Year of the Dram-gon: Chinese Whisky Takes Flight

‘The coming Year of the Dragon might also be deemed Year of the Dram-gon given how fast China’s local whisky industry is taking flight.”

Wine-Searcher just posted my story about China’s rising domestic whisky producers, with nearly 50 key projects spread nationwide, from Yunnan in the south to Inner Mongolia in the north, from Qinghai in the west to Shandong in the east.

The key players range from global drink firms Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Camus to major baijiu producers Gujing and Yanghe to crossover companies like brewery Qingdao Beer and winery Grace Vineyard to upstart startup Nine Rivers to pioneers Goaling and Daiking

What’s driving them? Imported spirts, led by brandy and whisky, have been steadily rising — and have passed the struggling import wine niche — and this is raising hopes the thirst will extend to locally made products.

It’s going to happen faster than most people think. Consider that Bastien Ciocca of Bar SanYou in Guangzhou and Shenzhen says his venues already stock “about 22 bottles of whisky made in China with Chinese malts.”

Along with Ciocca, the story quotes Kelvin Tam, who has promoted whisky in China for more than two decades (“I was the lone ranger from 2003 to 2007″), Judy Chan of Grace Vineyard (“I believe whisky will continue to go up”) and Jay Robertson of Nine Rivers Distillery (“The first producer to define the brand-new category of Chinese single malt whisky with a world-class product that is unique in flavor and aroma is highly likely to be very successful”).

It includes details on key projects (like Pernod Ricard’s US$150 million Sichuan operation, The Chuan), some consumers trends (from the Billion Bottle whisky app report) and what exactly the term “Chinese whisky” should mean, in part because Pernod Ricard’s first release includes distillate from Scotland, according to Whisky Advocate and Global Drinks Intel.

Get the full story at this link. An upcoming Grape Wall newsletter will also focus on China’s whisky scene, with a nittier gritter look at the issue of blending local and imported distillate. Sign up for free at this link.

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