The amount of beer supped by Hongkongers has dropped to its lowest level since the handover, as more and more drinkers turn to a wee dram of whisky. Hongkongers last year drank 778,852 litres of whiskies from Scotland and Ireland - nearly 20 per cent more than the amount consumed in 1997. This comes despite declines in the consumption of nearly every category of alcoholic beverage. It is no surprise that after the Asian financial crisis many people decided to stop splashing out on champagne and brandy. Beer is increasingly being blamed for bulging waistlines, and sales last year, at 149 million litres, were down 7 per cent from 1997. Even sales of wine have remained stagnant, at just under 9 million litres per year. Investment analysts also point to a drop in the ranks of expatriates for Hong Kong's new-found abstinence. So who, exactly, is enjoying a Scotch on the rocks? Walter Gerrard, who has been importing whiskies into Hong Kong for 30 years, believes the drink's increasing popularity is likely to be due to rising curiosity among Chinese drinkers. 'Once in a while we Scots like to say that drinking a wee bit of whisky is good for health,' said Mr Gerrard, a brand-promotions manager for Fine Vintage (Far East). 'That's probably not true. People probably drink more whisky because it tastes damned good.' He added that while whisky blends accounted for the largest share of consumption, single-malt whiskies - such as Glenfiddich and Lagavulin - have shot up in popularity in Hong Kong.