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Issue 108 - Breaking China

Whisky Magazine Issue 108
December 2012


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Breaking China

The future, it would seem, belongs to ever greater concentration on the top end

I mentioned last issue that I'd been stravaiging around Asia. It was brief, sadly, but illuminating going from the 13,000 very happy folk at Whisky Live Taipei, young, both sexes, malt drinkers, interested, educated, committed, to China, which remains the great unknown.

The Chinese, a friend tells me, haven't discovered coffee, (as a tea drinker I'd say why the hell would they want to, but I dare say that Starbucks would disagree). Neither have they discovered whisky.

Hang on, you say. Hasn't China been held up as the future of Scotch? Well, it may be; though I'd hedge my bets on that. In fact, I get the feeling that currently there is a reconsidering of strategy taking place.

China is still at the stage of whisky being just one option among many imported spirits. Will a country brought up on the unique taste of baijo really go for wood matured spirit, or will vodka be a happier fit?

It all revolves around scale. Not just the issue of distribution of product, but of information.

How can you get your message to millions of people? How can you get your liquid to touch millions of lips? There are projects underway, there are committed people, but it's more than a one-man operation, put it that way.

Part of the issue is that we think of Asia as being homogenous, when it is a host of very different markets.

Japan gives an idea of how a mature market works, operating on a 20 year cycle, and showing ways in which even the most moribund of markets can be revived. Even if the o...

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