Bharat Express

Top Honors Awarded to Indian Whisky Disrupts Global Brand Landscape

As India establishes itself as a creator, not just a consumer, of whisky, its single malts are revolutionizing the nation’s $33 billion spirits market.

At a distillery close to New Delhi, oak casks that were formerly used to store wine and bourbon are stacked high with aged whisky as workers produce nearly 10,000 bottles of India’s single malt Indri a day, which was recently named the best whisky in the world.

The distillery is surrounded by sugarcane and mustard fields rather than peat bogs. Piccadilly, the owner of the two-year-old Indian brand, is increasing production and constructing a three-hole golf course to attract whisky enthusiasts and tipplers in the country.

India’s $33 billion spirits market is changing as the nation emerges as a producer of whisky as well as a consumer. This is thanks to its single malt whiskies.

Renowned international brands like France’s Pernod Ricard’s Glenlivet and Britain’s Diageo’s Talisker compete with regional rivals like Indri, Amrut, and Radico Khaitan’s Rampur for shelf space.

In contrast to many Asian nations where beer accounts for the majority of alcohol sales, India is primarily a whisky-drinking country. Global recognition, rising wealth, and a wave of consumers testing out new brands while cooped up during COVID-19 have upended India’s whisky scene, according to analysts and industry executives.

Aditya Prakash Rao used to drink international brands, but these days he buys more Indian malts for himself and as presents for special occasions.

Defying competitors from Scotland and the United States, Indri’s $421 (Rs 34,960) Diwali Collector’s Edition took home the title of “Best in Show” at the Whiskies of a World Awards blind tasting in San Francisco in August.

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Global brands that have concentrated on single malts aged in Scotland are turning to Indian whiskies in response to the drink-India trend to capitalize on the growth in one of the largest whisky markets globally.

Pernod uncorked its first made-in-India single malt on Wednesday, the $48 Longitude 77, accompanied by Bollywood stars and Indian music. The company intends to expand sales to Dubai and then the rest of the world.

“We have a lot of optimism for this category. It has experienced unheard-of growth,” stated Chief Marketing Officer of Pernod India Kartik Mohindra.

Future-focused category

The bigger competitor to Pernod, Diageo, introduced Godawan, its first Indian single malt, last year. Named after a large, endangered Indian bird, Godawan is sold in five international markets, including the US.

According to Vikram Damodaran, chief innovation officer of Diageo for India, “We seem to be moving from whisky in India to Indian whisky – within India and globally.”

Despite increasing 39% in volume last year, Amrut overtook Pernod’s Glenlivet, which had been India’s best-selling single malt for a long time, with a spike of 183%, according to Euromonitor data.

IWSR Drinks Market Analysis data indicates that in 2021–2022, Indian single malts increased by 144%, outpacing Scotch’s 32% growth. It projects that, from now until 2027, the consumption of Indian malts will increase by 13% annually, while Scotch will grow by 8%.

According to founder Siddhartha Sharma, Piccadilly Distilleries, makers of the Indri, intends to expand capacity by 66% to 20,000 litres (5,300 gallons) per day by 2025, reaching beyond the 18 foreign markets that account for 30% of its sales.

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The expansive distillery situated in a rural area 160 km (100 miles) north of India’s capital is intended to accommodate 100,000 casks, doubling its current capacity.

The local brands are not inexpensive; in stores close to New Delhi, Indri costs $37 (about Rs 3,000) per bottle, Amrut $42 (about Rs 3,400), and Rampur $66 (about Rs 5400). Pernod’s Glenlivet, on the other hand, varies in price depending on age, from $40 to $118.

CEOs, diplomats, celebrity chefs, and other invited guests were served the new single malt and cocktails made with it, along with local ingredients like Alphonso mangoes and Kashmiri saffron, by Pernod at the Longitude 77 launch.

According to Sanjeev Banga, president of international business, Radico expects Rampur sales to double annually and will concentrate more on growing the domestic market because foreign sales account for 75% of its total revenue.

“You have both Diageo and Pernod coming up with an Indian single malt,” he said, indicating the strongest endorsement of the category.

“Otherwise, they were only talking about their mainstream foreign brands,” Banga stated. “They realise this is a category of the future.”