12 Jan 2017 SA’s passionate love affair with Scotch whisky
Last year R1.78bn of Scotch was imported to SA, indicating how it has become the tipple of choice for a wide cross-section of South Africans.
LAST LATE NOVEMBER, the largest whisky festival in the world was held in Sandton at which, remarkably, ten bottles of a limited edition, 60-year-old premium scotch whisky, Glenfarclas, were sold for R360,000 apiece.
This is testament to the growing appreciation for the golden liquid within this country. But the sale won’t surprise those who have tracked SA progress in becoming the fifth-largest export market in the world for Scotch whisky.
Last year, as much as £122m — or about R1.78bn — worth of Scotch whisky was imported to SA.
That translates into about 35,280l or 47,026 bottles, says Emily Stockden, chief operating officer of the Whisky Live Festival.
“The industry is flourishing — incidentally at the expense of the traditional SA spirit of choice, brandy. Whisky is the most-consumed spirit in SA with 4.1m South Africans drinking it, while the number of brandy drinkers has decreased to 3.3m,” she says.
George S Grant, whose family has run the Glenfarclas distillery in Scotland since 1836, was one of the high-profile guests at Whisky Live. He says SA has become a major market for his whisky in just a few years.
“The whisky industry has grown tremendously in this country. We have had a whisky boom worldwide for about 10 years and, in the past five years, that explosion has reached SA,” he says.
Grant says Scotch makers have had to up their game as many strong whiskies are now being produced by countries which do not have a history of whisky making.
“Scotch is basically the mother of whisky. Many countries have learnt how the Scots make it and then added their value and raw materials to the process. Japan is a case in point. The first Japanese person to make whisky lived in Scotland for decades and studied the beverage. We now see countries such as Russia and Taiwan creating high-quality whisky,” says Grant.
The profile of the typical whisky drinker is also changing. “People are drinking less but better across the world,” Grant says. “They want to taste what they are drinking and not just get drunk.
“People also have more disposable income than their parents and grandparents had. They want to spend it on a beverage that is in vogue but has history behind it. They don’t want to drink what their parents drank,” Grant says….