Covid causes dramatic slowdown of new Scottish gin distilleries - as only three opened in 2020

The boom in Scottish gin saw no signs of slowing down, until the pandemic hit.

Published 28th Jan 2021
Updated 18 th Sep 2023

New data from The Gin Cooperative shows that only three new Scottish gin distilleries opened in 2020 - a drop of almost 84 per cent.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen the number of new gin distilleries in Scotland drop from 15 in 2019 to just three in 2020, but the good news is, many distillers are seeing a huge rise in online sales.

New releases were down too, with only 95 new Scottish gins launched in 2020, a drop from 132 in 2019 but this does mean that there are almost 500 Scottish gins available for gin fans to try.

Other stats show that there were 102 new gins in 2020, down 35 per cent from 2019 and 16 new brands - down 50 per cent from 2019.

Martin Reid, co-founder of The Gin Cooperative explained the results, saying: "Having collated our data from 2020 the numbers show that the number of new Scottish Gins and new distilleries producing Scottish Gin were down significantly from 2019.

"With traditional sales channels closed or partially closed including retail and hospitality, it’s of no surprise that many new gin brand launches and new Scottish Gin releases were postponed.

"However Scotland’s gin makers still managed to release 95 new Scottish Gins in 2020 compared to 132 new Scottish Gins released in 2019.

"The number of new brands was also down with 11 in 2020 compared to 25 in 2019 and only 3 new distilleries opening their doors compared to 15 in 2019.

"Throw in that many producers were waiting to see the outcome of Brexit and how this will impact existing exports along with other producers planning to export to the EU, it’s not a shock to see the Scottish Gin category has slowed.

"The upside for consumers is there’s still close to 500 Scottish Gins to discover and explore and we expect Scottish Gin experiences and distilleries tours to play a massive part in the economic recovery for the economy and in particular tourism."

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Online sales boom

Speaking of their rise in online sales, the team at the Isle of Barra Distillers said: "Although 2020 was not as we had planned for the Isle of Barra Distillers, we are ever-thankful for having our online sales to keep us going throughout a very uncertain time.

"Investing in a marketing campaign and launching various sales throughout the year, resulted in an increase in demand and purchases for our Barra Atlantic Gin.

"The brand awareness of our special product has reached a greater audience and from this we worked through one of our best years in the company to date.

"As a result of our success, we were able to invest in new equipment for the manufacturing of our Gin, created further employment as we doubled our workforce, launched a new website and last but not least, welcomed our new copper still Ada into our Distillery.

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"2020 is certainly a year we will never forget. For both heart-break and success."

Niall Macalister Hall at Bienn an Tuirc saw a huge growth in the number of online sales during lockdown.

He said: "For us online sales are up 140 per cent for 2020 against 2019 which is great.

"That rise has been off-set by the drop in trade orders for the year.

"We did manage to open our two shops in the summer, and saw strong sales, but the three months closed for each did have an impact.

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"In all, across the board, we are marginally up in terms of the number of bottles sold against the previous year. We had planned for stronger growth, but given the circumstances, we can't really complain.

"We invested heavily in 2020 in a new gin school and cafe at the distillery and have yet to be able to open it, so slightly nervous times!"

To find out more about the gin distilleries and shop gins, visit The Gin Cooperative website.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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