As the heart of the whisky industry, Scotland is home to the finest producers in the world – but its place as spirit-making capital is under threat as the number of distilleries south of the Border increases for the second year running.

Scotland’s gin boom has seen the juniper-infused spirit nose its way to the second spot as the country’s national tipple, but its popularity hasn’t stalled the expansion of the distilling industry in England.

With 186 distilleries across the country, from small independents producing craft products to whisky giants diversifying, Scotland produces 70 per cent of all UK gin sales.

Three of the world’s best-selling gins are made in Scotland – Hendrick’s, Gordon’s and Tanqueray.

Although mighty, the industry remains small, with England now home to 228 distilleries, an increase of 62 since 2018. However in 2018, nine out of 10 distilling jobs were based in Scotland.

New HMRC figures show the number of distilleries registered in 2019 shot up to at least 441 as the UK boosted its distillery numbers by at least 80 last year.

In 2018, the number of distilleries in England overtook those in Scotland for the first time, with the latest figures showing English spirit makers continue to dominate the UK spirits map – but not the market.

This so-called “ginaissance” has meant gin sales in the UK have hit an all-time high, helping to fund new forays into spirit making, such as English and Welsh whisky and rums.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s end of year market report showed a massive boost in gin sales last year, with 82 million bottles sold in the UK – worth more than £2.6 billion.

According to HMRC, £672 million of British gin was exported in 2019, taking total sales of the spirit at home and abroad to over £3.2bn.

Research collated by the Scotland Food and Drink body shows consumers’ drinking behaviour is driving the spike in gin sales, with people drinking fewer but better quality drinks and experimenting with flavours, brand and styles.

Thanks to Scotland’s rich heritage and experience in distilling whisky, says the industry body, it has the experience and skill sets to make authentic, premium products.

Due to its shorter production time, distillers can produce gin and get it to the market quickly – allowing whisky makers to profit as their main product matures.

Scotland is home to 128 malt and grain distilleries and is the only country that can produce scotch. In 2018, the value of Scottish whisky exports hit a record £4.70bn and Scotland’s national drink now accounts for 20% of all UK food and drink exports.

St Andrews-based distiller and brewer Eden Mill posted a 48% surge in revenues in 2019 as it expanded its range of drinks.

Co-founder Paul Miller said: “The success of Scottish gin is based around the creativity and innovation of its distillers, and of course the great natural bounty of botanicals.

“We are experts in distilling and have done so for more than 500 years. This then helps when it comes to developing innovative techniques. 

“Scotland also has one of the UK’s only universities where you can 
study Distillation as a recognised degree. 

“We are also building the first carbon neutral distillery and visitor centre in Scotland, which will allow a strong engagement with gin and whisky distillery tourists.”

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “It’s fantastic to see a growing number of British distilleries up and down the country providing jobs and boosting their local economies.

“A freeze at the last Budget has certainly helped our innovative British distillers to invest and boost exports. And because we also know an increase in wine duty has reduced Exchequer revenue, we are asking the Chancellor to take the time to consider a clear win/win. A cut to excise duty would boost both British business and Treasury coffers.”