alcohol brain
Spirit duty overtook beer tax revenues for the first time last year iStock

The strains of keeping up with Brexit and serial general elections are forcing people onto the hard stuff, with spirit duty overtaking beer revenues for the first time.

Duty from spirits lifted by 7% to £3.4bn ($4.4bn) last year, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA). This topped beer duty collected by HMRC that rose 1% to £3.3bn over the same period.

Liquor duty was boosted by gin sales enjoying a resurgence in the UK, buoyed by the launch of scores of boutique premium distilleries in recent years. Gin sales jumped by 12% last year the fastest growth rate of any spirit drink, said the WSTA.

Treasury coffers were also helped by a freeze on spirits duty in last year's Budget, bringing in an extra £225m in tax revenues from strong drinks.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: "The WSTA dubbed 2016 the year of gin and the gin boom has had a large part to play in the windfall now being enjoyed by the Treasury.

"The 7% increase on revenue takings came as a result of the Chancellor freezing spirit duty in 2016 and allowing the industry to grow and invest."

However, the trade body warned the 3.9% rise on alcohol duty slapped on drinkers by then Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Budget of March of this year, may hurt future growth.

Beale added: "Cutting or freezing spirits duty brings rewards, which is why the inflation busting rise in duty this year was such a disappointment and threatens the industry's ability to invest, grow and export."

The UK has the fourth highest spirits duty rates in the European Union with 77% of a bottle of spirits accounted for by tax, said the trade association.

Wine remains the nation's favourite tipple accounting for £4.2bn in tax revenues last year.