Diageo Breaks Ground on Its First Malt Whiskey Distillery in China

The $75 million, 700,000-square-foot facility will produce Diageo’s first China-origin single malt whisky.

Diageo is one of the largest spirits producers in the world – and among a cadre of well-known names like Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Baileys, and Guinness, the conglomerate also owns a laundry list of global whiskey brands including Bulleit in the U.S., Crown Royal in Canada, and Johnnie Walker in Scotland.

But today, Diageo announced they're expanding their whiskey empire into new territory: The London-based company has broken ground on its first malt whiskey distillery in China.

"China is the world's largest beverage alcohol market and the demand for whisky is growing rapidly among middle-class consumers who are keen to further discover and enjoy fine whiskies," Sam Fischer, president for Diageo Asia Pacific and Global Travel, stated. "Today we celebrate another significant step forward, and one which builds upon our local insights and combines those with Diageo's global whisky expertise in order to delight the next generation of Chinese whisky consumers."

Whiskey barrels in a distillery
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Beyond being Diageo's first Chinese whiskey distillery, the forthcoming Diageo Eryuan Malt Whisky Distillery in Yunnan Province will specifically produce the company's first "China-origin, single malt whisky." Diageo explains that the $75 million, 700,000-square-foot facility "was carefully selected for its temperate climate, rich natural biodiversity, and access to natural spring water that is a source of the second largest highland lake, Erhai Lake, in Yunnan." Fischer added, "The natural surroundings and the Eryuan landscape will allow us to craft a world-class, China-origin, single malt whisky that will capture the imagination of premium whisky lovers in China."

Visitors should be able to enjoy that natural beauty as well. When construction begins early next year, the plans call for "an immersive and interactive visitor center that will attract whisky enthusiasts and boost the local cultural tourism industry."

Diageo also stressed that the new distillery will fit into the company's sustainability action plan, ensuring the site will be carbon neutral and zero-waste. Additionally, the brand writes that the design "will incorporate local cultural elements and embrace the region's natural landscape."

Back in August, Diageo boasted that Johnnie Walker is Greater China's top Scotch brand by volume and retail sales value while The Singleton is the country's largest single malt brand by volume. However, the next battle for market share appears to be happening on Chinese land: In 2019, Diageo competitor Pernod Ricard broke ground on what was then the China's first malt whiskey distillery from an international spirits and wine group with hopes of rolling outs Chinese-produced whiskies by 2023.

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