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Whisky Live Shanghai 2009 will be held in May

A whisky road show will unravel the world of whisky and blend its producers, distributors, retailers and consumers. Aubrey Buckingham scotches talk that the economy has hit the bottle and explains the whisky tenor of the times.

 

It doesn't take a genius to know that whisky has taken off in a big way here on the Chinese mainland: Visit any city club or bar and almost every table will feature a bottle of blended Scotch parked there, usually alongside the ubiquitous green tea.

 

According to the International Wine and Spirits Review Survey 2009, 1.9 million 9-liter cases of whisky were sold in China last year.

 

Taking into account this figure stood at less than 1 million cases in 2003, it is no wonder producers are wetting themselves to get on the boat.

 

In May, whisky producers from around the world will have a chance to showcase their products to local connoisseurs at Whisky Live Shanghai 2009. The two-day event on May 8-9 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center is the first of its kind on the Chinese mainland and aims to both promote the brands themselves and lift the veil of mystery surrounding the beverage itself. About 25 to 30 brands will have booths at the 1,100-square-meter show.

 

According to organizer Stephen Notman, the road show is geared toward three groups of expats, which include Japanese and Singaporeans in addition to Westerners; the two socio-economic groups of the local population with the highest and better-than-average incomes and standards of living; and members of the food and beverage industry.

 

"The traditional Whisky Live model is very much consumer oriented," says the Englishman. "It allows consumers the unique opportunity to meet brand ambassadors and master distillers, the guys who actually make the whisky, in a master class format ... In order for us to get smaller independent distilleries that have no distribution over here, we are having to drive a lot into the trade."

 

Whisky Live is a byproduct of Whisky magazine and held its first show in Tokyo nine years ago. It now operates in 15 cities, including London, Paris and Sydney.

 

"(Whisky Live) is an introduction to the world of whisky. You've seen the likes of Chivas, which is a blend, and the occasional single malts coming up ... you need to be communicating to put all the foundation down of what whisky actually is before you start building up on the pyramid."

 

The 24 year-old explains that consumers would be able to discern differences between, for example, American bourbons and Irish triple-distilled whiskies. "Before you start going to different regions of Scotland, you need to know what the whole category actually is." Food and whisky pairing, for example, will be promoted, as well as interesting cocktail concoctions.

 

This city has seen its fair share of such wine and spirits exhibitions and road shows over the years and not all have achieved their goal of marrying smaller producers with distributors, and the public have invariably gone back to drinking the incumbent brands.

 

With its broader aims of educating the market, Whisky Live is happy to tap into the brute force of the volume brands, namely Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker, for marquee events such as the aforementioned master classes.

 

The smaller brands, on the other hand, will benefit just from being there. "The major players will play the primary cities here in China, whereas if you look at the smaller players, they might not be able to afford the listing fee, so they might start putting more emphasis on the off-trade or they might look at the secondary or tertiary cities.

 

"We're trying to blend everybody altogether - it's not an exhibition. Whisky Live is very interactive, very energetic, it's trying to build a good environment for people to learn and enjoy whisky."

 

Visitors from the public and trade who wish to register can log on to www.whiskylivechina.com.

 

(Shanghai Daily March 20, 2009)