By Richard Thomas
Contrary to reports of a single malt shortage coming from Hong Kong investment firms, sales of Scotch whisky in East Asia have not lived up to their hype. First sales slumped in China due to a round of belt-tightening that targeted luxury imports, a development that was widely reported in the mainstream media.
Receiving much less attention were slumping sales in South Korea, currently ranked as the world’s eighth largest Scotch whisky market. Whisky consumption there has fallen an average of 3% per year for the last five years. Unlike in China, this is not the result of government action, but instead stems from changing trends.
According to The Korean Herald, the fad among Korean businessmen to guzzle expensive, aged Scotch whisky in smoky, underground hostess bars is dying.
“Simply put, there is dwindling demand for high-end hostess bars,” said Kim Kim Ji-yeon, sales director for home-grown spirit manufacturer Golden Blue.
This slump for pricey premium and super premium whiskies is being replaced, in part, by a broader segment of the Korean population taking an interest in more reasonably priced, lower alcohol content whiskey products, consuming these in bars and at home. These whiskeys have an alcohol content of below 40%, and in some respects mirror the craze for flavored whiskeys in the United States.