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Issue 43 - The China syndrome

Whisky Magazine Issue 43
October 2004


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The China syndrome

Shanghai is now one of the world's cutting edge cities and blended whiskies are gaining big markets. But what about malts? Graham Thompson has been peering into his dram to find out more

In Shanghai's trendy French Concession district, there is a wee piece of Scotland, but it is not quite what you might expect.

Narcicus is full of trendy young folk knocking back great volumes of Chivas Regal at 30 RMB (£2.00) a shot or 480 RMB (£32) a bottle, usually with unlikely mixers such as green tea (purists should not look too closely).

Behind the bar there are dozens and dozens of bottles. An enthusiastic band performs dance hits for the gyrating youth. In the sticky summer heat, the hedonism of the city's past has returned, fuelled by roaring economic growth.

‘Chill out with Chivas,' says the company's advertising. It is in fact the No.1 imported spirit. As Kathie Wang, local public relations officer for owners Pernod- Ricard, says: “liquors are often rooted deeply in the strong historical and cultural background of a particular nation,
and acceptance of imported liquor is virtually the positive identification with another culture”.

If so, the denizens of Narcicus are honorary Scots.

But to anyone used to drinking Scotch at home, Chinese consumption styles are quite striking. Spirits are drunk with business associates, with friends, in large groups, before dinner, during dinner, after dinner, in the karaoke lounge.

Ninety per cent plus is consumed in food and beverage outlets. The normal order is not the dram, but the bottle. Or maybe two.

China consumes 10 billion cases of spirits annually. Almost all is ‘moutai' and other domestic tipples. Import...

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