CHINA – French spirits and wine group, Pernod Ricard has initiated construction of a malt whisky distillery in Emeishan, Sichuan in China that will see the company invest US$150 million over the next ten years.

The distillery will be developed on a 13-hectare and will also house an immersive visitor centre, which the international spirits company hopes will attract more than 2 million tourists within the first decade of its opening.

“The ground-breaking of the distillery signifies the beginning of a journey of innovation, expertise and dedication to craft a new, iconic malt whisky that embraces whisky history and heritage with a character unique to Chinese culture,” said Philippe Guettat, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard Asia.

“It is both the symbol of our strong history with China after three decades of operation and the sign of our deep confidence into the future of international style spirits in this fascinating market.

“We’re proud to be part of China’s fabric and contributing to the sustainable growth of its economy and society, by transferring whisky-making expertise to the people, credibility to the region and the spirit of conviviality to visitors and consumers alike.”

The distillery, which will be designed by China-based architect Neri&Hu, will contain whisky production equipment made in the UK.

The facility will start its production in 2021, and the first batch of release is expected in 2023.

According to a Spirit Business report, the design will incorporate materials from the native area. The boulders extracted from the site will be used to build stone walls, while reclaimed tiles from the region will be used in the construction of the roof.

Pernod Ricard is the world’s largest whisky supplier to China, where its Scotch brands such as Ballantine’s and Chivas Regal sell high volumes.

Pernod Ricard’s chief executive Alexandre Ricard said the group’s sales in its Asian markets performed well above expectations in its recent full-year financial results. Pernod Ricard’s sales in China were up 21%.