The French drinks giant Pernod Ricard is launching its first Chinese single malt whisky next month after 10 years of preparation, with 100 limited casks targeted for wealthy collectors and private customers, as it tries to sway more Baijiu drinkers towards whisky.
Pernod Ricard invested RMB 1 billion (US$150 million) in the Chuan Malt Whisky Distillery ( 叠川) in China’s southwestern Sichuan province. The name Chuan is a reference of its birth place Sichuan but also a tribute to the river that flows through the southwestern province, according to the distillery.
The single malt will be bottled and released based on a set of Chinese whisky standards that the French drinks giant is helping to formulate. The Chinese rules require two years of ageing in oak barrels, and the group is trying to increase the ageing limit to at least three years.
The opening of the distillery will mark the first international spirits and wines group to establish a fully operational malt whisky distillery in China, Pernod Ricard’s second largest market after the US.
Speaking of the distillary, Philippe Guettat, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Asia, emphasized, “Pernod Ricard has been privileged to play our part in China’s dynamic development for over 30 years. We consider it our mission to bring to life the most iconic malt whisky made in China with pride, leveraging the expertise we have as a market leader.
“Our master distiller, Yang Tao has been working with our heritage master distillers in Scotland to bring the most authentic whisky making know-how into China, while leveraging the pristine water source of Emei, renowned for its utmost quality. Today, we are marking a significant milestone on this journey and we look forward to sharing our vision and single malt whisky from 叠川 THE CHUAN Malt Whisky Distillery with whisky lovers around the world.”
The French drinks group already has a range of famed whisky brands including Speyside single malts Glenlivet, Longmorn and Aberlour, as well as the blended whiskies Chivas Regal and Royal Salute.
As China’s market matures, the company is eyeing that more drinkers will switch from the fiery Baijiu to whiskies and wine. It also has a Chinese winery in Ningxia called Helan Mountain.
Its competitor Diageo also announced this month that it will pump US$75 million to build a Diageo Eryuan distillery in Yunnan province, which neighbors Sichuan.
The price of the single malt whisky is not revealed yet by the group.