When you think of the Russian’s appetite for alcohol you think Vodka, however, things are slowly changing in the world’s largest spirits market. The Russians consume over 275 million 9ltr cases per annum which 83% of is produced in Russia; however whisky is on the move within Russia. Whisky has a long history in Russia however only among a small group of the nation’s elite in the Communist party who were known to import cases of Ballantine’s whisky. The less well-off were able to locate the odd bottle of whisky on the black market, but vodka is and always has been the king.
So why the change? Part of the change is the growing wealth particularly in Moscow and the increase of Western influence however the main reason is Russia’s desire to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO). After 18 years of protracted negotiations you may say their desire is not so great however this has meant Russia has to relax its regulatory system which heavily penalises imports. By 2015 Russia will have to reduce the whisky tariff by as much as 30%. Russia’s joining of the WTO will be a huge opportunity for the Scotch whisky trade to take on the Russian Vodka giants. As with every business transaction in Russia the situation is subject to sudden change, ask BP; however whisky is on the march in Russia and given the quality product and the Russian’s thirst it has to be a winning combination.