THE growing market for Scottish gin in the UK is set to outstrip domestic whisky sales by 2020 because Scotch is suffering from an image problem, according to new research.

Figures from research company Euromonitor found that blended Scotch whisky sales in the UK reached £1.28 billion last year while sales of gin hit £1.07bn. However, over the next three years gin sales are expected to soar to £1.37bn while Scotch sales dip to £1.17bn.

Scotland now produces 70 per cent of the gin consumed in the UK, with more than 73 distilleries opening between 2010-14 and the growth in the sector has been attributed to the increasing number of micro-distilleries, innovation and experimentation with botanicals and solid growth in the product across age ranges.

Jeremy Cunnington, senior analyst at Euromonitor International, said blended Scotch was suffering from an image problem, while gin sales were booming.

He said: “Blended Scotch continues to suffer from volume decline thanks to an old-fashioned and hence low-rent image, compounded by discounting.

“Gin was suffering a similar fate, but the development of the super-premium category led by William Grant’s Hendrick’s brand and the rises of the craft movement and cocktail culture, has helped not only drive volume growth but also premiumise the category.”

Nick Smalley, director of Aberdeenshire start-up producer Teasmith’s Gin, said Scottish gin has had a “modern-day renaissance”.

He said: “We’ve seen over the past couple of years that the gin sector has just boomed. It really has had a modern-day renaissance. Gin in comparison to whisky is relatively quick to produce, so from our perspective we’re able to get a product to market quicker than going after a whisky product – we’re talking weeks rather than years.”

“I think we’ve got a really broad customer base. So gin, as we saw in the 80s or 90s, was very much an older person’s drink. I think the cocktail scene in the last decade has really inspired the younger drinker, so our customers range from anywhere from the early-20s into their 70s or 80s.” Despite gin’s growing popularity in the UK, overseas Scotch whisky sales are still way ahead and experts say only six per cent of Scotch is consumed in the UK.

Richard Woodward, editor of magazine Scotch, said: “I think you also have to bear in mind that a lot of people making gin in Scotland at the moment will be making whisky.

“It is a quick way of getting some revenue in to make gin because you have to wait at least three years for whisky to mature. So while you put that investment into the whisky you can be making some money to pay the bills through the gin.

“There’s a difference in scale and global reach between Scotch whisky and gin which we have to remember. Only about six per cent of Scotch is actually drunk in the UK in the first place and the industry is almost twice the size of the gin.”