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Diageo is launching its premium baijiu brand, Shui Jing Fang, into Europe with its debut set for the UK market.

The white spirit will initially be available in Chinese restaurants, supermarkets and high-end shops, such as Harrods, but not bars in the country. It will retail at GBP115 (US$179) for a 50cl bottle. 

However, Diageo, which has a 53% stake in Shui Jing Fang holding company Quanxing, hopes the drink will be in on-trade outlets "within three to five years", Neil Cao, the firm's international business director, CWS, told just-drinks yesterday (3 July). 

Shui Jing Fang, is also due to be launched in Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and Germany, following the UK roll-out. 

Asked by just-drinks why the drink was being launched now, Cao said: "We have always been looking at it, but now is the right time. It's a unique product and people here (in the UK) are interested in trying Chinese products."

The brand's initial target will be the Chinese community and tourists, but Cao said he would eventually like to see it regarded in the UK in the same way as other spirits categories, like whisky and vodka. 

He also suggested Shing Jing Fang could be used as a cocktail ingredient. "It won't be long before you see that," Cao said. 

Earlier, during a launch event held in London, Andrew Cowan, Diageo GB's country director, told guests that the roll-out offers a "significant opportunity in the UK".

He also suggested there would be a "spike" in sales of the product during this month's Olympics, thanks to the high number of overseas visitors expected in London.

Looking ahead, he added: "We will look to educate Western consumers in the long-term."

Shui Jing Fang will be distributed in the UK by specialist Oriental food wholesaler, SeeWoo.