It has long been regarded as Scotland’s national drink. But now, a growing number of whisky distilleries are opening south of the border, with the number of new spirits manufacturing facilities rocketing in England and Wales over the past five years.
Official figures from HMRC showed that 42 more distilleries making a range of spirits are open now than in 2013. Of the new distilleries, 20 were in Scotland, while 22 were in England, four more opened in Wales and another three set up in Northern Ireland.
Trade body the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said the figures were not broken down into types of drink, but said that whisky distilleries are increasingly opening in England and Wales.
The figures showed that 149 distilleries are now online in Scotland compared to 90 in 2010 - a two thirds increase.
The WTSA added that the boom in gin sales, which has seen a record number of bottles of gin sold last year and an estimated 95 different gin brands on the UK market, has contributed to the increase - but said that whisky making was becoming increasingly popular in England and Wales. Over 47 million bottles of gin, a record breaking equivalent of 1.32 billion G&T’s, have been sold in the UK in the last 12 months - up seven million bottles compared to the same period a year ago.
UK distillery openings have gone up 172 per cent from 116 since 2010 when the WSTA first started collecting the data – adding 199 in just seven years. The region showing the most rapid growth is England which in 2010 had only 23 distilleries and which grew to 135 in 2017, accounting for 56 per cent of all UK openings in the last eight years.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, pointed to research which the same data states that since 2010 the number of Scotch brands in the UK market has more than doubled to 246 from 119.
He said: “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 in to 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: “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."
WSTA head of research and insights, Ciaran Myles, said that some distilleries are currently selling gin, but are also waiting for their whisky to mature.
He said: “While no one should assume that there are many who are out solely to make great gin and lots of it, there are incidents of gin producers making gin but also biding their time until the brown stuff is ready for sale.”