‘Local distillery’ used imported gin and props to look legitimate: Customs

Hong Kong Distillery’s stall at the Ginsanity event in PMQ on June 9, 2019. Photo: Hong Kong Distillery via Facebook
Hong Kong Distillery’s stall at the Ginsanity event in PMQ on June 9, 2019. Photo: Hong Kong Distillery via Facebook

A locally sold gin that was touted as being “distilled and bottled in Hong Kong” was actually imported from New Zealand and mislabeled by the company, according to the Customs and Excise Department.

Customs raided Hong Kong Distillery’s Tsuen Wan headquarters today and seized over 1,320 unlabeled bottles of gin, HK01 reports. The company’s director and his girlfriend were both arrested.

The company’s flagship product, Handover Gin, was launched last year after raising funds through an Indiegogo campaign. The gin — which was supposedly flavored with 11 Hong Kong-inspired botanicals, including ginseng, Chinese cinnamon, and horny goat weed — was a two-time silver medal winner at Cathay Pacific’s International Wine and Spirit Competition.

Handover Gin's label clearly states that the product is 'distilled and bottled at Hong Kong Distillery'. Photo: supplied
Handover Gin’s label clearly states that the product is “distilled and bottled at Hong Kong Distillery”. Photo: supplied

Customs officials said that the company falsely branded the gin as being an artisanal, locally made product through labeling, marketing, and social media pictures that proudly displayed a copper gin still. Officers on the scene said the equipment was dusty and didn’t appear to be in use, and stated that they believed the office to be a packaging and distribution center, rather than a distillery.

According to customs, only two companies in Hong Kong have distillery licenses — and neither of them are called Hong Kong Distillery. A source told the SCMP that a 750ml bottle of Handover Gin was being sold for HKD480, roughly four times what it originally cost in New Zealand.

An assistant superintendent for the department said she believed the company had been operating for six months, and had already distributed some of its gin. Over 150 bottles have already been recovered from local businesses.

Customs officials said they had been investigating Hong Kong Distillery after receiving a tip last month. Last Thursday, the department intercepted a shipment of 1,557 unlabeled bottles of gin which the company had ordered from New Zealand.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, importing unlabeled or falsely labeled liquor into Hong Kong is an offence punishable by a five year prison sentence and a HKD500,000 fine.

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CITY: HONG KONGCATEGORY: NEWSSUB-CATEGORIES: CRIME

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