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Whisky winning over Chinese

MORE than 6,500 people tasted some of the finest whiskies on offer in Shanghai at the annual Whisky Live festival.

Now in its second year, the two-day event was held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center on Friday and Saturday last week and featured a range of exhibitors from household European and American whisky brands such as Chivas Regal and Jim Beam to small-scale boutique distilleries.

Whisky Live events are held each year in cities around the world, including London, New York, Paris, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei.

In Shanghai the event included tastings, master classes, classes on whisky appreciation, and presentations from a range of brand ambassadors.

The event's General Manager for China and Malaysia, Stephen Notman, says this year's activities showed the growing interest in whisky among Chinese consumers.

While last year's event attracted more than 8,000 people, many of them received free entry.

This year Notman says the event charged admission and the strong attendance both in industry representatives and local consumers showed Whisky Live establishing itself as an annual event.

"I think this year we set a new bar because in China, consumers normally won't pay to experience exhibitions like this," he says.

"But the fact that people wanted to pay to come and taste some great whiskies and learn more about appreciating whisky shows the strength of the Whisky Live brand and of the drink category generally."

Gavin Hewitt, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, says the event was a vital part of developing an appreciation of whisky among Chinese consumers.

Comparing Taiwanese drinking habits to those of the Chinese mainland, Hewitt says that whisky tastes have commonly moved from aged blends to growing appreciation for the subtler variations of styles and flavors in single malt whiskies.

The industry now represents 70 percent of Scottish food and beverage exports and a quarter of the United Kingdom's food and beverage industry, Hewitt says. Scotch Whisky has managed to increase its sales despite troubled economic times, he says.

"The amazing thing last year was that, despite a massive recession, we were the only drinks category that saw a genuine increase of about 3 percent in both value and volume sold," he says.

Champagne dropped by between 25 percent and 40 percent and so did French wines, largely because of emerging markets like China, South Africa and Brazil, he says.

"We want to help the consumer understand what it is they are asking for and to lead and to help in the overall marketing of whisky," says Hewitt.


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