England – more distilleries than Scotland

For centuries Scotland has dominated the brown spirit-making world thanks to the popularity and rich history of Scotch. But today, England claims 166 distilleries, six more than Scotland according to new HMRC figures.

In 2018 HMRC in the UK recorded a total of 361 distilleries – of which 166 were in England compared to 160 distilleries based in Scotland.

The gin boom has boosted the number of UK distilleries to more than double in the last five years with HMRC issuing 31 new distillery licences in England last year compared to just 11 in Scotland, states the Wine & Spirits Trade Association there.

Two years ago, in 2017, Scotland had a total of 149 distilleries beating England’s 135.

But “Ginaissance” has seen gin sales in the UK hitting an all-time high helping to fund new distillery bars and visitor centres across the country and the WSTA’s end-of-year market report showed a massive boost in gin sales over the Summer taking the total value of UK sales to over £1.9 billion.

Volume sales of gin were up 41% to over 5.5 million cases in the 12 months, up 41% or nearly 1.6 million cases on the same period the previous year.

According to HMRC the UK exported £532 million-worth of British gin last year which is expected to grow even more in 2019.

While Scotland still boasts some of the largest distilleries in the UK, an increasing number of smaller distilleries have emerged across England and Wales – many of them diversifying and making new gins, whiskies, vodkas, rums, brandies and liqueurs.

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

The latest HMRC figures reveal that a total of 54 new distilleries opened in 2018 – eight closed – which means that the number of spirit makers increased by 46 last year. Of the 54, 39 were in England, 11 in Scotland and two each in both Wales and Northern Ireland.

UK distillery openings have gone up 210% from 116 in 2010 when the WSTA first started collecting the data – adding 245 in eight years.

England had only 23 distilleries in 2010 compared to 166 last year, accounting for 58% of all UK openings in the last eight years.



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