Gin ‘key driver’ as UK distillery numbers rise by 127% in five years

The latest figures from HMRC have revealed that a total of 49 new distilleries were opened in the UK in 2017, bringing the total to 315 and representing a 127% rise in five years.

The so-called ‘gin-naissance’ and the craft cocktail boom is said to be behind the rise in the number of distilleries in the UK.

A total of 49 new distilleries opened in 2017, but seven existing distilleries were closed this year, adding an extra 42 distilleries to the overall UK total of 315.

In 2013 there were only 152 distilleries operating in the UK, the majority of which were based in Scotland.

Of the 49 distilleries that were opened, 22 were located in England, 20 in Scotland, four in Wales and another three in Northern Ireland. Indeed, over the past seven years, England has seen the most rapid increase in distillery numbers, with only 23 recorded in 2010 compared to 135 in 2017. With 24 distilleries, London now has more distilleries that the entire country did in 2010.

The figures provided by HMRC and published by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) do not distinguish between which spirit the distillery is actually producing. However, according to the chief executive of the WSTA, Miles Beale, gin is behind the change.

Image: WSTA

“Gin is the key driver behind the surge in new distillery openings in the UK in the last five years. New gin brands continue to pop up on our supermarket shelves, on a regular basis, as Brits show no sign of tiring of the quintessentially British spirit. It wasn’t that many years ago when a pub would stock one gin brand and now a gin menu offering a range of gins and mixers is common place in our pubs and bars.

“It is welcome news that another 49 new distilleries opened in the UK last year bringing new jobs to the British spirit industry and helping boost Britain’s export potential. There is a significant amount of investment going into the British spirits industry and the Chancellors welcome boost is likely to see this trend continue into 2018 – as well as broadening out into new variations of English and Welsh whisky,” he added.

Last year (in the year ending 9 September 2017), Brits purchased a record 47 million bottles of gin, up 7 million bottles compared to the same period the previous year.

Aside from gin, it is believed that new whisky distilleries, as well as demand for craft vodkas, rums, brandies and liqueurs are contributing to the rise.

James Wright, managing director of Aber Falls Distillery in North Wales, said:  “It is an exciting time for the UK spirits industry as people are showing more and more interest in trying new spirit drinks and learning about where these drinks come from and how they are made. Our new site in Abergwyngregyn includes a visitor centre and training centre where the public will be able to sign up for our courses in craft distilling. We are extremely pleased to be creating a new distillery in Wales which will bring jobs and trade to the local area”.

In the 12 months to September 2017, the UK gin industry across the on- and off-trade was worth £1.2 billion.

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