Indian Whiskies are experiencing a new high. With a growing drinking population the Indian alcobev industry is likely to boom to a new high.
In recent years, a formidable challenger has emerged from an unexpected corner of the world – Indian single malts. With their unique character and exceptional quality, Indian single malts have proven that they are more than capable of matching their Scottish counterparts.
One of the key factors that differentiate Indian single malts from their Scottish counterparts is the influence of terroir. India’s tropical climate, with its soaring temperatures and high humidity, creates a whisky maturation process unlike any other. The angel’s share – the amount of whisky lost to evaporation – is significantly higher in India, resulting in an accelerated aging process and intensifying the flavours within a shorter timeframe. This unique maturation process infuses Indian single malts with bold, robust flavours that tantalise the taste buds.
Amrut’s recognition placed India on the global whisky map, but Mohan Meakin pioneered Indian single malt whisky back in 1858, long before Amrut.
While Indri Diwali Edition’s win is celebrated in India, the perception differs internationally. Even though India strives for quality whisky production, global recognition is a work in progress.
Unlike established producers like Japan, India’s whisky prominence is relatively recent – the industry is shifting from the traditional older consumer to younger audiences, by diversifying consumption methods through cocktails.
More distilleries venturing into malt whisky production – Amrut, Paul John, Rampur, and newcomers like Piccadily aim for global market penetration amid rising Scotch whisky imports.
Indian single malts proudly celebrate the country’s rich heritage while incorporating modern techniques and influences. Distilleries often draw inspiration from local ingredients, spices, and cultural traditions to create whiskies that are uniquely Indian. From the use of Indian barley to the incorporation of regional flavours like cardamom, cloves, and saffron, these whiskies encapsulate the essence of India, offering a sensory experience that is both nostalgic and forward-thinking.
The meteoric rise of Indian single malts has not gone unnoticed in the whisky world. They have garnered numerous awards and accolades, winning over skeptics and enthusiasts alike. The recognition from renowned whisky experts and critics has solidified the position of Indian single malts as a force to be reckoned with in the industry. As more people discover the quality and complexity of these whiskies, their popularity continues to soar.
The emergence of Indian single malts has undoubtedly shaken the foundations of the whisky industry, challenging the long-standing dominance of Scotch whisky. With their distinct character, unique maturation process, and unwavering commitment to quality, Indian single malts have proven that excellence in whisky knows no geographical boundaries. As whisky enthusiasts and collectors seek out new and exciting expressions, Indian single malts stand ready to captivate their palates and leave an indelible mark on the world of whisky.
Despite the hype about the magnitude of Indian whisky compared to Scotch, actual consumption statistics show no drastic increase. However, global recognition for quality Indian whiskies has notably risen.
The bulk of India’s whisky market comprises blended and daily drinking whiskies, not just the premium single malts like Amrut/Paul John – underscores the dominance of everyday brands like Signature and McDowell’s. The knowledge and information of seasoned whisky enthusiasts have expanded significantly over the past five years, and they demand whiskies that are: high-quality; limited editions; priced conveniently available in a broader market.
Newer or curious consumers are gradually transitioning from lower-end to mid-segment whiskies, amplifying affordability in the ₹1500-₹2000 range.
While single malts garner recognition and elevate the industry’s stature, the substantial demand driving the industry’s profit lies within these affordable mid-tier whiskies.
Amrut’s pioneering strategy of launching single malts in the UK, rather than India, set a precedent for others like Paul John and Rampur. The idea was to create international demand that would pique curiosity domestically, a strategy that continues to shape the market.
The entry of big players like Diageo and Beam Suntory into India reflects the strategic shift to safeguard their market shares. Diageo’s move from importing Scotch to producing locally aims to counter the rising curiosity for Indian whiskies among consumers, particularly when price points are comparable.
Comparing Indian single malts with global counterparts – blind tastings often unveil the impressive quality of Indian whiskies.
Market acceptance remains a challenge due to the stronghold of brands like Johnny Walker and Chivas, deeply entrenched in the Indian consumer psyche.
Quality control emerges as a critical concern. Despite norms borrowed from the Scotch Whisky Association, the lack of a regulatory authority poses challenges. Looking ahead to 2024, manufacturers must grapple with the realities of production complexities and retaining skilled personnel. The absence of a consistent master blender/distiller in India points to the challenges of replicating Scotch whisky’s intricate craft.
Production transparency, along with quality control, demands attention, emphasising the need for a regulatory body to standardise practices. This prevents the replication of the Japanese whisky industry’s pitfalls, where lack of oversight led to a decline in repute.
International market alignment is crucial, but Indian single malt production capabilities are still dwarfed by Scotland. Expansion plans by major players like Amrut, Paul John, and Rampur indicate the industry’s growth trajectory.
The Future of Whisky Production
Accelerated maturation in India for quicker whisky development: The high Angel’s Share poses challenges due to significant evaporation losses. To counter this, distilleries are employing sophisticated warehouse management techniques to minimise losses and maximise output.
Exploration of alternate sources for key ingredients: Distillers are seeking sustainable and efficient means to procure essential elements for whisky production and exploring new avenues beyond traditional sources.
While currently in its nascent stages in India, there’s a growing emphasis on data-driven processes and automation. Techniques like employing spectrometers to analyse whisky flavours and aromas are being explored to ensure consistency and quality.
Manufacturers are associating with clubs and creating limited editions for various festivals like Diwali or Christmas. Brands are diversifying their offerings, aiming to capture consumer interest with specialised releases tied to zodiac signs, festivals, or master distiller editions.
Expansion into different spirit categories: This may redefine the industry landscape and provide diverse options for consumers beyond traditional whisky offerings. The future might also see a more adventurous consumer base exploring a wide array of whisky variants.