The year of gin! Spirit enjoys record sales as 'people drown their sorrows'

About 40m bottles were sold over the past 12 months – enough to make 1.12bn gin and tonics

Gin and tonic

Enough gin was sold in the UK to make 1.12bn gin and tonics, or about 28 each for everyone aged over 18.
Photograph: Alamy

British drinkers quaffed gin in record amounts this year, while American fans of the spirit helped propel it to its best ever year.

Sparkling wine is also enjoying a renaissance, according to figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), but even the popularity of prosecco was outshone by the juniper-based spirit.

Annual gin sales smashed through the £1bn barrier for the first time in the UK, leading the WSTA to declare 2016 the “year of gin”.

About 40m bottles were sold over the past 12 months, enough to make 1.12bn gin and tonics, or roughly 28 for every person of legal drinking age in the UK. This was an increase of 200m G&Ts compared with 2012, signalling that gin continues to grow in popularity.

A growing thirst for the spirit has also caused an explosion in the number of distilleries, with about 40 opening in 2016.

In 2010, there were only 116 distilleries in the UK according to HM Revenue & Customs, but around 100 have opened in the past two years alone.

The WSTA also revealed that foreign drinkers were importing gin in record volumes, with exports to America particularly strong.

The trade body said gin exports to the US were up 553% in the past decade, reaching £159m in 2015.

It put the drink’s popularity with Americans down to hit British TV shows such as Downton Abbey and films including the James Bond franchise featuring the tipple.

Sparkling wine is also enjoying a moment in the sun, according to figures revealed in the group’s quarterly update, with sales up 16% to £768m in shops and 28% to £403m in bars, pubs and restaurants.

The increase means that both sparkling wine and gin outperformed sales in the wider alcohol market, which rose slightly to £40bn.

Among wines, the WSTA identified a rise in the popularity of New Zealand and Argentinian vineyards at the expense of European and US wines.

Annual sales of New Zealand wines and Argentinian wines grew, while Spanish, American, Italian and French wines all experienced more muted growth or declined in popularity.

The WSTA said the government cut duties on spirits, which it said would boost the industry and the Treasury’s coffers.

It said the cut in spirits duty in the 2015 budget had delivered a 4.1% increase in duty to £125m, adding that the UK spirit industry was “one of the most heavily taxed in Europe”.

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