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.
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.
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.
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.
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.