And they’ll go to extraordinary lengths to get what they want
Whisky obsessives from China are so hooked on scotch that they are flying in to Britain to indulge in £50,000-a-time boozy shopping sprees.
One London whisky store told The Independent that several times each week men from China will spend five figures on single malts.
When it comes to their tipple of choice, older equals better – and they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get it.
“One buyer was frustrated that we only had three bottles of the Macallan Blue Label [a 30-year-old sherry oak malt] in stock,” the boss of a central London store said.
“So he asked whether he could just send his driver to the distillery to pick up some. This guy was all set to drive north of Aberdeen to grab a few bottles, until some were sourced from another store.”
Travelling to the UK to buy whisky can work out significantly cheaper than importing it.
Hong Kong charges 100 per cent duty on spirits entering the country, whereas those bringing bottles back from the UK typically don’t declare it.
“It can be really easy for these guys. They step off the plane at the other end, hop in a car, go through private security. No one’s giving them much trouble.”
Many wealthy Chinese people have an affection for traditional British goods, so whisky – with its lengthy Scottish heritage – is in high demand.
The Scotch Whisky Association this month urged the UK to prioritise negotiating free trade deals with China post-Brexit, along with India and Brazil.
Given China has the highest number of billionaires outside America, there's big money to be made.
A sales associate at another London whisky store told The Independent that when it came to making a sale to a wealthy overseas client, “You’d think we’d roll out the gold carpet – but it’s a really common occurence.”
As to whether the bottles are typically quaffed back home, or placed in prominent positions for prestige value, it depends on the customer.
The staffer added: “Some customers have a good understanding of whisky and you can tell when they’re in the market for something they’ll enjoy.
“Others have an ‘expensive is better’ mentality, which suggests the bottle is more of a wealth signifier in the boardroom or wherever.”