Huge boom in Yorkshire's artisan gins - and a first for whisky distillery

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Craft spirits and local produce, forming Yorkshire’s reputation as a food nation, are fuelling a renaissance in artisan gin.

There are the rhubarb brews, nettle and tea. A dash of lemon drizzle, or a Yorkshire raspberry. And alongside a heady mix of new blends, there is a boom in business.

York Gin directors Emma Godivala, and Pete McNichol, celebrating six months in business

York Gin directors Emma Godivala, and Pete McNichol, celebrating six months in business

Across the country, as the number of distilleries rises by a fifth in the space of just one year, there is a resurgence in interest in craft spirits.

And as the industry continues to build on this success, a new report suggests, creations have become a “global powerhouse” within the world of artisan spirits.

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Novelty driving demand

“Consumers now expect when they walk into a pub to be greeted by a huge range of flavoured spirits behind the bar and that has helped the smaller spirits producers,” said James Simmonds of UHY Hacker Young, which published the report.

Juniper berries, forming the foundation for Yorkshire's gin renaissance

Juniper berries, forming the foundation for Yorkshire's gin renaissance

“The experimentation that craft gin companies have has enabled artisan gin to remain in the spotlight longer than many expected.

"The big manufacturers have had to react and are introducing more varieties such as pink gin. To sustain their growth craft distilleries will need to continue to chip away at the market share of the big brands and not allow them to catch up with their position as the exciting innovators.”

The report, from the accountancy firm, finds there were 205 distilleries in the UK in 2018, up from 63 in six years.

Exports last year hit £612m, up 15 per cent year on year, while total sales of UK gin hit a record high of £2.7bn.

Masons Gin coming off the bottling line at the company's plant in Bedale.

Masons Gin coming off the bottling line at the company's plant in Bedale.

Yorkshire gins

In Yorkshire, there has been rapid growth. Some of the best-known craft gins are now created in the region, including Masons, at Leeming Bar, and Whittaker’s, of Nidderdale.

Pete McNicholl, one of the co-directors of York Gin, formally launched last year, already selling many thousands of bottles.

The idea for York Gin had sparked, as many do he said, in the back room of a local pub. It had grown with the addition of fellow director Emma Godivala, pictured above.

It is now looking to grow again, expanding its hopes for what began as a pop-up shop in one of the city’s best known buildings at Thomas Herbert House.

“It’s gone from a standing start to probably looking at a turnover of £1m in our first financial year,” he said.

"“People appreciate quality, and many are quite happy to pay a small premium for something which is from Yorkshire - and hasn’t been shipped across the country.

“We’re all very proud of our county. There’s a reasonably close-knit community of gin distillers here.”

Artisan demand

Tony Brotherton, of the Yorkshire Dales Distillery, launched three years ago near Richmond.

“We didn’t set up specifically to make gin, we set up to make good quality spirits,” said the company director, who now employs five staff. “It’s just grown and grown.”

“For many, it’s a craft of enjoyment. My job is to make good spirits. Now, we make gin for people all over the country.”

The whole region has seen a growth in demand for quality artisan goods over recent years, he adds, citing examples including the Malton Food Festival and the Wensleydale Creamery.

“It’s booming in Yorkshire,” he adds. “That may be down to our particularly independent spirit.

“There’s no shortage of visitors to Yorkshire. It’s all there - and it’s been built on the back of this image.”

Yorkshire's first whisky

Yorkshire’s first whisky distillery has been recognised for its reviews on TripAdvisor.

The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery, in Hunmanby, has been given a certificate of excellence by the travel site, and voted the number one thing to do in the area.

Spirit of Yorkshire was launched in 2016 and is a collaboration between farmer and brewer, Tom Mellor from Wold Top Brewery and business partner, David Thompson.

It is thought to be the only distillery operating in the UK that grows all of its own barley and is England’s largest distillery in terms of production.