Taiwanese bought £106.5 million (US$210 million) of Scotch whisky last year, up 4.4 percent from a year earlier to become the world's sixth-largest consumer of the spirit, according to new figures published by the Scotch Whisky Association last week.
China for the first time joined the top-10 list last year, purchasing £58.2 million worth of the spirit on a 27-percent increase from a year earlier, the association's statistics showed.
The latest statistics released by the Edinburgh-based association last Wednesday indicated that the US remained the largest market for Scotch in dollar terms, reaching £400 million last year.
The US was followed by France, Spain, South Korea, Venezuela, Taiwan, Singapore, South Africa, Greece and China, in that order.
"The local demand for whisky has been on a steady upward trend as the spirit's image is one of quality and class, which is warmly welcomed by Taiwanese drinkers," Hsi Da-ning (奚大寧), chairman of Maxxium Taiwan Ltd (寰盛洋酒), said during a telephone interview yesterday.
Maxxium distributes Absolut Vodka, the Famous Grouse Scotch Whisky, Jim Beam Bourbon and Remy Martin Cognac, among other brands, in Taiwan.
The growing popularity of pure malt whisky, in particular, has become the locomotive driving the rising imports of whisky, Hsi said.
"Pure malt whisky, known for its rich flavor and smell, now accounts for 40 percent of total whisky products in Taiwan, up from 5 percent three years ago," he added.
Malt whisky has in fact been the most robust sector within Scotch whisky for more than a decade, according to an industry report by Dave Broom released by just-drinks.com last November.
"Although it still makes up a small percentage of overall Scotch volumes [a maximum of 10 percent volume overall], its share of voice is considerably higher," said the report, Global Market Review of Malt Whisky -- Forecasts to 2011, which covers such markets as France, the US, the UK, Spain, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, China and India.
Among liquors and spirits, whisky has become the favorite of Taiwanese, accounting for an 85 percent marrket share, the report said, adding that "its popularity will continue to grow."
Taiwan last year imported 14.72 million liters of whisky and Scotch whisky accounted for more than 90 percent, statistics from Directorate General of Customs under the Ministry of Finance showed.
In the local market overall, beer and Kaoliang liquor snatched the top two spots with market shares reaching NT$35 billion (US$1.057 billion) and NT$13 billion respectively. Whisky is next, with NT$10 billion, according to a report in Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) on Friday.
Last year set a record for Scotch whisky, with shipments of both malt and blended whisky increasing worldwide in value and volume, the Scotch Whisky Association said in a statement published on its Web site.
Overall, Scotch whisky exports rose 4 percent in value to £2.47 billion, which the association said is the highest ever and beating a previous high of £2.4 billion recorded in 1997. The export amount also reached a record high of 1.05 billion bottles, up 6 percent on the 2005 level, the association added.
"Building on a record year in 2006, the prospects for Scotch whisky are brighter than they have been for many years," Richard Burrows, chairman of the association, said in the statement.