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UK distillery numbers hit record high

Published:  02 March, 2020

The British gin boom is far from over, if the latest distillery numbers from HMRC are any guide.

The opening of a record 80 new distilleries in England and Scotland in 2019 has taken the number of operating spirit producers in the UK to 441, up 22% on last year’s 361.

The topline figure could be even higher, since HMRC has not released the relevant data for Northern Ireland and Wales.

While the number of distilleries in Scotland has doubled since 2010, rising from 90 to 186, it has risen 10-fold in England, rocketing from just 23 a decade ago to 228 today.

HMRC granted 77 new distillery licences in England in 2019, with 15 licences being cancelled. The respective figures for Scotland were 34 and eight.

Although Scotland is still home to some of the largest distilleries in the UK, the number of distilleries in England overtook those north of the border for the first time in 2018.

The exponential growth has been driven by the gin boom. UK gin sales were worth over £2.6bn last year, with some £672m being exported, according to end-of-year data from the WSTA.

The WSTA has used the HMRC data to renew its calls for a cut to excise duty in this year’s Budget.

Miles Beale, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “It’s fantastic to see a growing number of British distilleries up and down the country, year on year, providing jobs and boosting their local economies.

“A freeze at the last Budget has certainly helped our innovative British distillers to invest and boost exports.

“And because we also know that an increase in wine duty has reduced Exchequer revenue, we are asking the Chancellor to take the time to consider a clear win/win. A cut to excise duty would boost both British business and Treasury coffers.”

The steep growth in spirits producers mirrors the rising number of trademarks in the sector, which also hit a record high, as Harpers reported in the autumn.