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Past Issue: October 2008

 
 

In this Issue:

 
John Distilleries outline ambitious plans with Chitali Distilleries acquisition
Sultans of fine wines
Aspri spirits aspires to the biggest and best
The Great Malt Guru
Shroff & Co.101 Not Out
Winter Festivity and Whisky
Can "Feni Taverns" and "Cashew-Apple Farm Tourism" boost Goa Tourism?
"The Love Hotel completes 'ai'"

 
 
 
 

John Distilleries outline ambitious plans with Chitali Distilleries acquisition

After having acquired Chitali Distillery Ltd. at a cost of Rs.28.75 crores, John Distilleries is looking at newer ways to take the business forward. P.M. Salaskar, Director of John Distilleries Ltd., and Vice Chairman & Managing Director of Chitali Distillery Ltd. in an interview with Vincent Fernandes presents the way forward after the deal.

Excerpts: The acquisition of Chitali Distilleries was a red letter day for John Distilleries Ltd., whose business has grown phenomenally since its inception in 1992. The company now has sales of 9.5 million cases with Original Choice, its flag ship brand commanding 7.5 million cases. After buying spirit from various distilleries the purchase of the distillery with a capacity for nearly 3.6 million cases is a logical next step for the company. The deal which is part of the five year old disinvestment process, had attracted the attention of several high profile industrialists and business groups in the state. We are happy to win the deal at the right price, says Salaskar. This is part of our backward integration programme. We will use the distillery for our captive consumption and will offer our spare bottling capacity to some of our new brands. The distillery is being revamped and upgraded by Praj Industries.

This is the first major acquisition for Bangalore-based Paul John Distillers outside its southern markets, and it now has the option to produce rectified spirit and ENA. The company has a blending and bottling plant in Bangalore, Goa, and Chhatisgarh with a capacity of 7.14 million cases per annum. These apart, there are several associate plants including two plants in Andhra Pradesh, one in Kerala, one in Pondicherry and tie-up units in Haryana and other parts of the country. Chitali has a capacity to produce 50.00 lakh litres of alcohol a month. Besides this Chitali has license to increase this capacity to 150 K.L.P.D. The unit is located at Shrirampur, Ahmednagar, near Shirdi.

 

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Sultans of fine wines

Having made its mark as a distributor of UB Spirits, Sultania Trade Pvt. Ltd., is now seeking to make its mark in imports, warehousing and logistics. Vikas Gupta, Director, Sultania Trade Pvt. Ltd outlines their plans to Vincent Fernandes.

Excerpts: After having been in the business of distribution of IMFL products since 1991, the company moved on to importing of wines and spirits and is now ready to expand into warehousing and logistics. Having acquired new premises for its expansion plans, the company hopes to move in to their premises in the next eight months. We hope to take the company to the next level, says O. P. Sultania, Managing Director, Sultania Trade Private Ltd. The company has grown steadily over the years attaining double digit growth consistently. But this has not come without a reason. Vikas Gupta, Director of the firm, attributes it to hard work beginning from the managing director which percolates down the line. This hard work has paid off and has underlined our commitment to our customers, he adds.

While the distribution of IMFL has been streamlined, Vikas focuses on the International business. We are always on the look out for unique products; exceptionally good ones with exceptional pricing keeping in mind the Indian palate, climate and food habits. Products like Asti Spumante, a white sparkling wine from Dezzani in Italy go well with spicy Indian food. It's not so dry as a Brut Champagne, he explains. For good wines at the entry level, with excellent prices, we have wines from J.J. & Cie. The cornerstone of our success has been our product strategy, distribution skills, correct interpretation of trends, indepth knowledge of markets, says Vikas. Some of their star products include Cantina di Soave, Asti Spumante, Sakes from Gekkeikan, Tequilas like Porfidion from Destileria Porfidio and El Caballo Estrella Gold & Silver. In the sparkling wines segment, the Grandials demi sec and Asti Spumante are sure winners.

 

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Aspri spirits aspires to the biggest and best

Being an importer of fine wines and spirits is a business fraught with risk. Jackie Matai looks back in retrospect at the last four years of their existence and cannot help feeling satisfied. In an interview with Vincent Fernandes, Jackie Matai and Arun Kumar reveal their company aspirations.

Excerpts: It was indeed a big decision for Jackie Matai and Arun Kumar, both experienced professionals and who have seen it all in the distribution of wines and spirits, when they established Aspri Spirits Pvt. Ltd. in 2004. The journey has been pretty good, gushes, Jackie Matai. Today the company is among the top three importers and has established an amazing track record. However his biggest challenge is regulations and duties. If only the government would rationalise duties and procedures. This is especially true in the case of wines which need to be stored well, handled correctly and requires high inventories. It is a tough call but that does not deter for pursuing his ambitious growth plans.

Aspri Spirits which began with their office in Mumbai and five employees has grown into a major player in the business with its headquarter in Mumbai and branches in Delhi and Bangalore. The Bangalore presence was created in July 2005 and office was established in 2007. The Delhi office was established in 2007. We now have three hubs in North, West and South, says Arun. We operate out of Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai and our new centre Chandigarh. The company is also looking at new centres in Hyderabad, Pune, Jaipur and Chennai. The Aspri group includes Vinspri Distributors Pvt. Ltd, Dentos India Pvt. Ltd. and Sunrise Petroleum Services. The cornerstone of their success is Aspri's belief of building brands lies in developing markets together with its principals through team work, identifying new opportunities and insights into changing market trends and preferences. The company now has 74 employees and a foot print in 21 states and in Bangladesh. Next year the figure could go to 100 employees.

 

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The Great Malt Guru

Known as Scotch whisky's finest guru and writer, Charles MacLean, speaks about whisky like an art connoisseur who knows the landscape of the renaissance akin to the palms of his hands. In India on a Diageo initiative to unveil the mysteries of Scotch Malt whisky through the launch of a book called "Water of Life", MacLean says the market for India is only just opening and this could be one of the world's biggest markets in years to come as "the global demand for malt whisky has gone ballistic". Amitabh Joshi explores MacLean's genius and wisdom in this exclusive conversation.

Excerpts: Malt whisky is a recent rediscovery, says whisky guru Charles MacLean. Until the 1980s almost all the malt whisky made went into blends and only 1% or less was bottled as single malt. In spite of the fact William Grant's Glenfiddich had decided for the first time in any whisky company to promote their whisky as single malt - they called it pure malt or straight malt in the mid-1960s, the other companies were very slow to follow the lead of Glenfiddich.

"So the awakening really began only when famous brands like McCallan or Glen Morangie only first came into the market in 1981. They were available but only in very small quantities and not promoted.

McCallans promotional budget in 1978 when they appointed their first marketing director was fifty pounds. It's currently about 5 million pounds per annum", explains MacLean.

The growth is truly phenomenal. Malt whisky has always been considered to be on the connoisseurs end on the scale. It's not better than blended whisky, it's different. "I've written dozens of books about single malt and it tends to be my business. Funnily enough, for pleasure in drink blended whisky. People always ask me what my favourite blend is I tell them it's Johnny walker black - which I know is the favourite whisky in India", remarks. According to him, malt whisky is the most complex spirit known to man. It offers huge rewards if it's attended to, by appreciating it properly by smelling it as well as tasting it. Blended whisky uses a whole number of malt whiskies, like Johnnie Walker Black which uses 42 whiskies and two grain whiskies, to create a unique blend. The way the blender works is by integrating all his components in such a way as to produce an overall pleasurable taste and smell. "But you don't really smell blended whiskies. In malt whisky the appreciation and fun, and because they're all different, is in experiencing the difference".

 

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Shroff & Co.101 Not Out

As many new companies enter the complex business of importing wine and spirits, one company stands tall as it gives a much snubbed business a fair name. Mr. F. N. Ginwalla, Managing Partner, Shroff & Company, and his daughter Zenobia Ginwalla, show the way forward in an interview with Vincent Fernandes.

Excerpts: In a land where cricket is worshipped and a century is revered, Shroff & Co. should have had accolades flowing in from all sides. But in India, liquor is taboo, however Mr. Ginwalla is proud Shroff & Co for over 100 years has not only been able to sustain itself by sheer dint of hard work but it has also maintained the fair and honest trade practices the company has become known for.

Shroff and company, a partnership firm was established on 27 October 1908. It was founded by their patriarch, the Late Ruttonshaw Dhunjibhoy Shroff. His legacy continued with his sons, the late Darabshaw and Bomanshaw Shroff, and over the last four decades, this family institution has been run by the current Managing Partner, Mr. D R Shroff's son-inlaw, Mr. Freddy N Ginwalla, his wife, the late Pervin F Ginwalla, their four children, and Mr. Shroff's son, Mr. Hoshang D Shroff.

For Mr. Ginwalla it has been a long journey ever since he joined the business in 1968. The company saw many dark days on account of prohibition but the silver lining is the emergence of wine in a country where the per capita consumption is around a teaspoon. He is bullish about wine and is thankful to the support given by the government. No product can grow without the conviction and support of the government, he says.

Unfavourable government restrictions hamper the growth of any product and in this case - wine. Most of the farmers have switched to the more profitable wine grapes which also require less water than table grapes and that has helped them a great deal.

 

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Winter Festivity and Whisky

Indians have imbibed, to a large extent, the drinking preferences of the English. Hence Gin with Tonic remains an afternoon drink and evenings are dedicated to Scotch, especially during winter.

Excerpts: There is something about nursing a whisky in winter, preferably with a log fire nearby and good friends for company. Or even a good book, chilly winds outside and the comfort of one's favourite chair is what good life is all about. At one time, the often repeated joke was that in North India more 'scotch' is consumed than is distilled in Scotland thereby alluding to the spurious quality that often passed as Scotch whisky for many Indians. But that was many years ago, before relief arrived in the form of increased Duty free allowance, more frequent travel for Indians and of course the Indian whisky makers tying up with various brands to have the IMFL on the shelves of local sale outlets. An alcoholic beverage may range in alcohol contents from a mere 5% to nearing 40%. It is but natural then that different beverages should find favour during different seasons of the year. More so in north India where climatic temperatures may differ from temperate to quite cold or high heat when no amount of cool beverage intake seems to satiate that inner thirst.

It is no surprise then that whisky goes off the favoured list for most drinkers except the really committed whisky drinker who would drink only whisky when mercury hits a high in North Indian summers.

 

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Can "Feni Taverns" and "Cashew-Apple Farm Tourism" boost Goa Tourism?

Goa's traditional liquor Feni needs more than just tipsy tourists to keep it going. Cashing on the Cashew-Apple is the Mantra says Dr. Mohan Krishna.

Excerpts: Think of Goa, and you think of fun, frolic, food and feni. Goa the land of feni and beaches, where there is no difference between day and night. Goa has warm days and cool nights a perfect weather for a getaway from hectic day to day life. In Goa party never ends and parties are really hot and wild. The fine Feni drink of Goa is a must try if you are visiting Goa. Cashew Feni is the "Exotic drink" of Goa. Although classified under "country liquor" devoted Feni drinkers rank it amongst the best single malt whiskies and rare cognacs. The drink proved medicinally efficacious too. Colds, flu, fever, body ache, cuts, abrasions, bone fractures began being cured with a small quantity of feni drunk or applied as per the need of the malady. Best of all, the culture of Feni is directly linked to the sustainability and wellbeing of Goa's legendarily beautiful, but fragile environment. Surprisingly, the manufacturing process of the Feni primarily remains a cottage, and a localised industry, involving several thousand families in villages scattered across every nook and corner of the state. Many of these have participated in this cultural practice for decades. There are at vast number of mini- pot still distillation units spread throughout the Goan countryside; the unmistakable scent of fermenting cashew is a heady accompaniment to hillside walks and village strolls. It can be simplified to this equation: Feni equals the spirit of Goa, and vice versa.

Besides being exported in growing quantities, and remaining a favourite with Goa's large tourist industry, like the Feni is still a Harmonious drink that has bred the wonderfully democratic taverna, the roadside village bar which will host the most superior landlord and the most lowly tenant. Each will sit on the same modest bench, with dignity intact, and each will down the miracle spirit.

 

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"The Love Hotel completes 'ai'"

The Love Hotel is a new alfresco dining and lounge open-to-elements area with innumerable possibilities and ai is a new offering of contemporary Japanese cuisine. Obviously for that statement to be true ai had to open its doors first. And it did!!! This new restaurant located on the second floor of Metropolitan mall in Saket is true to its name, ai is a symbol of love in Japanese.

Excerpts: Modern version of Japanese cuisine could not have been presented with more passion and love. Even the invite for the opening night was classily done: a set of six square cardboard sheets declaring poems by Hitamoaro, Yosano, Akiko, Ono No Komachi, Yosano Akiao, and an anonymous Geisha poem. The sixth declared the time and date of official opening. The Japanese art inspired motifs on these were a visual delight much like the food and décor of the place. The alphabets ai are printed on pictures of round stones in two different shades, somehow evoking images of Japan as we see it in our minds, whether we have experienced it in person, or just in films and literature.

Love is in the air

From the moment the tall bamboo screens part to allow you entry beyond a smiling hostess, and you see the impressive yet relaxed, suave yet functional designer uniforms of the serving staff, it is easy to sense the love and pride with which each small detail has been met. No element here is too small. From glassware to crockery and cutlery; the fine miniaturized and pretty serving platters for single culinary beauties. For the bigger portions of sushi or sashimi, the deeper bowls have been handcrafted in different parts of the country. Sea shells and mother of pearl shells that shine (showcasing love for the effect they create) are used as serving plates as well. Of course if you are not deft with the disposable set of chopsticks there is the staid fork and knife to enjoy your food with.

 

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