WHISKY could be knocked off its perch as Scotland’s national drink – by gin.
Although the spirit, which derives its flavour from juniper berries, was once considered an ‘English’ drink, over 70% of the gin drunk in the UK is now being made in Scotland.
Gin sales across the UK went up by around 20% last year and many artisan manufacturers north of the border are now trying their hand at producing the spirit.
Many Scottish drinks companies, renowned for producing malts and scotches are now turning to gin because they are easier and quicker to produce than whisky.
Figures show that gin sales have grown by 13% in the past year.
Last year, a study by market research company Mintel predicted that gin sales will continue to rise and reach £1.31 billion by 2020, whilst Scotch whisky sales are currently worth around £1.2 billion.
Eden Mill, a St Andrews-based distillery and brewery, expects sales of whisky to be surpassed by gin this Christmas.
Paul Miller, the company’s chief executive, said: “When we started out we thought ‘whisky’, we didn’t really give gin a second thought.
“My distillers love making whisky but with gin they love the fact that what they are creating can be in a box for christmas within weeks.
“They don’t have to wait three or four years for what may or may not be the marginal difference they make to the whisky product.
“I’d love to say that we cleverly thought all this through but we didn’t. We just happened to be in a good place to do it.”
Iain Pert, co-owner of The Jolly Botanist gin bar in Edinburgh, said that Scotland was well placed to take advantage of the soar in gin popularity.
He said: “Scotland is good at making gin because it requires the same talents you need for making whisky.
“If you make whisky it lies in a barrel for years. If you make gin you can sell it next week.”
The revelations come as a change in fortunes for gin, after it was revealed back in October that Scotland was facing a sloe gin “drought”.
Traditional ‘sloe gin’ is a red liqueur made with gin and sloe, a small, stoned fruit, which is a relative of the plum.
But the outbreak of a fungus which destroyed the distinctive purple berries led to a dearth of sloe berries, and producers said they could no longer produce the drink.
Speaking in October, Liz Crossley-Davies, Operations Manager at the Gin Bothy, an artisan distillery in Angus, said: “Currently, we couldn’t consistently supply sloe gin on a commercial level, unless we imported over from France.
“That’s one thing we don’t want to do.
“The hedgerows here used to be full of sloes, now they are still there, but they are more sporadic.”