Premium Whisky Tumbling In South Korea

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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.

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2 comments

  1. In the long run I think this is a good thing as it will force companies to create more innovative products specifically for the Asian markets. Scotch traditionalists can grumble all they want.

  2. (つ⌒。⌒)つ

    Can you believe this report?

    Koreans Drink Most Top Range Whisky in the World

    November 14, 2012 10:01
    Korea consumed more top-range whisky aged 17 years or over than any other country in the world last year, according to a survey.

    Korea topped the list with 698,000 cases (9 liters per case) of super-premium whisky, according to the survey by the U.K.’s International Wine and Spirit Research. It has ranked top for 11 consecutive years.

    The U.S. was a distant second with 478,000 cases, or 68 percent of Korea’s consumption, followed by China (234,000 cases), Taiwan, Japan, and France.

    Despite a population of just 50 million, Korea consumed much more whisky than China with a population of 1.3 billion.

    Experts attributed the phenomenon to the Korean custom of drinking boilermakers. According to the industry, 80 percent of super-premium whisky is consumed at high-end restaurants or bars. “In the U.S. and Europe, whisky is sold by the glass

    in bars, and people generally drink just one or two,” an industry insider said. “But here super-premium whisky is consumed in large quantities because people drink lot of whisky shots with their boilermakers.”

    The overall amount of whisky reaching the market here dwindled 13.4 percent on-year, but that of super-premium whisky fell only 8.5 percent

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