Rojita Tiwari

Long before Indian brands Amrut and Paul John made it to Jim Murray’s prestigious Whisky Bible, Indians were the largest consumers of whisky in the world, and today, we are the fastest growing whisky market.
Amrut- Indian single malt whisky
Amrut- Indian single malt whisky
The phenomenal rate of growth
However, going by the definition, even today, only a handful of Indian spirits can be qualified as ‘whisky’ in the European Union.
But that hasn’t deterred the spirit of the whisky drinkers in India. International Wine & Spirit Research report (IWSR), 2019, confirmed that India’s economy last year helped drive the growth of whisky sales by 10.5 per cent in the country, indicating a trade-up by the consumers.
Overall, the consumption of whisky in India has evolved many fold in the last decade. From scotch to IMFL and now Japanese, American, Canadian, Irish, Taiwanese and premium Indian single malts, whisky still rules the market. Globally as well, the whisky category saw an upsurge of 7 per cent last year and will continue at a 5.7 per cent CAGR (Compound Annual Growth rate) until 2023, thanks to innovative whisky cocktails and revival of the highball, reports IWSR.
Negroni cocktail
Negroni cocktail
A promising market
For global spirits majors such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Beam Suntory, India has always remained the most prominent whisky market. Over the years, the consumer upgradation to premium and super-premium spirits has only supported these companies and major importers in the country to introduce luxury single malts and blended whisky labels such as Lagavulin 16, Singleton of Glendullan 12 YO, Macallan, Bruichladdich, The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Monkey Shoulder, Talisker, etc.
Just recently Whyte & Mackay reintroduced The Dalmore and Jura range in the market through a new liquor-importing partner VBev. Many of these whiskies have their unique stories to entice the whisky lover. For example, an iconic brand such as The Dalmore 12 yo is recognised as a whisky far beyond its age. It was also the first whisky to be aged for 12 years in the 1800s. Matured for nine years in American white oak ex-bourbon casks; half is being transferred to exclusive 30-year-old Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso Sherry butts for the last 3 years to create this phenomenal whisky. The Dalmore distillery is known to have one of the oldest and rarest collections of Highland whiskies.
Macallan single malt whisky
Macallan single malt whisky

 

Premium and luxury variants
The premium whisky range in India isn’t only restricted to imported brands. Thanks to Amrut Distilleries’ range of Amrut single malts (currently they have more than 30 variants of the whisky and only a few are available in India) and John Distilleries’ single malt division Paul John Whisky, we now have some of the best single malts produced in India. These malt-based Indian whiskies are produced in state-of-the-art distilleries. For example, the visitor centre of Paul John Distillery in Cuncolim, Goa, offers the visitors an incredible and world-class experience of understanding whisky making through a guided tour and a tasting session with the talented Master Blender Michael D’Souza and his team. The location of the distillery, the water, the climatic condition of coastal India and a selection of the six-row barley grown in the foothills of the Himalayas provides the perfect liquid ageing conditions and components in the cellars of Paul John Whisky. A mix of first and second-fill ex-bourbon casks for the classic range and finish with sherry and port-casks for the limited editions of Paul John single malts have given the Indian consumers access to some of the world-class whiskies produced right in our backyard.
Rojita Tiwari
Taking inspiration from these two companies even Radico Khaitan jumped into the bandwagon with the introduction of Rampur Single malt (dedicating it to India’s largest distillery located in Rampur). Growth and confidence in the economy have also given rise to many start-ups in the liquor trade. Including the newest premium whisky Woodburns (priced in Mumbai at  ₹2,850) produced in Goa. Calling itself the contemporary Indian whisky available in Goa and Mumbai for now, the brand doesn’t shy away from challenging the biggies.

Interestingly, to find a solution to the excessive import duty imposed on alcohol in the country, many imported blended scotch whiskies are now bottled in India such as Teacher’s, Jim Beam, and following suit are Scottish Leader’s blended scotch and a few more.
The versatile whisky producer and bottler from the highlands in Scotland, the Loch Lomond Group, known for its wide range of single malts, single grains and blended whiskies, is looking to develop its business in India including local bottling, after a recent change in ownership. The distillery’s strategic partner for the China market is also gearing up to introduce Baijiu (premium white spirit from China) to the Indian market.
New-age whisky connoisseurs
The swanky bars and speakeasy places have given birth to a new league of whisky drinkers. The kind that always searches for a perfect classic whisky cocktail such as Old-Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Highball or Sazerac etc. Thanks to the Japanese whisky producer Suntory, highball cocktail variations are witnessing a massive revival in the global bartending community.
The success of this category has also been possible because of the awareness, social media campaigns, and experiential activities curated by brand ambassadors, bartenders and drinks influencers engaged with these brands. While restrictions on liquor advertising in India creates a barrier for the industry to market these luxury brands across desired platforms, the consumer engagement programmes, alcohol festivals have significantly helped in boosting sales and bridging the gap between connoisseurs and the producers.
Woodburns Indian whisky
Woodburns Indian whisky
Top super-premium and luxury whiskies in India
The luxury and premium segment in whisky is hotting up this season. According to IWSR, the superpremium whisky category has registered 81 per cent CAGR in 2016-17. The biggest category growth has been in Irish Whiskey (46 per cent) thanks to the efforts of Jamesons. One of the leading players in the race is the American whiskey category, thanks to Jim Beam’s bottling in India. The blended scotch super-premium category is growing by 45.8 per cent dominated by brands such as Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve, Chivas Regal 18 yo, Ballentine’s 17 yo, Dewar’s 18 yo; the premium category is led by Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas 12 yo, JW Blender’s batch, Dewar’s 12, Ballentine’s 12 and Black Grouse. The malt scotch super-premium category is dominated by Talisker 10 yo, The Macallan 12 yo, Ardbeg 10 yo, Laphroaig 10 yo, Balvenie, Caol Ila 12 yo, The Glenlivet 15 and 18 yo, Cragganmore 12 yo, Johnnie Walker Green, Edradour 10 yo and Clynelish 14. Others in the premium plus and premium category whiskies, which have seen positive growth as per CAGR 2016-2017 are Glenfiddich 12, The Glenlivet 12, Glenmorangie 10 yo, Aberfeldy 12 yo. The premium whisky category in India is driven by growth in Monkey Shoulder, Ardmore and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel.
Jura superstition single malt scotch whisky
Jura superstition single malt scotch whisky
As whisky enjoys its day in the sun, it will be interesting to see more iconic labels and craft whiskies finding a way into the Indian market in the future. Cocktails, neat, with ice or with a few drops of water, Indians will continue to enjoy their dram and the big whisky producers in the world have already made note of that. Slàinte to the good times.

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