Thanks to the rise of artisan distilleries, savvy women are helping to make the quintessentially British spirit more popular than beer, reports Miranda Thompson.
Gin, gin, glorious gin! Not since the 18th century has the country fallen so head over heels for the spirit. The statistics speak for themselves: in 2016 UK sales broke the £1 billion mark – overtaking beer revenues for the first time – with shoppers snapping up 40 million bottles of the juniper-based beverage. That’s enough to make 28 gin and tonics for every person of legal drinking age in the UK. In Waitrose, gin sales are up 20 per cent, surpassing all other spirits, while at Majestic Wines (which added 115 gins to its range last year), sales are up 108 per cent.
And the drinks industry has responded in kind. Following a relaxation of HMRC regulations on the size of the still required to produce gin suitable for the open market, micro-distilleries and craft producers are on the up too. ‘Rather than a 1,500-litre still, it enabled us to start manufacturing with a ten-litre still in our kitchen,’ says Claire Fletcher of Lussa Gin, based on the Scottish island of Jura. In 2016 more than 50 new distilleries opened in the UK, with artisan producers reportedly taking the market share from global giants.