Whiskey from China Has Arrived. Does the American Drinker Care?

New releases from the Hunan distillery Goalong are trickling into the U.S. market, but it may not mark a larger trend (for now)

Goalong 5 Year Old Bourbon Cask Single Malt Chinese Whiskey
Goalong 5 Year Old Bourbon Cask Single Malt Chinese Whiskey, now available in the U.S.
The Whisky Exchange

China is home to the largest spirits market in the world, but many of its products rarely make it outside of the country’s borders. However, a few whiskey releases from the Chinese distillery Goalong recently made their international debut and are becoming readily available in the U.S.

“Goalong is the first Chinese whisky to be available outside of the country,” notes The Whisky Exchange, an online spirits store that is carrying Goalong’s first releases as of this month. “Based in Hunan in the south of China, the distillery is part of a group that produces a wide range of spirits, giving the team a lot of flexibility when choosing casks to mature whisky in. The results so far are floral and elegant, but its [sic] still early days in the establishment of a style for Hunanese whisky.”

The available releases include Goalong Blended Chinese Whiskey, a $40 bottle crafted from “a combination of grains matured in oak barrels” that supposedly offers a creamy texture and aromas of hazelnut, apple, toffee, malt, honey and baking spice. Also in the store is Goalong 5-Year-Old Bourbon Cask Single Malt Chinese Whiskey, a single malt that adds a hint of smokiness. A five-year bourbon and brandy cask expression is currently out of stock, while a gin from the distillery is also available. [Note: There seem to be some discrepancies online about whether brown spirits from China are “whisky” or “whiskey” but Goalong uses the latter spelling.]

Few reviews are available and not a lot is known about the product. Goalong (or specifically, Goalong Liquor Brand) was founded in 2011 with the expressed intent to build China’s first international liquor brand. The distillery offers several more whiskey releases that also seem to be available directly from the brand’s site (hello, Super Tiger). Interestingly, the vaguely-worded blended offering from The Whisky Exchange doesn’t seem to have a presence on the Goalong site, suggesting its release might be purely for the international market.

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Goalong’s products have actually popped up domestically in the past year or so, and you can expect to see more and more whiskey produced in China in the near future — whether is makes it here or not. A few years back drinks giant Diageo announced an investment of $75 million to build their first malt whisky distillery in China, located in Eryuan County in Yunnan Province. And Pernod Ricard broke ground on a $150 million distillery in China back in 2019. And there are over a dozen smaller, Chinese-owned distilleries making their own juice.

Still, it’s going to take time for that whiskey to mature, and there’s no hurry from China to expand its portfolio to international markets. “Such is the potential size of the [domestic] market that I wouldn’t expect Chinese whisky to need to sell much outside China, other than as a curiosity for enthusiasts,” Ian Buxton, author of 101 Craft and World Whiskies to Try Before You Die, told us a few years back.


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