Like a dog with two tails

With a potential 1.4bn Chinese people to target with gifts, Chinese New Year is now a gold mine for desired labels. Johnny Walker is one of the most sought-after brands in the country, and in the run-up to last year’s festival it launched a Chinese New Year edition of its Blue Label range.

Diageo was one of the first big brands to recognise the opportunity and this is the fifth year it has released this extension. The limited-edition decorated bottles retail at £175 for a litre – £19 more than the standard bottle.

“During this festive period it’s wonderful to be able to provide whisky consumers with a gift that is luxurious and unique from such an iconic whisky brand,” said Dayalan Nayager, managing director at Diageo Global Travel. “The exquisite design of the Chinese New Year bottle will help to engage new consumers and reward existing ones with a limited-edition collectable.”

Sam Fischer, president of Diageo Greater China & Asia, gave a presentation toward the close of last year about the company’s plans for the festive period, paying particular attention to the gifting culture in China.

Traditionally, baijiu would be the spirit of choice but now this is changing. The only luxury item which will not benefit from China’s gifting seasons is the watch industry, as presenting a clock or watch as a gift symbolises ageing and isn’t accepted.

Diageo also launched a Johnnie Walker Blue Label for the Mid-Autumn festival. Fischer says: “We simplified and made our message more effective and net sales were 20% higher than all the different limited editions we launched in the previous year.

“In China, during the Christmas and Chinese New Year gifting seasons, we built on last year’s success of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Striding City limited edition by launching the 2017 edition. The series was so successful that we expanded it to a more accessible limited edition for Johnnie Walker Black Label.”

However, it isn’t just Diageo using its elbows in the travel retail sector.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka has released ‘Tito’s, a vodka for dog people’ for the Chinese New Year, decorated in red and gold packaging – an obvious crowd-pleaser for the Chinese, not just in China but in the US. There is thought to be a Chinese diaspora in the US of nearly 5m and together, with the US interest in Chinese culture, this opens the door for Tito’s to sell its expression on home soil too.


Last year, Drinks International editor Christian Davis travelled to China to visit Changyu, the world’s largest winery. Generally, when the Chinese decide to invest in something, they do so wholeheartedly – and now China’s wine industry is being harvested by a group of investors.

Aurélien Jousse, export manager for China for the Les Dauphins brand, owned by Cellier des Dauphins, believes Chinese New Year is one of its most opportunistic markets to flourish in. “Next year we hope to see a lot more sales and activity,” says Jousse. “The opportunity is important as Les Dauphins is already very popular with the trade and is growing in awareness.