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'Extraordinary growth' in Singapore's whiskey market, say industry players

A vibrant nightlife scene and the increasingly sophisticated taste of consumers here are ensuring high spirits for whiskey distributors, who believe Singapore is the largest emerging market for American whiskies in the Asia Pacific. 

SINGAPORE: More varieties of whiskies are now available in Singapore, as distributors try to tap the rising interest in this tipple. Some of the more premium American whiskies will also make their way here soon, part of a push by the American Distilled Spirits Council to introduce more superior grade whisky to Singapore's burgeoning whisky drinking clientele.

According to the council, overall US-distilled spirits exports to Singapore reached S$23 million in 2013 - up over 500 per cent since 2003. Said Mr Frank Coleman, Senior Vice-President of the council: "Other than the two mature markets in the Asia Pacific region, which would be Japan and Australia, Singapore is without a doubt the largest emerging market for American whiskies and American Distilled Spirits export all kinds."

According to him, whiskies make up about 85 per cent of the exports. "We're seeing extraordinary growth in Singapore. You have an extraordinary nightlife scene growing in Singapore. I have been to a number of top-notch cocktail bars that can compete with anything you see in London, New York and Tokyo."

Indeed, rather than just drinking it on the rocks, experts say the growing popularity of whisky can be attributed to the 'spirit' being incorporated into more cocktails. Whether it's rye or malt whisky, single malt or single cask whisky, the choices are plenty - the variety of whiskies in Singapore has grown over the last three to four years as distributors expand their range of products to cater to the growing demand here.

Whiskey-lovers are also buying limited-edition bottles such as ones that were distilled in Caperdonich. This distillery has since closed, and the value of such a bottle can increase 20 to 30 per cent in the aftermarket.

Said Mr Jon Tan, Retail Associate at The Connoisseur Emporium: "There are a few special limited-edition whiskies that we have here like the MaCallan single cask whisky and Glenfarclas family cask series, they range from S$6,000 to S$12,000 per bottle. In Singapore, there are more commercialised whisky, so when we mention single cask whisky they are like ‘hey, what's that?’ So we start to educate them and when they start to try single cask whiskey, they start to explore more."

The prices and preference for scotch may have increased, but so have those for American whiskies. "In 2008 in New York, they legalised American whisky auctions and the price of rare American whiskies have gone through the roof, more than quadrupled. So you will see some kind of residual effect here in Singapore. You will have rare niche products beginning to filter through the auction market and that's where a lot of the players in the high-net-worth level operate," Mr Coleman said.