Beyond Wine: Pernod Ricard launches first ‘Chinese’ whisky

In yet another sign of the coming wave of Chinese whisky, Pernod Ricard officially launched The Chuan Pure Malt Whisky, the first ‘prestige’ product from its distillery in Sichuan province.

Pernod Ricard broke ground on its The Chuan Distillery in Emeishan, southwest of the Sichuan capital of Chengdu more than four years ago, and saw it become operational two years ago, with the company announcing it plans to invest a total of RMB1 billion (USD150 million USD) into the project over a decade.

The Chuan is one of dozens of distilleries now found in at least a dozen regions and provinces of China as people race to take advantage of a growing taste for whisky. Those projects involve everyone from global players like Diageo and Camus to baijiu producers like Gujinggong and Yanghe to ambitious operations like Nine Rivers, which saw delivery of three stills just last week, to Grace Vineyard, which is expanding its reach from wine into spirits and barreled its first whisky earlier this year.

Pernod Ricard’s whisky, which is to be distributed from today in select channels, uses both European and Chinese grain, oak from three continents and… well, I don’t want to deny you a description I imagine took ages to ‘craft’, so let’s let the Pernod Ricard press release take it away:

“Chinese ingredients have been fused into high-standard whisky making, such as the use of both European and Chinese barley and the unique mastery of three types of oak from three continents that defines its complexity. Bourbon casks from America lead the elegant vanilla and fruity aroma, then the pronounced sweet notes from sherry casks of Spain, creating a rich and full-bodied whisky. Finally, the proprietary 单岭 Chinese Single Oak casks imbue The Chuan whisky with a long finish of sandalwood and mandarin peel on the palate. The timber is logged from northeast China’s famed and protected Changbai Mountain in extremely few quantities and crafted into casks.”

– Pernod Ricard, 12.12.2023

Pernod Ricard also announced today it was opening The Chuan Malt Whisky Distillery Experience Centre, part of the distillery, which the press release says will provide everything from a “holistic tour experience” to whisky tasting to fine dining that features local Sichuan cuisine.

Visitors will also have plenty more to do in the region, which is dominated by Mount Emei, which peaks at over 3,000 meters.

Pernod Ricard has also made wine in Ningxia, under the label Helan Mountains, for nearly 20 years.

Expect a continued flow of whisky news — Camus is the most recent entrant, just announcing a USD30m whisky distillery project — especially as more operations get closer to launching products.

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