Number of distilleries in the UK jumps by 19% in a year

Publications that covered this story include The Telegraph, Daily Express, The I, Metro, Daily Mail, Sky News, on 25 September.
  • Increased by 107% since 2012
  • ‘Gin-naissance’ shows no sign of slowing as gin sales soar

The total number of distilleries in the UK has risen by 19% in the last year alone, from 110 in 2015, to 131 in 2016*, our research shows.

The number of distilleries in the UK has increased rapidly over the last five years – rising by 107% since 2012 – in large part due to the sudden popularity of artisan gin.

The value of gin sales has increased significantly over recent years – hitting £1.07bn in 2016 and is expected to rise to £1.37bn by 2020 as gin continues to undergo a renaissance. (Source: Euromonitor)

Whilst analysts say that UK gin sales are expected to soar, sales of Scotch whisky, traditionally the UK’s biggest export, are expected to fall slightly by 2020 to £1.17bn from £1.28bn in 2016.

The short production time allows distillers to quickly ramp up production, without the lengthy maturing process of whisky. The ability to quickly produce limited edition lines sold at higher margins has ensured sales have kept up with rising demand.

Several high value acquisitions within the sector will have also contributed to the growing number of distilleries, as new entrants look to imitate these successful exits. London gin maker Sipsmith was bought by Beam Suntory, the world’s third largest distiller by sales in December.

In addition, larger players have also entered the market to capitalise on the growing trend towards premium gin. Brewdog, the Scottish craft brewery, recently launched a gin, named Lone Wolf.

Our previous research revealed that 53 new distilleries were launched in 2016.

James Simmonds, Head of our Drinks sector group and partner in our Nottingham office, says: “The gin-naissance shows no signs of abating, with the industry going from strength to strength.”

“Five years ago, artisan gin was a relatively unknown product, but now it’s very common to see five or ten different premium gins on the menu or on a supermarket shelf.”

“Premium gins often retail at around £30 a bottle making it a high margin industry.”

“Gin can be very versatile – with many companies adding new and unusual flavourings to their products. This means that new producers can differentiate themselves relatively easily in comparison to other spirit producers such as whisky.”

“However, not all gin distillers that start up will have the same success. They need to ensure they have tight business plans, funding in place and they robustly test their assumptions in their marketing and sales strategy.”

“Those looking to get into the market must be sure not to take for granted the popularity of the spirit and ensure they have tight business plans in place when starting out.”

Number of distilleries soars by 107% in five years

*Year end 31 December, Source: HMRC