Johnnie Walker House Continues China Expansion with Cruise Liner Debut

Following Johnnie Walker Houses in mansions and airports, the Scotch whisky brand will bring luxury whisky experiences to the ocean in collaboration with Dream Cruises, the first Asian luxury cruise line.

Genting Dream, the maiden cruise of the Dream Cruise, will feature the first  Johnnie Walker House at sea. The ship will debut from Guangzhou in November and sail across Hong Kong to Vietnam.

Inspired by the idea of “whisky conversations,” the Johnnie Walker House was first created as an embassy for whisky that educates and inspires visitors about the history and appreciation of Scotch whisky. Johnnie Walker House now has locations in Beijing, Chengdu, Paris, and Singapore.

Part of a wide array of food and beverage options on Genting Dream, the Johnnie Walker House will include a tasting bar that offers the best whiskies from the brand’s Super Deluxe portfolio. A “whisky constellation wall” presents the brand’s art of blending, while a blending table gives mentoring and appreciation sessions, surrounded by a malt wall display.

“At the core, Johnnie Walker House is about offering an experience-based luxury that the modern luxury consumer seeks,” says Lawrence Law, the global director for Johnnie Walker’s Super Deluxe Portfolio and Johnnie Walker House.

The rapid growth of the cruise industry in Asia presents an immense opportunity for the brand to reach out to a wider pool of consumers, he says.

Since 2013, the cruise industry in Asia has been experiencing double-digit growth of ships, passengers, and ports, and the passenger capacity has been growing at a 20 percent compound annual growth rate, according to Cruise Lines International Association’s Asia Cruise Trends report in 2015.

China has become the main driver behind growth. The number of Chinese passengers grew 79 percent per year from 2012 to 2014.  In 2014, 697,000 passengers were from China, almost equivalent to all other Asian markets combined.

In Asia, whisky is now pursued not only as a collectible asset, but also for investing and gifting, and connoisseurs here are now looking to build their own collections and cellars of whisky, Law says.

To cater to the growing demand and appreciation in Asia, the brand opened a Johnnie Walker House in Singapore in May this year, the first Southeast Asia by-invite-only private suite.

The brand also released a range of products specifically targeting the Asian audience, such as The Exclusive Collection in various local editions, and The Private Collection series featuring the Five Gods of Wealth Series Limited Edition and the Fu Lu Shou Limited Edition.

At the same time, a limited-edition exclusive for Genting Dream will be launched for passengers on board.

According to Johnnie Walker parent company Diageo’s 2016 annual report, net sales of Scotch in mainland China dropped by 42 percent for the fiscal year 2016 that ended on June 30 as “the continued weakness in premium Scotch in the traditional on-trade channel resulted in distributors reducing inventory,” although the share in the Super Deluxe Scotch segment was improved.

Addressing the situation in China, Law says the brand will focus its resources and efforts in the Super Deluxe segment and further elevate the category through Shui Jing Fang, the Chinese baijiu brand owned by Diageo.

“The overall demand for rare and luxury whiskies and bespoke experiences by our key Chinese audiences are still strong, especially in major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing,” he says.

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