Welsh and Irish gin sales soar as distillery numbers rise

With a total of 17 distilleries in Wales and 18 distilleries in Ireland, gin producers are reporting record sales and are pushing for Protected Geographical Status.

According to figures supplied by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) there was only one distillery in Wales in 2012. Today, the country boasts a total of 17, with four new distilleries opening last year alone. 

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) reports a similar story in Ireland which had just four distilleries in 2014, but now has a total of 18, with a further 16 planned.

ABFI estimates that there are now as many as 30 gin brands in Ireland and expects the category “to grow significantly” in 2018.

Penderyn, the producer of Brecon Gin, is Wales’ largest gin maker, distilling around 300,000 bottles a year.

The country, however, is dominated by smaller distilleries that have been set up in recent years.

Speaking to the BBC, Rob Higgins, the owner of Eccentric Gins highlighted the importance of provenance in the success of Welsh gin.

He revealed that 80% of his customers were based in Wales, 15% were people outside of Wales with a Welsh background and 5% were “people who just want a nice gin”.

Eccentric Gins, which produces five gins including Cardiff Dry gin and Saint David gin, is based in Caerphilly and produces 20,000 bottles a year.

In addition, the drinks business also reported on the success of the Porthmadog’s Purple Moose brewery and its tap room which has a 12-strong gin menu, eight of which are Welsh.

John-James Savage-Onstwedder, managing director at Da Mhile distillery in Llandysul, Ceredigion, told the BBC that sales had increased by at least 50% year-on-year over the past four years.

He is among those calling for Welsh spirits to have a PGS.

“Every Welsh spirit should have PGS. We’re currently working with Penderyn and the Welsh Government to gain PGS for Welsh whisky,” he added.

James Wright, managing director of Aber Falls Distillery in North Wales, revealed that demand for Welsh spirits has prompted the distillery to open its new site, complete with visitor centre.

“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,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, the ABFI has said that while 2017 “marked a breakthrough in terms of exports”, brands such as Bertha’s Revenge, Shortcross, Blackwater No. 5, Dingle and Gunpowder are expected to increase their sales to overseas markets in 2018.

Irish drinks exports rose 8% in 2017 to €1.5 billion and the forecast for 2018 is equally positive.

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