spirits ordinance.”
“But there are no licensed distilleries in Malta,” he continued. “So the production of the spirit does not take place in Malta. Producers import ethanol alcohol (Vodka) at a high percentage, which is then used to blend or macerate to give the spirit flavour. These are then marketed as being produced in Malta.”
Like others – such as Islands8 Gin – Vovis uses a distillery in the Netherlands to produce their gin – they ship over their chosen botanicals and pay for the use of the distillery, before bottling and labelling it all and shipping back to Malta.
With such a convoluted scenario to produce a local gin, Andreas – and others – hope the law changes soon.
“Setting up a distillery in Malta was our main objective,” he ended. “However after seeing the archaic laws which regulate the industry locally, we were not ready to carry out the investment without certainty that we would be able to operate efficiently.”
Cover photo: left, Vovis Gin, right, Panos Fteiadis using Islands8 Gin
Do you think producers should be able to produce on the island?