Johnnie Walker House feeds luxury boom

10th December, 2012 by Gabriel Stone

Diageo has launched a second, more luxurious version of its Johnnie Walker House, offering Beijing clientele access to £80,000 bespoke blends and a bar that simulates a working distillery.

The Johnnie Walker House, Beijing

Described as “the world’s largest embassy for luxury Scotch whisky,” the Johnnie Walker House Beijing follows on from the original sister venture, which opened in Shanghai last year.

Since then, Diageo has reported 64% year-on-year growth in Chinese sales of “super-deluxe” Johnnie Walker styles, including 45% growth for its Blue Label.

In an effort to feed China’s demand both for luxury whisky and knowledge, the Johnnie Walker House, which is spread over two houses at the prestigious Ch’ien Men 23 address, combines a bar, museum, retail outlet and members club.

A number of whiskies are available exclusively through these houses, including the Johnnie Walker Epic Dates collection, whose price starts at RMB22,800 (£2,250) and the Master Blender Series, which features whiskies aged for at least 30 years.

Clientele can also work with Johnnie Walker’s master blender Jim Beveridge to create their very own Johnnie Walker blend. Prices for the service start at RMB800,000 (£80,000).

Members can take advantage of their own whisky vault, signature blends and a private “whisky-inspired” dining service from Johnnie Walker’s in-house chef.

A limited group of 200 patrons will be offered access to a concierge service, which will arrange trips to Scotland, taking in private distilleries and castles, as well as members-only golf courses.

In an effort to recreate Scottish history and culture, the Beijing venue features a recreations of John Walker’s original grocery shop and a blending floor. In the downstairs Distillery Bar, which is open to the public, 10,000 copper pipes have been used to simulate a working distillery.

Describing the Shanghai venue as “our most successful experiment in marketing and commercial innovation in Asia to date”, Gilbert Ghostine, president of Diageo Asia Pacific added: “This experience has brought incredible success and new energy to Johnnie Walker’s century-long story of progress in China.”

With the company’s overall sales in Asia Pacific growing by 30% during the last financial year, driven by its super-deluxe category, which now accounts for 19% of net sales across these markets, Diageo has confirmed a plan to roll out the Johnnie Walker House more widely across this region “and, ultimately, worldwide”.

Having relocated its luxury spirits team, Diageo Reserve, to Singapore last year, the drinks giant offered further evidence of an oriental focus for its top end brands by choosing the Asia Pacific region for the initial launch of Johnnie Walker’s US$950 per bottle brand extension, The John Walker & Sons Odyssey.

Launched earlier this year, this triple malt housed in a rotating crystal grade decanter offered a response to what Diageo Asia Pacific chief marketing officer James Thompson referred to as “an insatiable demand for super-deluxe spirits globally and particularly in Asia Pacific.”

For a more detailed look at the shift in luxury focus towards Asia and how that affects mature markets, look out for December’s issue of the drinks business.

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