The right spirit for middle-class Chinese tastes

Updated: 2010-12-08 11:00

By K.J. Kwon (China Daily)

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The right spirit for middle-class Chinese tastes

A waiter is reflected in a mirror as he pours Scotch whisky from luxury brand Royal Salute into glasses at a launch ceremony for the release of the "62 Gun Salute" series in central Beijing on Monday. The luxury whisky is selling at 18,000 yuan ($2,700) a bottle, with the launch consisting of a "British Royal banquet" where 62 guests fired 62 guns.[Photo/Agencies]

High-end whisky launched to cater for growing middle-class market

BEIJING - A special aged Scotch whisky blend, aimed at wealthy Chinese connoisseurs and their growing passion for top-end liquor, has just been unveiled in Beijing.

The strong, smoky aroma and high alcohol content of whisky may not be the easiest of drinks to appreciate, but Asians, particularly in South Korea and China, have been increasingly drawn to the tipple, accounting for around 20 percent of the 3 billion pounds ($5 billion) a year industry in 2008.

China has shown the highest growth in Scotch whisky sales over the last 20 years, with 22 percent annual compound growth by volume. Vietnam, Russia and India have posted the next highest growth rates since 1990.

But it's the growing passion of the wealthy Chinese for high-end whiskies and liqueurs that inspired the Royal Salute whisky group to launch their most-aged blend, the 62 Gun Salute, in the Chinese market, unveiling it on Monday.

Each bottle sells for 18,000 yuan ($2,700).

"Well, certainly the taste is very smooth. It's got sweetness, it's got richness and fruitiness and the Chinese love that sort of powerful, rich taste they associate with Royal Salute because it's a mature Royal Salute market out here," said Colin Scott, Royal Salute's master blender.

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Scott was responsible for choosing the whiskies to blend, each aged for a minimum of 40 years. The end product is a complex and rich combination of flavors and aromas.

Scott said the company was aiming at Chinese who enjoy expressing their status through various high-end products.

"People who are successful entrepreneurs, great businessmen, just people in general who want to make a success of their lives, celebrate with the finest things in life," he said.

Scotch whisky exports to China have surged in recent years, raking in 28 million pounds in the first six months of this year alone, a 66 percent increase from last year and a 80-fold increase over the last decade.

The British government said last month that Scotch Whisky will get special brand protection in China, a move expected to boost sales of the spirit at the expense of counterfeit versions.

The Scotch Whisky Association estimates that exports to China could double over the next five years from an annual figure of 80 million pounds.




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