Whiskey Gains a Following in the World’s Largest Spirits Market

on 28/03/11 at 9:27 pm

Spirits

Whisper it quietly, but Russians might be defecting from vodka.

Peddlers of the popular firewater say they have seen a slow but perceptible shift in tastes — away from the traditional shooting of vodka chased with herring, toward the gently sipped smoky aromas of Scotch whisky.

“Gin is down, tequila is down, cognac is static, but whiskey imports are growing. It was the only spirit to continue to grow during the crisis, and it accounts for about two-thirds of all spirit imports,” said Erkin Tuzmukhamedov, a leading sommelier and the country’s leading whiskey lover.

Industry insiders say even sales of vodka have begun to fall, while recently proposed excise tax increases could facilitate second thoughts about vodka. Russia’s traditional second spirit, cognac, is stagnant.

So, could whiskey really be the new vodka?

Of course, whiskey, and especially scotch — which comes from Scotland and many consider its most genuine incarnation — is doing well everywhere. Exports of scotch rose 12 percent in 2010, earning Britain £2.8 billion ($4.5 billion).

Those in the business have long known that whiskey has never been a hard sell in Russia, says Ludovic Ducrocq, a long-serving international ambassador for Grant’s whiskey who visits Russia every couple of years.

“I actually find that countries with a strong history of distillation are usually more responsive to Scotch whisky, and this is especially true of Russia,” he told The Moscow Times in e-mailed comments.

But there’s still a mountain to climb to assail vodka’s supremacy.

Russia is the world’s largest overall spirits market — it consumed 275 million nine-liter cases in 2009, according to the Edinburgh-based Scotch Whisky Association.

{Full story via The Moscow Times}

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