Number of distilleries still soaring thanks to gin boom

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Spirits surge: some 49 distilleries opened in the UK in 2017
Spirits surge: some 49 distilleries opened in the UK in 2017
Britain is now host to 315 distilleries, which is more than double the number that were operating across the nation five years ago.

New figures from HMRC have revealed that 49 distilleries started up in 2017 and seven closed, which adds a further 42 distilleries to the total number operating in the UK, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

Some 22 of these were in England and a further 20 in Scotland, with four more in Wales and another three in Northern Ireland.

Five years ago in 2013, there were only 152 distilleries operating in the UK, the majority of which were located in Scotland.

Since then, Britain has been in the grip of a ‘ginaissance’, with a record number of bottles of gin sold last year and an estimated 95 different gin brands on the UK market.

Distilleries in the UK are now diversifying and taking advantage of Brits love of cocktails with a rising number of new spirits appearing each year, the WSTA has said.

Growth prediction

Gin in numbers:

Gin sales in the on-trade have grown 15% by volume in the past year (ending 9 September 2017) to 61,000hls (8.8m bottles), worth £729m, up 19% on last year.

The UK drank the equivalent of 1.32bn G&Ts in the past 12 months (to 9 September 2017).

The UK hit its largest ever gin exports in 2016 – worth nearly half a billion pounds at £474m, about 180m bottles.

The UK exports British gin to 139 countries around the world.

Since 2012, UK gin exports have risen by 32% by value and 37% by volume.

Figures from HMRC

Experts have predicted that the growth of UK distilleries is set to continue this year after the trade received a boost from the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he froze spirits duty in the November Budget.

UK distillery openings have soared by 172% from 116 since 2010, when the WSTA first started collected data, adding 199 in seven years.

Most rapid growth has occurred in England, which in 2010 had 23 distilleries and grew to 135 in 2017, accounting for more than half (56%) of all UK openings in the past eight years.

London alone now has 24, making it the nation’s gin capital. While gin has been the main driver over the past five years, English and Welsh whisky is also contributing to the boom.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “Gin is the key driver behind the surge in new distillery openings in the UK in the past 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."

Welcome news

He added: “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 commonplace in our pubs and bars.

“It is welcome news that another 49 new distilleries opening 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 Chancellor of the Exchequer’s welcome boost is likely to see this trend continue into 2018, as well as broadening out into new variations of English and Welsh whisky." 

James Wright, managing director of Wales-based Aber Falls Distillery, which will begin operating this year, outlined his business’ plans and what he is offering drinkers.

He 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, near Bangor in north Wales, includes a visitor centre and a 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."

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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