‘Staggering’ rise in gin sales sees record 73 million bottles bought in 2018

Gin sales have seen a “staggering” boost to reach a record 73 million bottles last year, figures show.

Sales broke £2 billion in 2018 – almost doubling in two years, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

Figures show sales of gin in the first quarter of the last two years peaked in March in the run up to Mothering Sunday, suggesting the tipple once dubbed "Mother's ruin" is now a popular gift for women.

Between January and March 2017, gin sold in UK supermarkets and shops reached 6.4 million bottles, of which 2.6 million (41%) were sold in March, while the same period last year saw 52% sold in March.

The popularity of gin also appears to be increasing year-on-year, with the latest figures showing that sales of gin over the 12-week Christmas period were up 40% on the same period in 2017.

During the whole of 2018, Britons bought more than 73 million bottles of gin, worth £2.1 billion and breaking all previous records.

Gin sales increase in the run up to Mother's Day, suggesting it's a popular drink amongst women. Credit: Lauren Hurley/PA Images

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “The truly staggering rise in gin sales shows that British gin is gaining more and more fans by the day and we fully expect to see sales rise again in March this year, just as they did last year.

“It’s high time gin’s new status and reputation were celebrated and supported by Government, which should be offering more support for British gin exports and a less taxing duty regime, both of which fail to support our entrepreneurial and innovative distillers.”

Gin also made an appearance in the House of Commons this week, when Luke Pollard, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, called for Plymouth Gin to be stocked in the House of Commons to commemorate next year's Mayflower 400 celebrations.

Speaking in the chamber, Mr Pollard said: "In these tough times, may I suggest we not only look at the standard strength gin, but Plymouth Gin's Navy strength, because we could all do with a little bit extra in these tough times."

  • The rise in flavoured gins

There are now hundreds of different gin brands to choose from, using a huge range of different plants, with even a surge of pink gins entering the market in the last year.

Two years ago, only a handful of brands were making flavoured gin, but last year the category was valued at £165 million, up a whopping 751% on the same period the previous year.

In 2018, HMRC records showed that the number of distilleries in England overtook distilleries registered in Scotland for the first time.

There are a total of 361 distilleries making spirits in the UK, with 54 opening in 2018 – the equivalent of one a week. 166 distilleries are in England, 160 in Scotland, 19 in Wales and 16 in Northern Ireland.

Last year, there was a surge of pink gins entering the market Credit: Kristan Lieb/PA Images
  • Mother's ruin for Mother's Day?

In the mid-eighteenth century, gin was typically called "Mother's ruin" because of the bad financial effects it would put on a family, because much of the gin was drunk by women.

But gin started out as a medicine and was thought it could be a cure for gout and indigestion, but most attractive of all, it was cheap.

But it left men impotent and women sterile, and was a major reason why the birth rate in London at this time was exceeded by the death rate.

Hogarth’s print of 1751 depicts the spirit as a one-way street to ruin. Credit: William Hogarth/Städel Museum

The Government became alarmed when it was found the average Londoner drank 14 gallons of spirit each year!

The tax was then raised on gin and in 1736, a Gin Act was passed which forbade anyone to sell "Distilled spirituous liquor" without first taking out a licence costing £50.