England overtakes Scotland in distillery numbers for the first time

New figures from HMRC have revealed that, for the first time, England has more distilleries than Scotland, with the equivalent of one distillery opening every week in the UK last year.

According to figures from HMRC and published by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) England now has more distilleries than Scotland, with a total of 166, compared to 160 recorded in 2018. This brings the overall UK distillery tally to 361.

A total of 31 new distillery licences were granted in England last year compared to 11 in Scotland. This is compared to 2017’s figures which recorded 149 distilleries in Scotland and 135 in England.

Scotland has traditionally been the dominant distiller in the UK due to its rich Scotch whisky heritage. Some of the largest distilleries are still located there, from well-established Scotch brands to some of the world’s best-selling gin brands including Gordon’s, Tanqueray and Hendrick’s. As such, it has been estimated that between 70 and 80% of the gin produced in the UK comes from Scotland.

However, increasing numbers of small-scale distilling operations have been set-up across England and Wales, making new gins, whiskies, vodkas, rums, brandies and liqueurs.

A total of 54 new distilleries opened opened in 2018, the equivalent of one every week. Eight distilleries also closed in 2018, meaning that distillery numbers have increased by 46.

39 new distilleries opened in England (but eight also closed), 11 were established in Scotland, 2 in Wales and 2 in Northern Ireland.

The Macallan distillery.

Of the 54 new businesses, 39 were in England, 11 Scotland, 2 Wales, 2 Northern Ireland. This means that the number of distilleries have increased by 210% since 2010 when there were just 116.

English distilleries account for 58% of all UK openings in the past eight years, with 23 recorded in 2010 compared to 166 in 2018.

Among the new distilleries that opened last year were: Liverpool Gin’s city centre bar and distillery, The Surrey Copper Distillery in Dunsfold, John Crabbie & Co in Edinburgh, William Grant & Sons’ £13 million Hendrick’s ‘gin palace’ distillery, The Macallan’s new £140m distillery in Speyside and Hayman’s Gin Distillery in Balham.

Distilleries and visitor centres due to open this year are: Douglas Laing & Co’s Clutha distillery, Aber Falls’ visitor centre in North Wales, Manchester Gin’s city centre distillery and the £18 million Ardross distillery.

Chief executive of the WSTA, Miles Beale, said: “It lifts the spirits to hear that distillery numbers continue to grow in the UK. It’s not just our gins picking up awards, but we have also seen a growing number of excellent quality English and Welsh whiskies too.

“With all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit it is extremely reassuring that our talented spirit makers are continuing to innovate, invest and grow. With England now boasting more distilleries than its Scottish cousins, 2018 really has marked a moment in history. There is a significant amount of money being poured back in to the British spirits industry which has been helped by the Chancellor freezing spirit duty.”

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