That's the (craft) spirit: Distillery numbers are booming in the UK as taste for independent gin and whiskey blossoms

Lynsey Barber
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First came craft beer, now comes the craft spirits boom (Source: Getty)

The UK's growing taste for craft gin and scotch has created a boom in the number of distilleries springing up across the UK.

There were 45 new ones set up last year, a rise of nearly a fifth, bringing the total number to 273, new figures reveal.

And since 2010, the number has more than doubled, data from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association and HMRC show, with sales surpassing the £1bn mark.

Read more: Forget unicorns, here's a brewnicorn: Brewdog is now valued at £1bn

"From traditional products like Scotch, to the Great British gin boom and newer products like English and Welsh Whiskey, it is an exciting time for spirits producers across the UK," said the trade group's chief executive Miles Beale.

"Consumers here at home and around the world have developed a real thirst for top quality British spirits, and a new distillery is coming online at the equivalent rate of one per week to rise to that challenge.

“As the government negotiates free-trade deals with both Europe and third countries there is a real opportunity for the UK to boost its exporting capacity by trading quality spirits overseas."

The taste for craft spirits follows a similar trajectory of craft beer: the number of breweries rocketed 65 per cent over the past five years.

Read more: Gin is in, dumb phones are out: Meet the new basket of goods for inflation

Distilleries are going through "a period of explosive creativity" said James Simmonds of accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, which helped compile the figures.

And the firm predicts the £1bn valuation of Brewdog could spur further deals worth clinking glasses over in both sectors. Private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners last week took a 22 per cent stake in the Scottish "punk" brewery.

Craft London gin firm Sipsmith was snapped up by Japan's Beam Suntory late last year and another independent, Edinburgh Gin bought up by Ian Macleod Distillers.

Gin was added to the basket of goods which used to measure inflation in a sign the drink has come back into fashion after a 13 year absence.

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