Spirit of the ‘ginaissance’: revival of gin fuels distillery boom | Food

Britain’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for gin saw consumers buy 66m bottles last year, a 41% annual rise, fuelling a spirit-making boom that has led to the number of distilleries in England overtaking Scotland for the first time.

The UK’s long hot summer provided the massive boost in sales, with more than 19 million more bottles sold than in 2017, taking total UK sales to £1.9bn.

The revival in the popularity of gin, or “ginaissance”, has broken Scotland’s centuries long domination of spirit making – built on the global popularity of scotch whisky. For the first time, more distilleries were operating in England than Scotland last year, 166 to 160, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

“With England now boasting more distilleries than its Scottish cousins, 2018 really has marked a moment in history,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA.

The latest figures from HMRC show that 54 new distilleries opened across the UK last year, with eight closures, taking the total in operation to 361. The number of distilleries in the UK has more than tripled since 2010, when the WSTA started keeping data and a year after the start of the renaissance of gin, when there were just 116.

England has led the boom in craft and premium distilleries, accounting for 39 of the 54 new operations started last year. There were 11 in Scotland and two each in Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 2010, England had just 23 distilleries, last year it hit 166, accounting for 58% of all UK openings in the last eight years.

Scotland is home to some of the largest distilleries in the UK, but an increasing number of smaller distilleries have emerged across the country, many of them diversifying and making new gins, whiskies, vodkas, rums, brandies and liqueurs.

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Last year, the drinks giant Diageo said gin was the fastest-growing category across western Europe, with sales up 22%. Its Gordon’s brand, the industry leader, launched a pink gin variant in summer 2017.

Flavoured gins have accelerated the gin boom that began in 2009 with the launch of the Sipsmith craft brand. Supermarkets have also cashed in with own-label craft sprits, while the discounters Aldi and Lidl have put out premium flavoured gins. In 2017, the number of trademarks registered for spirits and liqueurs in the UK leapt by 41% to 2,210.

Such is its popularity that in 2017 the Office for National Statistics added gin to the basket of goods it monitors to measure inflation.

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