Whisky sales in Asia are worth over US$ 33 billion and growing by nearly 10% annually—a brisk pace by any standard. This has people asking “what is driving this boom and where is it headed?”
Let us start with the first part of that question. For many consumers in Asia whisky is an aspirational spirit. It is viewed as a high-quality beverage associated with success and high standard of living. Much like with red wine, initial interest was generated by major international brands—most specializing in scotch whisky—and local returnees who had spent considerable time in countries with a strong existing whisky-drinking culture such as the UK and US.
Scotch whisky—with its earthy flavors—established itself as the standard flavor profile for a whisky. This has made it a good match for many consumers, particularly in East Asia, accustomed to strong flavored spirits with high ABVs. This palate match and positioning as an aspirational product has supported good growth and margins for brands as well as openings at every price tier of the market.
With such a strong presence in Asia where will the market go from here? Scotch whisky still has a good amount of road ahead before it matures; however, as it does other whisky styles are showing good signs of picking up. Bourbon, in particular, with its sweeter more mellow flavor profile appeals to Asian consumers less fond of scotch’s distinct flavor. Sales of Irish whisky are growing in step with the style’s revival globally and rye whisky is beginning to make its presence known in the region.
These fundamentals of local consumer demand, preferences, and trends will ensure growth in whisky sales in Asia will remain strong and stable through at least 2030, further buoyed by continued income growth in emerging Asia, including China, Vietnam, and Indonesia—just to name a few.
Whisky brands either not yet in the region or considering expanding their footprint in Asia would be well served to get a foot in the door now before competition and the cost of gaining market share increases.