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Issue 54 - A China crisis?

Whisky Magazine Issue 54
March 2006


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A China crisis?

Dominic Roskrow considers what the long term effects of an increased demand for whisky might be

Chuck Cowdery's feature in this issue raises a very important question: is it possible for at least some whisk(e)y to run out due to an increased demand for it?

It would have been an unthinkable scenario just a few years ago when the industry feared for the future of strong brown spirits. And even today there are plenty in the trade who dream of facing such a problem.

But what about at the fringes? And what if your particular malt or bourbon is one of the ones that starts to become hard or impossible to get?

One of the most fascinating things for me is the fact that whisky producers have to gaze in to the future and try to predict demand seven, 12, 15 and more years hence for their drinks. And then, having predicted an increased demand, they have to try and meet it. That's easier said than done when you consider the practical difficulties of building new stills, or expanding an existing distillery to produce the same spirit, or you have to find a few million extra litres of water.

And what do you do if you can predict the emergence of a massive but as yet undefined market such as South East Asia in general, and China in particular?

I was at a lunch recently with Richard Burrows, director of Pernod Ricard and newly appointed chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association. The other guests were business journalists from the national British press, and unsurprisingly they were very interested in the potential opportunities the new Asian markets offer whisky.

But surely, I asked...

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