The rise and rise of Scottish gin

SALES of gin will soon smash through the £1billion mark in the UK thanks to a 16 per cent year on year rise powered by Scottish producers.

New figures for wine and spirit sales show that gin is no longer dismissed as “mother’s ruin” but has become the buzz spirit tipple as drinkers supplement their taste for vodka with taste of a new generation of craft distilleries.

The spirit is estimated to be worth £1.76bn to the UK economy and about 70% of it is produced in Scotland.

The latest figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s market report show that there gin sales in British shops and bars was worth £976 million alone in the 12 months to the end of March.

With World Gin Day being celebrated on Saturday analysts say that sales of gin in bars has risen by 21 per cent while it is up 10 per cent in shops.

Brits still buy nearly three times more whisky than gin, with sales of £2.8 bn for the year, but gin is closing the gap.

Whisky sales rise slowed to just 2.1 per cent in the year.

The gin boom has been helped by a multi-record breaking year in 2015 with 49 new distilleries opening – 11 of those in Scotland.

The latest data from the HMRC shows the number of distilleries opening in the year increased by 50%.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: “It has been a record breaking year for British gin and in Scotland we have seen its popularity soar.

“Sales in UK pubs, bars, restaurants and shops are at an all-time high. Expectations are this will hit a billion by next year.

“We have seen a 32% increase in the number of distilleries opening in Scotland since 2010.”

The popularity of gin in Scotland has been boosted by a tourist trail showcasing the best gin distilleries and bars – and there are plans to produce an app to capitalise on its success.

The trail features distilleries as far afield as Shetland, Moray and Perthshire as well as specialist bars in the Central Belt.

And a YouGov poll shows that whisky-loving Scots are having a taste for gin.

Some 62% of the Scottish population said they drank spirits, and of those 25% are drinking gin.

Mr Beale has had discussions with exchequer secretary Damian Hinds to discuss why losing access to the EU single market, if the referendum votes for exit, would hit gin exports.

Currently the biggest export markets for British gin are the USA, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Over half of all British gin goes to EU markets.

Mr Beale said: “Leaving the EU would hit exports hard. Gin is stronger in.

“Gin has a strong, vibrant British heritage and is proving it can excel where whisky has ploughed a furrow.”

The Crossbill Distillery, which is based on the Inshriach estate near Aviemore, is one of those which is on the gin tourist trail.

It has been running for two years and owner and master distiller Jonathan Engels said the business is seeing benefits of Britain’s taste for gin helped by a rise in internet shopping and a change in attitude to smaller enterprises producing spirits.

“There has been a change in shopping habits. Now with people buying essentials online, they are more inclined and have more time to buy luxury goods.

“It has allowed small companies to be viable and increased the excitement and variety.

“I started Pincer Vodka in 2006 and there were no small batch Scottish products there and it was really hard to get anyone to take you seriously. Now later when I came to launch the gin product it is a different market, everyone is really susceptible to small batch Scottish products.”

The Edinburgh Juniper Festival which is running over the weekend has witnessed the rise in popularity of gin through the number of brands featured and the number of guests.

When it started three years ago it had 14 gins, last year, 26 and this year there are 37.

The attendance has grown accordingly from 775 in 2014 to 1750 upwards this year.

Shelbie Black of the festival said the changing habits apply to drinkers who are now up for trying anything that is different.

“One philosophy is that the rise in gin drinkers is due to an increased interest in the drinks industry altogether. Gone are the days where a person will stick to one drink for their whole adult lives. People are becoming incredibly conscious of what they are drinking, and curious about its origins,” she said.

“Therefore we are now in a place where the idea of small batch or craft gin is immensely popular, something with a story. Gin as a spirit is incredibly versatile and this year we are showcasing products distilled with everything from coconut, to saffron to sea weed.

“With the emergence of the craft cocktail culture, these products are second to none when it comes to creating amazing drinks, giving bartenders real creative license to be as weird and wonderful as their imagination permits them.

“In saying this, it appears the whole industry is booming with opportunity for individuals to excel at distilling as an art form, being appreciated within it’s time.”

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