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UK registered distillery numbers explode post-COVID

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The number of registered UK distilleries has jumped 42.7% from pre-COVID levels. Image: Getty
The number of registered UK distilleries has jumped 42.7% from pre-COVID levels. Image: Getty

Related tags Beverages

The British spirits industry has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 300 distilleries now registered in the UK.

In 2023, the number of registered distilleries in the UK grew to 387, up 42.7% compared with pre-COVID levels, according to national accountancy group UHY Hacker Young. This was up 8.7% from the 356 distilleries reported in 2022.

Last year saw 48 new distilleries registered in the UK alone (up 20% from 2022) while Scotland – the home of the UK’s biggest drinks export, Scotch whisky – saw three registrations last year (eight in 2022).

UK success story

James Simmonds, Partner at UHY Hacker Young, commented: “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 £8.3bn in 2021/22 to £9.4bn in 2022/23 according to HMRC data. The export of spirits makes up a significant proportion of the total value, with whisky now accounting for more than a quarter of all UK food and drink exports – £5.6bn in 2023.

New and old

“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,” Simmonds added.

“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.”

Meanwhile, last month, Scottish whisky manufacturer The Borders Distillery has agreed to a £35m funding package​ with technology and financing platform Ferovinum.

The money will support The Borders Distillery as it continues to develops its core strengths in advance of the eventual release of its single malt Scotch whisky.