More Chinese people are livening up their traditional, green tea by adding a shot of Scotch Whisky, as Asian markets help the Scots to break the £1bn export barrier in the first half of 2005.
Scotch Whisky and green tea has become a powerful combination for distillers in China, and exports to the country rose 124 per cent in value to £22m in the first half of this year, said the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
China is now the 11th most important export market for Scotch whisky after recording strong growth in 2004 too.
"I am looking forward to visiting Beijing next month to discuss market conditions with Chinese officials and to learn first hand about how this exciting market is developing," said Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of SWA.
Demand for Scotch was also strong in other key Asian markets: exports to South Korea rose 26 per cent to £72m, with a 47 per cent increase to £21m in Thailand and a 25 per cent rise to £44m in Taiwan.
It is the first time Scotch Whisky exports have topped £1bn since 1997 and, similar to beer, growth in emerging markets managed to offset problems in Western Europe.
Total exports were up three per cent in value and two per cent in volume compared to the first half of 2004, yet serious declines were seen in Germany and Spain - down 32 and 16 per cent in value respectively.
France also slipped, while a consumer shift to higher quality products held up market value against volume declines in the UK.
"Conditions in Europe have been challenging, but it remains a vitally important market representing nearly 40 per cent of Scotch Whisky shipments," said Hewitt, adding that EU enlargement had already brought benefits.
"Scotch Whisky is now able to compete on a level playing field with local spirits in the new EU member states for the first time."
Exports to the 10 accession countries increased 15 per cent this year to £10m, while growth showed across Eastern Europe as exports to Russia rose 80 per cent to £12m.
For the first half of 2005, Scotch Whisky's top five export markets by value were: US (up seven per cent to £152m), France (down four per cent to £114m), Spain (down 16 per cent to £110m), South Korea and Taiwan.
In volume terms, France beats the US, while Thailand moves into fourth, replacing Taiwan and pushing South Korea into fifth spot.