UK microdistiller Sipsmith is seeking to develop and capitalise on the niche market for super-premium gin in China.

The company's namesake gin was officially launched in China last month and will be sold as a super-premium spirit across selected bars, restaurants and hotels, as well as some off-trade outlets. Against the likes of Pernod Ricard's Beefeater and Diageo's Tanqueray, Sipsmith is a niche player in the global gin market, but the London-based distiller believes it can benefit by getting ahead of the curve in China.

Simon Disler, director at Sipsmith's Chinese importer, Drinks99, concedes that gin is "practically unknown" in China. He told just-drinks today (5 March) that a lot of education is required. "Whereas in London, Sipsmith sells itself based on its ... story, in China, we are spending a lot of time explaining what gin is," he said. 

However, Disler added: "Volume-wise, the Chinese bought almost 600,000 bottles of gin in 2006, and that figure is set to double by 2014. So, if we can grab 10% of that market share, we’ll be happy; remembering that we are aiming for the top 10%."

Sipsmith has chosen China ahead of the US market and Disler referenced China's growing economic prominence. "I think," he argued, "the question should be “why would anyone choose anywhere other than China to launch an alcohol?”"

For now, Sipsmith will seek to get a toehold in Shanghai's high-end spirits market. "If you present something to a modern Chinese drinker, that is different, exclusive and premium, they are very keen to sample it," said Disler.

Founded in 2009, Sipsmith already exports to France, Germany, Spain, Australia and Japan.