Scotch Has Caught On Quickly Among China’s More Sophisticated Drinkers
Though wine seems to be the king of the moment in the Chinese spirits industry, with Chinese newcomers becoming some of the world’s most enthusiastic buyers of rare vintages at auction and younger drinkers choosing grape wine over baijiu, Scottish and Irish whisky producers have been hard at work for the last several years courting middle-aged, upper-middle-class Chinese men. Though understanding of brand history, whisky style and provenance lags — and many in China still associate scotch whiskey with the ubiquitous Chivas-and-green-tea promotions seen at bars across the country — the niche market for malt whisky is expected to grow at a respectable rate. Much of this growth is expected to come from higher-income men, generally in top-tier cities, who look more to the UK — rather than France — for “good life” inspiration.
To date, two of the major obstacles that have precluded scotch producers from developing a stronger foothold, or converting wine or baijiu drinkers, has been rampant counterfeiting and loose laws in China on what can be called “scotch.” This week, however, as part of David Cameron’s huge trade mission to China, British Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that China had agreed to sign a deal three years in the making that would prevent Chinese distillers calling their products “Scotch whisky.” As the Telegraph points out, industry estimates expect that this move — if strictly enforced — could help Scotland double its whisky exports to China in the next five years to $256 million. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond celebrated the announcement with a ceremony at Glenglassaugh Distillery, filling a special 50 liter Octave, which will be auctioned off in five years — with Madam Tan Xiutian, Chinese Consul General in Scotland.
Video on the whisky agreement, via Reuters:
While this is an important step for scotch producers, it won’t mean much for scotch appreciation in China if counterfeiting continues unabated. Definitely a story to watch closely.