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Whisky wooing young Chinese away from ‘baijiu’ as top distillers target a growing market

by Michael Nguyen
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Chinese Whisky Trend

The allure of whisky is captivating young Chinese, diverting their preferences away from the traditional “baijiu” liquor traditionally used for celebratory toasts. Situated at the UNESCO World Heritage site Mount Emei in southwestern China, Pernod Ricard’s more than $100 million distillery recently unveiled The Chuan, a pure-malt whisky, capitalizing on this evolving taste.

This premium distillery, owned by the renowned French wine and spirits group, has meticulously combined conventional whisky-making techniques with distinct Chinese characteristics. It boasts locally cultivated barley and oak barrels sourced from the Changbai mountains in northeastern China. Yang Tao, the master distiller at the distillery, underscores the significance of Chinese terroir, emphasizing the exceptional environment for aging, including the renowned mineral-rich water source at Mount Emei.

The roots of whisky in China may be relatively recent, but the mainland now boasts more than 30 whisky distilleries, as reported by the whisky website Billion Bottle. Impressively, whisky consumption in China, measured by volume, has experienced a remarkable 10% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2022, according to IWSR, a prominent beverage market analysis firm. Forecasts from market research provider Euromonitor International suggest that this trend will continue, with sales volume projected to maintain double-digit growth through 2028.

Alexandre Ricard, the chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, expresses optimism about the burgeoning Chinese whisky market, asserting that the Chinese have cultivated a genuine affinity, particularly for malt whisky. Raymond Lee, the founder of the Single Malt Club China, a whisky trading and distribution company in Beijing, attributes the growing popularity of whisky to the nation’s economic expansion. As personal income rises and individuality becomes a focal point, whisky appeals to those seeking unique and high-quality alcoholic beverages.

Indeed, whisky has struck a chord with a new generation of Chinese, who are more open to Western cultures and lifestyles than their predecessors. According to data from the e-commerce channel of Billion Bottle, over half of China’s whisky consumers fall within the 18 to 29 age bracket. As the country continues to embrace openness and diverse cultural influences, whisky, with its distinct qualities, emerges as an enticing alternative to China’s traditional baijiu.

In the words of 28-year-old Sylvia Sun, savoring a whisky on the rocks in a Beijing bar, “The taste of it lingers in your mouth for a very long time. If I drink it, I will keep thinking about it the rest of tonight.” This sentiment reflects the growing appreciation for whisky among China’s younger generation, who are keen to explore new horizons and embrace the unique flavors of this cherished spirit.

Caroline Chen, a producer for Big Big News, contributed to this insightful report.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Chinese Whisky Trend

What is the significance of the Mount Emei distillery in this context?

The Mount Emei distillery, owned by Pernod Ricard, is noteworthy for introducing The Chuan pure-malt whisky, tapping into the changing preferences of young Chinese consumers. It combines traditional whisky-making techniques with unique Chinese characteristics, including locally sourced ingredients and exceptional terroir, making it a key player in the emerging Chinese whisky market.

How has whisky consumption in China evolved over recent years?

Whisky consumption in China has shown substantial growth, with a 10% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2022, according to IWSR. This trend is projected to continue, with sales volume expected to maintain double-digit growth through 2028. Whisky is gaining popularity, especially among younger Chinese, as the economy expands and individuals seek high-quality and distinctive alcoholic options.

What role does culture play in the rising popularity of whisky in China?

Culture has a significant impact on the increasing popularity of whisky in China. Younger generations, more open to Western cultures and lifestyles, are drawn to whisky as a symbol of individuality. As China becomes more open to diverse cultural influences, whisky offers a unique and appealing alternative to the traditional baijiu, resonating with those seeking new experiences and flavors.

Who are the key figures contributing to the whisky trend in China?

Key figures driving the whisky trend in China include Alexandre Ricard, the chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, and Raymond Lee, founder of the Single Malt Club China. Alexandre Ricard expresses confidence in the Chinese whisky market’s potential, while Raymond Lee highlights the role of economic growth and individuality in whisky’s popularity among Chinese consumers.

What demographic is primarily embracing whisky in China?

The primary demographic embracing whisky in China comprises individuals between the ages of 18 and 29. According to data from Billion Bottle, over half of China’s whisky consumers fall within this age group. These younger consumers are more open to Western cultures and lifestyles, making them more inclined to explore the unique flavors and experiences offered by whisky.

More about Chinese Whisky Trend

  • Pernod Ricard: Official website of Pernod Ricard, the owner of the Mount Emei distillery.
  • IWSR: Website of IWSR, a beverage market analysis firm, providing data on whisky consumption in China.
  • Euromonitor International: Market research provider mentioned in the text, offering insights into the growth of whisky sales in China.
  • Single Malt Club China: The official website of the Single Malt Club China, founded by Raymond Lee, a key figure in the Chinese whisky scene.

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