Alcohol can be great when enjoyed responsibly, however it doesn’t take much to crossover into the excess consumption zone. For any profession that has easy access to alcohol—distillers and bartenders, for example—we have to contend with the fact that it is easy to over-consume because alcohol is associated with fun and eventually, it can become a habit then alcohol dependency can set in. You will feel pressure to drink with friends and guests because they want to try your product with you, but for them, it may only be once a week, but in a distillery, you may feel pressure to drink daily, along with your sensory work and exposure to ethanol vapours in the air—and yes, the vapours can add up over an 8 hour day so have good ventilation.
Most corporate distillers mandate that their distillers avoid swallowing spirits when they are doing sensory testing. They also place time limits on working in the rickhouse (barrel storage) because the ethanol vapour in the air can be enough to have an effect.
Obviously, your curiosity and passion for drinks and distilled spirits have brought you here, and it would be unfair for me to just ignore the realities. I have worked in the drink industry since 2003 (bartender, drink writer (lots of spirit and cocktail drinking) and presenter (travel and more drinking) and to date I have managed to stay on the safe drinking side. There are many strategies to avoiding alcohol dependence, and the one I follow is to keep my drinks to no more than two per day and allow myself to have an extra one or two on weekends. I also aim for less, so if one or none is fine that I stick with it. Some people do a dry January or take a week off here and there, but scientifically the one that has proven most effective is 2 days per week without a drink, like a Sunday-Monday break.
If you need help, get help, there is no judgement it is a health issue so talk to someone, like your doctor or call a help line, both are non-judgemental and can give you some guidance. And even if you feel it isn’t a major problem yet, but feel you are losing control, make the call earlier than later. Here are some additional resources for getting help:
Australia: Alcohol & Drug Support Line
Phone: 1800 198 024
Canada: Get help with problematic substance use phone list
New Zealand: Where to Get Help
Phone (0800 787 797) and free SMS service (txt 8681)
United Kingdom: Drink Line
Phone: 0300 123 1110
Alcohol Addiction Hotlines
The Recovery Village