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UK distillery boom continues: 54 new ventures added in 2023

Published:  13 May, 2024

The independent spirits industry in Britain is growing rapidly – according to UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy group, 54 new distilleries opened in 2023.

Last year saw the number of registered distilleries in the UK increase to 387, marking an 8.7% rise from 2022. This growth aligns with a global trend shifting from beer to spirits, and more specifically, a demand for unique, limited-run spirits over mass-produced options.

England has emerged as a significant hub for new independent spirits ventures, with 48 new distilleries registered in 2023, a substantial 20% rise from the previous year’s 40 registrations.

Renowned for its whisky heritage, Scotland witnessed a decrease in distillery launches, with just three new establishments registered in 2023, compared to eight the preceding year. 

James Simmonds, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: “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.”

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

UK drinks exports experienced a 13% increase in 2023, rising from £8.3bn in 2021/22 to £9.4bn in 2022/23. Spirits exports constitute a significant portion of this total value, with whisky alone contributing over a quarter of all UK food and drink exports, amounting to £5.6bn in 2023.

One standout example is Stirling Distillery, which launched in 2023, heralding the revival of whisky production in Stirling for the first time since 1852. The company plans to release a limited-edition whisky biannually from 2026, capitalising on consumers’ appetite for exclusive, small-batch spirits.

Other notable ventures include Edinburgh’s Port of Leith Distillery, unveiling the UK’s first ‘vertical whisky distillery’, Ad Gefrin’s £14m whisky distillery and museum in Northumberland and Mutley Distillery’s premium rum production housed 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,” said Simmonds.

He concluded, “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.”