Being that we here at the Southern Drinking Club try to keep abreast of all news related to alcohol and its consumption, we were shocked to recently learn that a Chinese firm has overtaken the maker of Johnnie Walker as the “world’s most valuable liquor maker.”
But then again, being that we are American—and perhaps more importantly, Southern—we don’t tend to spend a lot of time worrying about news from far-out-of-the-way places such as China, Myanmar, California, Point Nemo and the like.
Nevertheless, it was a bit disconcerting to learn that as of early April, Kweichow Moutai became the largest liquor company in the world, with a value of $71.5 billion.
$71.5 billion—now that’s a lot of shots worth!
But what exactly is Kweichow Moutai? And, perhaps more to the point, how’s your favorite bartender going to react when you belly up to the bar and ask for three Pinot Grigios for the ladies, three Live Oak ales for the menfolk, and an accompanying round of Kweichow Moutai for the table?
Chances are that your bartender is not going to know WTF you are on about, but Kweichow Moutai was actually first introduced (conceptually, anyhow) to America in 1972, when the Chinese feted President Richard Nixon with their national drink during his famous official State Visit (during which aides reportedly worked overtime trying to limit the presidential intake).
Despite that early introduction—and perhaps because CBS News Anchor at the time, Dan Rather, described it “like liquid razor blades,”— Kweichow Moutai has never really taken off in the states, or anywhere but China, for that matter.
Its current success as the world’s leading liquor brand has more to do with demographics than anything else. While the American and European markets continue to favor Johnnie Walker by a wide margin over Kweichow Moutai, the overall potential market from both combined is less than the 1.4 billion population potential market in China. As it stands now, 95 percent of Kweichow Moutai sales are generated from within China, with less than 5 percent coming from the U.S. and Europe. Johnnie Walker, meanwhile, generates most of its sales from Europe and the U.S., though at a lower price point and smaller potential market.
You can find Kweichow Moutai, and other Chinese variants throughout America, but at an average price topping $200 per bottle, it has not proven to be an in-demand product. But you can help change that by asking your favorite bartender to carry it.
Do us a favor though, and let us know what your bartender tells you. Oh, and please fully describe the flavor of liquid razor blades.
—Originally published July 12 by the Southern Drinking Club