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UK spirits makers toast continued success – 54 new distilleries launched last year 

13/05/2024
  • 387 distilleries now registered in the UK – 42.8% more than pre-Covid
  • Whisky now worth a quarter of all UK food and drink export value

Independent British spirits makers continue to go from strength to strength, with the industry growing by 54 new distilleries in 2023*, according to UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy group.

In 2023, the number of registered distilleries in the UK jumped to 387, up 8.7% from 356 distilleries in 2022, as British drinkers continued to favour niche, limited-run spirits over traditional mass-produced offerings. The UK distillery industry has also benefited from a global shift from beer to spirits.

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England in particular has emerged as a hotbed for new independent spirits businesses, with 48 new distilleries registered last year – a 20% uptick from 40 registrations in 2022.

Scotland, renowned for its whisky heritage, has also experienced a resurgence in distillery launches, with eight new distilleries registered in 2023, up from three in the previous year.

James Simmonds, Partner at UHY Hacker Young, says: “The premium prices consumers are willing to pay for higher margin, luxury brands is seeing both entrepreneurs and bigger spirits companies continue to rush to capitalise on the market. Spirits, including whisky, have been one of the UK’s success stories.”

“The expectation is that, longer term, there is much more growth to come in the UK’s heritage spirits brands.”

UK drinks exports increased by 13% in 2023, from £8.3billion in 2021/22 to £9.4billion in 2022/23**. The export of spirits makes up a significant proportion of the total value, with whisky now accounting for over a quarter of all UK food and drink exports at a value of £5.6billion in 2023***.

One such success story is Stirling Distillery, which launched in 2023 and is reviving whisky production in Stirling for the first time since 1852. The company will release a limited-edition whisky biannually from 2026, capitalising on the draw for consumers of exclusive, small-batch spirits.

Last year, Edinburgh’s Port of Leith Distillery unveiled the UK’s first “vertical whisky distillery” in the city, while Ad Gefrin launched a £14 million whisky distillery and museum in Northumberland, and Mutley Distillery launched their premium rum production in a former bank vault in Plymouth.

“Strong levels of demand are seeing new distillers continue to enter the market, while savvy entrepreneurs in the business are also taking advantage of additional revenue streams such as distillery tours and tastings,” says James Simmonds.

“During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, people found themselves looking to recreate a bar experience at home and treat themselves to artisanal spirits. Interestingly, this taste for luxury has not tapered off – it’s only got stronger.”

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