English spirit’s renaissance is a boon to drink companies owing to its speedy making process, but stocks of juniper must rise to meet demand, say experts
It is one of the booze industry’s great reinventions and this year, as enthusiasts celebrate the seventh annual World Gin Day, distillers are also jubilant that exports of UK gin have risen by more than a third in the last four years, reaching a record £394m in 2014.
In 2013, 139m bottles of gin were exported from the UK (PDF) to foreign markets. And after years dominating the market, it’s not all about the likes of Diageo and Chivas Brothers – according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (PDF), locally produced gins account for 93% of the total value sold in the UK.
Juniper – which by law must be the dominating flavour for a drink to be classed as gin – has been in decline in England for decades, thanks to milder winters, air pollution and hungry rabbits; the conservation charity Plantlife has warned it could be extinct across much of lowland England by 2060. The juniper used in English gin comes almost exclusively from overseas – mainly Italy and the Balkans.
Since 2009, when Sipsmith became the first new copper distillery to open in London since 1820, more than 35 micro-distilleries have sprung up around the country, as well as numerous specialist gin bars.