Hong Kong whisky festival toasts two-thirds jump in attendance

Event is a local offshoot of a festival series already very popular in Japan and Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 September, 2017, 7:35pm

Hong Kong’s whisky festival attracted two-thirds more fans than last year’s inaugural event, as more and more drinkers in the city become interested in slurping down a dram.

Around 2,000 whisky lovers descended on Whisky Live in Kowloon on Saturday, sampling 400 whiskies from Scotland, Taiwan and Japan.

The most expensive drop on offer was a Japanese single malt from Karuizawa distillery, which can cost about HK$30,000 for a 700ml bottle, said Nicholas Siu Nai-chi, executive director of Spirits Culture Limited, which bought the rights to the festival in Hong Kong.

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Siu said there were only 1,200 tickets to last year’s Whisky Live, the first time the festival was put on in Hong Kong, and all sold out within a week. This year, the 2,000 tickets sold out in less than a month.

“We are really seeing the changes since four or five years back. It’s really starting off,” Siu said of the level of local interest in whisky. “The past few years it was trendy. Now the whisky drinkers start knowing about different styles and then they can find a little bit more story and a little bit more interest than [they can in] wine.”

“We are expecting many more to come [in the future]. Not only male but female drinkers are increasing as well,” he said, adding that part of the attraction of whisky over other tipples was the stories and history behind each bottle.

Whisky Live events in Japan and Taiwan attract around 10,000 people, so Siu said he expected Hong Kong’s festival to continue growing, and hit similar levels in the next few years as it expands and adds a wider range of spirits.

Exhibitor Zachary Yu Wai-lun, director of a tech company which makes alcohol information app Cincin, agreed that interest in spirits was growing in the city, adding that whisky, for many people, is the first spirit they take an interest in. He said he expected whisky lovers to start trying out tequila and cognac too.

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“We have more sophisticated customers and diehard fans, and I think this is a healthy cycle for whisky market growth in Hong Kong,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s just a trend; it’s something that can go for a long time, it can sustain.”

Festivalgoer Wicky Lai Kin-sang, editor of the whisky website Sipping Malt, was enjoying the drinks on offer on Saturday.

He said he has more than 200 spirit bottles in his collection, but couldn’t explain why he loved whisky.

“All whisky, I would love to try it. If I’ve never tried it, I would try it,” he said.