SCOTLAND’S largest distiller is preparing to introduce a new range of “super-premium” whiskies costing more than £100 a bottle in response to demand from China and other emerging markets.
John Walker & Sons, owned by drinks giant Diageo, has sent staff to China to create bespoke bottlings for clients in individual deals worth up to £100,000.
Further whiskies in the company’s John Walker & Sons “super-premium” range are now to be launched in response to growing demand from the Far East.
Jim Beveridge, master blender for Diageo’s Johnnie Walker brand, told The Scotsman that the FTSE 100 group wants to build on the success of its John Walker & Sons Odyssey bottling – a blend of three premium whiskies, which currently retails at almost £600 a bottle.
Whisky has, in recent years, been regarded as a sign of wealth in emerging economic markets such as China, where disposable income has typically increased and the country’s mega-rich have become even more wealthy.
Mr Beveridge has spent time at the company’s “House of Johnnie Walker” sites – described by the company as embassies for the product, incorporating a bar, museum, retail outlet and members’ club – in Beijing and Shanghai, where he has developed individual bottlings for clients.
“These typically cost about £100 a bottle and customers buy about 100 bottles, so the service costs around £80,000 to £100,000,” he said.
The Beijing venue opened earlier this year – two years after the launch of its sister “House” in Shanghai, which helped push sales of Johnnie Walker 64 per cent higher since its opening.
The value of whisky exports to China grew 8 per cent last year to £72m, taking it to the 15th most valuable export market, according to the latest figures from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). Further shipments to China are also likely to be made through Singapore, which is a distribution hub for Asia and is the third most valuable market for the Scotch whisky industry.
Overall in 2012, Scotch whisky exports hit a record £4.3 billion – an increase of 87 per cent in the last ten years.
A spokeswoman for the SWA said: “Emerging markets such as China are growing in popularity for Scotch whisky. This is happening particularly in Asia and South America, where demand is increasing for high-quality products.”
Diageo’s plans to launch the new range of whiskies come as Voyager – a 187-foot ocean-going 1920s-style yacht that began an “epic voyage” around Asia and Europe last September to promote the premium Odyssey brand – docks in Leith today. The boat has travelled 16,000 nautical miles to 19 cities including Shanghai and ports in major countries including Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong, promoting Johnnie Walker’s super-premium range of whiskies to high net-worth individuals.
It most recently docked in Barcelona, London and Copenhagen, before reaching its final destination in Leith.