Tag Archives: alcohol industry

Alcobev Sector Soft Target, Governments Keep Hiking Taxes Arbitrarily

  • Telangana government’s delay in settling dues, liquor industry in dire straits
  • Cash-strapped Congress government mulling increase in liquor prices
  • Third tax hike in the last five years

With the exception of States which have prohibition, all other States, if they need to shore up their revenues, first target alcobev sector. State government after state government have increased excise duties, license fees etc without batting an eyelid and in most cases without taking the industry into confidence. The alcobev sector is the milch cow.

The latest news is that the cash-strapped Congress-led Telangana government is looking at the liquor industry to come to its rescue.  Telangana’s alcobev sector, which is a major revenue earner for the state, is now faced with two major issues – government’s inability to clear outstanding dues of over Rs. 4,700 crore and its impending decision to increase taxes on liquor – both of which adversely impacting the sector.

To give a perspective, the Telangana government is depending on Overdrafts, Ways and Means Advances and Special Drawing Facility (SDF) from the Reserve Bank of India to meet its expenditure. The Congress government which came to power in December 2023 in Telangana has so far raised Rs. 12,358.48 crores through these routes.

In many states, excise is a major revenue generator and in Telangana revenue from liquor sale doubled from Rs. 12,703 crores in 2015-16 to Rs. 31,225 crores in 2021-22. For 2022-23, the state government had projected a revenue of around Rs. 37,500 crores from liquor. In 2023, the Telangana Excise Department managed to collect Rs. 2,639 crores without selling a single bottle of liquor, the money coming from nearly 1.32 lakh applications charging Rs. 2 lakh non-refundable application fee for the allotment of 2,620 liquor shops.

Fiscal deficit up

Despite the increase in revenues, the government has not been able to reduce the fiscal deficit as the Congress government has announced quite a few freebies that is costing the exchequer. To shore up revenues, the Congress government is planning to increase tax on liquor which in turn will push up the prices. The proposal made recently is expected to come into effect soon. The previous Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) government in its term had hiked the liquor prices twice and now the Revanth Reddy government is contemplating, in five years that would be the third tax hike.

An industry veteran told Ambrosia “Nobody likes a tax increase. As liquor is a discretionary product, people slip down the value chain or they resort to alternate sources of supply, so both of which have implications to both the state government and the suppliers. In that respect, it is not the best of moves.  This kind of thing is happening in other states, given that they have made electoral promises and have to fund that and alcobev is the soft target.”

The veteran who has held top posts in various companies said “As of now, we don’t know what levels the tax is going to be increased. Somewhere, there is a mention of license fee going up, we don’t know whether it is tax on consumer or manufacturers/suppliers or both we don’t know yet.”

The CEO of the International Spirits & Wines Association of India (ISWAI), Nita Kapoor in an interview with ET Hospitality has called for urgent attention to the critical issue of high state excise duties that account nearly 70- 80 percent of consumer MRP, inflationary pressures adding significant pressures on the industry. As inflation rates rise in the country, the alco-bev sector faces significant challenges due to escalating costs of production, transportation, raw materials, and exorbitant import duties. This combination poses a dire threat to the industry’s sustainability.

Ms. Kapoor said, “The liquor industry has consistently and significantly contributed by generating 25-40 percent of revenues for state governments and nearly 2 percent of nominal GDP. However, the current tax and tariff structure, characterised by high excise duties, limited supplier price flexibility, and exorbitant import duties of 150 percent (50 percent BCD + 100 percent AIDC), is pushing the industry toward a crisis. Regulators must recognise the necessity of inflation-linked adjustments in supplier prices as the Alcobev industry is a cornerstone of economic activity.”

Beer suppliers due Rs. 1,200 cr

On the one hand hike in liquor prices and on the other the government not releasing outstanding dues, both are hitting the industry hard. Beer suppliers, it is estimated, are to get nearly Rs. 1,200 crores, pending since October 2023. The alcobev sector has urged the government to resolve the issue as some of them were finding it difficult to go ahead with production.

The Director General of the Brewers Association of India, Vinod Giri said, “In absence of immediate resolution of this problem, I fear some companies may be forced to opt out of the state.”  Of the Rs. 1,200 crores due to beer suppliers by Telangana State Beverage Corporation (TSBCL), around Rs. 900 crore is beyond tender credit terms of 45 days, he said, adding some of it is even 120 days overdue. “Payments are being released but amounts are too small and don’t even cover new outstandings, leave aside past ones.”

The alcobev companies in a statement said, “Delayed payments is creating a stressful cash flow situation for the manufacturing companies, hindering their ability to invest in operations, buy raw materials, pay employees and continue supplies to the consumers. Despite repeated attempts by industry leaders to meet key ministers in the state, the issue remains unresolved. This lack of communication and action is causing frustration and uncertainty amongst manufacturing companies in the state.”

It said that this might force companies to curtail supplies to Telangana. Unless the government does something soon, some companies may be forced to cut costs, including job retrenchment. This situation, the alcobev sector said would further dent industry confidence and dampen investor sentiment in Telangana.

As regards the delay on the part of the government on outstanding dues, the industry veteran mentioned that “All suppliers put together beer, spirits and wine, as of May 31st the outstanding was over Rs. 4,700 crore. That itself is an additional cost the supplier is bearing and if consumers resort to alternate sources, it is not good for the suppliers. The suppliers have held on for quite some time, the question is for how long can they hold on.”

Telangana major liquor consumption state

Liquor consumption in Telangana is high as the state guzzles over 6 crore cases of beer or 15% of 40 crore cases sold across the country per annum. As regards Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), Telangana’s consumption is about 3.4 cases or 9% of 39 crore cases sold.

The non-payment of dues and the constant hike in liquor prices had left some in the trade to sell liquor above the maximum retail price (MRP) to make up for the losses. Besides, some licensed vendors were reported to have opened bars in the guise of permit rooms. The Bar Owners Association complained to the Excise Department against the wine shops which were allowing consumers to drink on the premises. The Association argued that they were already burdened by the excise rules of the government and adding to the woes were the so called ‘permit rooms’. In the process, the government was also losing revenue. The bar owners, on the other hand, complained that bars with retail outlets on the premises was affecting their business.

Despite woes, AP traders planning to move to Telangana

Whatever the issues, the consumer in Telangana continues to patronise the alcobev sector and this has enthused some liquor manufacturers to move or add liquor businesses from Andhra Pradesh to Telangana. According to reports, some of the liquor dealers in Andhra Pradesh were selling unknown brands at exorbitant prices through the state-run AP Beverages Corporation Limited (APBCL). Brands such as President’s Medal, Capital, Timer, Boom Boom, Classic Blue, Old Admiral, Royal Green and Sentinel were out in the market, particularly rural, in large numbers.

There have been allegations that out of 100 liquor companies, the APBCL procured 75% of its liquor from only 15-16 manufacturers like SPY Agro, Adan Distilleries, PMK Distilleries, etc., which are controlled by the erstwhile ruling party leaders of YSRCP. It now remains to be seen how the Telegu Desam Party which has come to power in Andhra Pradesh will take a call. However, the Telangana market being a lucrative one, the AP businesses are looking at Telangana.

Meanwhile, in Telangana there are charges and counter charges from the ruling dispensation and the BRS. In an open letter to the Telangana Chief Minister, A.Revanth Reddy, the BRS leader M.Krishank urged the Chief Minister not to introduce adulterated liquor in Telangana.  Krishank said that on May 21, minister Jupally Krishna Rao stated that no proposals had been made to allow new liquor companies to operate in Telangana State. He warned that if anyone reported such news, a defamation suit of Rs 100 crore would be filed against them. However, on May 27, the BRS party exposed minister Jupally Krishna Rao’s falsehood, revealing that the government had indeed granted permissions to a company named Som Distilleries, pointed out Krishank. The Minister acknowledged stating that the decision was taken by the Beverages Corporation. It is now reported that the government has decided to cancel the permission given to Som Distilleries to sell its liquor in Telangana.

The liquor industry not just in Telangana is looking for stability in policy making but also to ensure that the government takes care of the liquor industry which is a revenue-spinner.

Beam Suntory is Now Suntory Global Spirits

Beam Suntory has rebranded itself to become Suntory Global Spirits, marking the 10 years since Suntory acquisitions of Beam Inc. in 2014. The 10 years has seen the company nearly double its growth from a from a $2.5 billion-dollar company to a $5.5 billion-dollar global spirits powerhouse today.

The rebrand includes the launch of a new website and visual identity to celebrate Suntory Global Spirits’ focus on quality, craftsmanship and sustainability –brand attributes that they feel are connected to and complemented by those of its parent company, Suntory Holdings. The rebrand is expected to help the company drive value as one global team and focus on key priorities including American whiskey, Japanese Spirits, Scotch, Tequila and Ready-To-Drink, while providing flexibility for growth in the future. 

Since the acquisition of Beam Inc. in 2014, the company has seen an incredible transformation to become an even stronger organization, led by the shared values of Yatte MinahareGrowing for Good and Giving Back to Society.

“Now is the right moment to deepen our shared passion for the innovation and artistry that deliver incredible experiences through our products and fully unlock our unified advantage across our leading spirits portfolio,” said Tak Niinami, President & CEO of Suntory Holdings and Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors at Suntory Global Spirits. “  

“The dedication that Suntory CEO Tak Niinami and Suntory Holdings have shown to advancing our culture and business growth – while also preserving the legacy of craftsmanship and interplay of traditions exemplified in brands from Jim Beam to Laphroaig and Maker’s Mark to Yamazaki – is extraordinary. Becoming Suntory Global Spirits is the natural next step in our evolution,” said Greg Hughes, President & CEO of Suntory Global Spirits. 

The company’s new brand platform also pays homage to the bold steps that Suntory and Beam Suntory, now Suntory Global Spirits, have taken over the last decade in pursuit of Suntory Global Spirits’ ambition to become the World’s Most Admired Premium Spirits Company.

Supreme Court observation on Blenders Pride vs London Pride Whisky on Trademark Infringement

The Apex Court in an observation on January 22 has asked respondents Indore-based JK Enterprises if they are willing to change the trade dress of the brand London Pride whisky in a trademark infringement case filed by Pernod Ricard India Pvt Ltd., makers of Blenders Pride and Imperial Blue whiskies. A bench of the Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud, Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra adjourned the case by two weeks while asking the respondents – JK Enterprises to get instructions in this regard.

The Supreme Court in two recent hearings saw the petitioners – Pernod Ricard India Pvt Ltd and ANR – presenting their case by bringing bottles of whisky of the two contending brands to highlight trademark infringement. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi representing the petitioners had taken permission to display the bottles in the Court to point out the similarities in the name ‘Pride’, trade dress and the bottle shape. The trade dress between London Pride and Pernod Ricard’s another brand ‘Imperial Blue’ has similarities.

Pernod Ricard said, “The respondent has copied the trademark Blender Pride by adoption and use of London Pride and further copied the colour combination, get-up and trade dress of Imperial Blue of petitioners including use of bottles with embossing of Seagram, the house mark of the petitioner.”

Pride is a generic word, CJI

Presenting the bottles to the Court, advocate Rohatgi said, “In this case the name is not the copy. In this case the trade dress, and even the bottle is identical. And something worse, bottle is absolutely identical.” Rohtagi showed “London Pride” to the bench, however, the bench said the bottle had a different shape. Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the term “Pride” is a generic word. Rohatgi went on to argue on the ‘deceptive similarity’ by recalling similarities in name such as Royal Stag-Indian Stag, Blenders Pride-Casino Pride, Amritdhara- Lakshmandhara, Imperial Blue-Imperial Gold, Golden Deer-Double Deer, Johnny Walker-Captain Walker, Lal Kila-Hara Kila, Field Marshal-Sona Marshal, Officer’s Choice-Green Choice etc. It may be mentioned here that the Supreme Court had in September last year refused to grant interim relief to Pernod Ricard India in its trademark infringement plea against United Spirits which manufactures whisky under the name ‘Royal Challengers American Pride’.

D.Y. Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India

Misuse of embossed bottles

Rohatgi further pointed out how the respondent had misused ‘Seagram’ embossed on the bottles. “Seagram is also mine, which they are using. They are either getting manufactured from somewhere else or getting from Kabadi. Because they can’t get Seagram.” The CJI then asked the petitioners to point out where the bottle was embossed with the word ‘Seagram’. The bench in lighter vein asked the petitioners not to hand over the bottle but to indicate from their place where the embossed word was.

The CJI on seeing the bottles remarked “Why have you (London Pride makers) but adopted the same trade dress and colour and all? Get instructions on whether you will change. We will keep it on Friday week. Ask yourselves, why you suddenly chose to use ‘Pride’?”

Price difference pointed out by respondents

The apex court witnessed interesting exchanges between the two parties. When Senior Advocate Dr. S. Muralidhar, appearing for the respondent, said that affluent customers can easily discern between London Pride and Blenders Pride, the latter being a premium product. Countering this argument, Abhimanyu Bhandari, representing JK Enterprises, submitted that London pride was much cheaper. He argued that while Blenders Pride was priced around ₹1,650, London Pride cost about ₹600. Therefore, someone willing to buy a Blenders Pride would never buy a bottle of London Pride, he contended.

The apex court bench pointed out that the question whether ‘London Pride’ name is deceptively similar to ‘Blenders Pride’ requires arguments from both sides. The petitioners had alleged that the Indore-firm was hurting Pernod’s ₹4,400 crore annual turnover.

The Chief Justice of India observed there was no absolute similarity with regard to the names of Blenders Pride and London Pride. “You used the word ‘Blender’, they use the word ‘London’, and the bottles are also different. They are also saying 42 other manufacturers also use the word. Blender and London are two completely different words.” The CJI asked an open-ended question “Will a person walking into a store to buy Blenders Pride only say give me ‘Pride’ or ‘Blenders’?”

Appearing for Pernod Ricard, Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the makers of London Pride were riding piggy-back on Blenders Pride. Pernod Ricard was also represented by advocates Hemant Singh, Mamta Jha, Mohit D Ram, Rajul Shrivastav, Monisha Handa, Sambhav Jain, Reha Mohan and Anubhav Sharma.

Appeal against Madhya Pradesh High Court order

Pernod Ricard India had approached the Supreme Court following the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court of November 3, 2023, which had rejected their petition to stop the sale of London Pride whisky on grounds of trademark infringement. The Madhya Pradesh High Court had found no visual, phonetic or structural similarities between the two whisky brands.

The High Court in its judgment had held “…The first word of the trade mark of plaintiffs is ‘Blenders’ whereas that of the defendant is ‘London’. There is absolutely no similarity in them leave aside any dissimilarity. ‘Pride’ being a generic, common place and laudatory expression in ‘Blenders Pride’ mark, the common man would certainly treat ‘Blenders’ part of plaintiff’s mark as the dominant part. The question of comparison of the words ‘Imperial Blue’ and ‘London Pride’ does not even arise…”.

Court contends that consumers can distinguish between two brands

The High Court went on to conclude that “It can be safely presumed with a sufficient deal of certainty that the consumers of such products would be mostly literate and having reasonable intelligence to distinguish between the bottles of Blenders Pride/Imperial Blue and that of London Pride. Even if they are of average intelligence with imperfect recollection, they would be able to differentiate between the rival competing brands… Liquor consumers of scotch whisky are educated and discerning type. They are literate persons belonging to the affluent class of society.” During the conclusion of the day’s hearing in the Supreme Court, the CJI remarked in lighter vein that Dr. Muralidhar had spoken with “much authority” on the whisky products, to which the latter replied “I am the only sober one here.”

– R. Chandrakanth

A Peek into the Whisky Whisperer’s World: Jim Murray Unfiltered

Jim Murray stands as a prominent figure and key player in the global whiskey scene, having held the title of the world’s first full-time whisky writer for over three decades. The 2024 release of his widely successful “The Whiskey Bible” marks the 20th anniversary of the publication. Maintaining a staunch commitment to independence, Jim fearlessly critiques those deserving of scrutiny and advocates for whiskies that were once overlooked or unfamiliar.

In the present day, the likes of Ardbeg, Pure Irish Pot Still, and Canadian and Japanese whiskies such as Yoichi and Yamazaki have gained widespread popularity, thanks in no small part to Jim’s daring efforts to bring them into the public eye. Despite facing criticism and occasional attempts at character assassination, Jim’s bold choices have significantly shaped the current whisky segment.

In a conversation with Ambrosia, Jim shared insights into his passion for the spirit, details about his personal life, encounters with setbacks and comebacks, and perspectives on emerging whisky trends and Indian distilleries.

What led to your transition from journalism to becoming the world’s first full-time whisky writer, and are there any interesting stories or experiences from your journey you’d like to share?

I began my career in journalism covering sports and general news, gradually diving into more intense subjects like murders and special investigations while working for national newspapers. Amidst these experiences, my first encounter with a distillery occurred in 1975 during a hitchhiking expedition across Scotland. Boarding a boat bound for Skye, I visited the Talisker distillery, and it literally changed my life.

The vibrant sensory details of the distillery – the colours, smells, sounds, and the meticulous process – left a lasting impression on me. As a journalist, I used to get to travel a lot. Tasting whisky straight from the barrel with its 60% alcohol content was a revelation, and it sparked a personal interest. From the age of 17, during my spare time, I started making personal notes on whiskies, differentiating their unique qualities. By 1989, I began writing and selling articles about whisky globally, all while maintaining my role as an investigative journalist.

In media publications, I noticed a gap in whisky coverage. Wine writers were handling whisky topics with incorrect terminology and descriptions. Convinced I knew more about whisky, I considered transitioning into whisky writing. This decision faced resistance, especially as it meant giving up a stable income. Despite the initial resistance from my wife, in 1992, I took the leap, becoming the world’s first full-time whisky writer.

Back then, there were no whisky festivals or visitor centers, maintaining a sense of mystique around the industry. Breaking into the scene was tough. For years, I earned little, even became a single parent. Despite financial challenges, I persevered, creating fresh content for the emerging market. The books I wrote brought in money, but research costs were high due to the lack of prior literature on the subject. Believing in the cause, I endured the financial strain, comparing it to the pain barrier in athletics. It’s been a journey with continuous challenges, drawing parallels to my days as a long-distance runner facing a tough race.

A pivotal moment occurred during a meeting with Jim Milne, a J&B revered blender, who has been blending since the 1950s. In a seminar he conducted, whiskies labelled X, Y, and Z were presented without disclosing the distillery names. Upon nosing one of the whiskies, I asserted, “This doesn’t belong in your blend; it’s Fettercairn.” To this, he acknowledged, “Indeed, that is Fettercairn, and it’s included here only because of an oversight.” By identifying a misplaced sample, I earned the blender’s respect and was urged by him to share my opinions on whisky. This encounter led to a realisation – my extensive self-guided apprenticeship in studying whiskies positioned me uniquely.

Unexpectedly discovering my heightened olfactory senses (got to know I had a unique skill set, ranking in the top 2% for sensitive noses), this breakthrough moment changed my perception, realising I could sense and appreciate whiskies in a distinctive way. I ventured into consulting as a blender, complementing my role as a writer. This unforeseen skill set, acknowledged by one of Scotland’s most respected blenders, allowed me to contribute to the whisky industry in ways I had never imagined.

What is your typical approach to whisky tasting? Are there specific methods or techniques you adhere to during the process?

My approach to whisky is akin to that of a blender. I first identify any flaws in the whisky before acknowledging its merits. This involves deducting points for aspects like added caramel, an imbalance of oak flavours that overpower the malt, and any weaknesses that detract from the overall quality of the whisky. I can discern whether a whisky has been meticulously crafted or hastily put together.

When it comes to public awareness, blind tastings are crucial to eliminate biases. People often have preconceived ideas about certain whiskies, which can influence their perception. Therefore, I conduct blind tastings to remove any biases and judge the whisky solely on its merits. When compiling my Whiskey Bible, I don’t taste blind as I need to consider the distillery’s style and whether the blender has captured its essence. I assess the whisky’s complexity and intended profile before making judgments.

My tasting method, dubbed the “Murray Method”, involves avoiding strong perfumes, water intake, and spicy foods to keep my senses sharp. Strong perfumes can interfere with the senses, affecting the ability to discern aromas accurately. Additionally, I avoid consuming spicy foods while working, ensuring my taste buds remain undisturbed and receptive. However, recognising the cultural practices, I understand that asking Indians not to eat spices isn’t practical, given their culinary preferences. In 1997, I authored “Jim Murray’s Complete Book of Whiskey: The Definitive Guide to the Whiskeys of the World”, which gained significant popularity, selling over a quarter million copies. While discrepancies in numbers and subsequent editions may have altered the count, the book’s success is evident.

I’ve come across articles critiquing the book “Whiskey Bible”, accusing it of being sexist. However, generally, I’ve noticed that descriptions of food in a sensual manner are common in many publications. How do you respond to this perspective?

You need to grasp the immense impact of this book. It sparked the rise of Indian whisky and catapulted Japanese whisky to new heights. I awarded World Whisky of the Year to a Japanese whisky, leading to a whopping 3 billion dollars in revenue for them. Despite this success, I personally didn’t gain financially because I don’t accept kickbacks. I maintain complete independence. However, there’s a phenomenon known as industrial espionage, where some individuals might see the power of this book as a threat.

This book is pivotal because, like food and drink share common ground: sight, smell, taste, and touch. These senses, when combined, create a sensual experience. If people in the industry argue that whisky isn’t sexy, they probably shouldn’t be part of it. As a writer, honesty is of utmost importance. The motto of the Whiskey Bible is “the truth, always above all”. Criticism requires integrity and candour.

Some distilleries hold a grudge against me because I refuse to engage in their marketing tactics or succumb to their influence. Despite my disdain for those attempting to control me, I remain impartial in assessing the quality of their whisky. I won’t conform to the prevailing trends, particularly the notion of labelling everything as an anti-feminist crime. Personally, my marriage met its demise when I embraced the role of a whisky writer, a sacrifice I made for my career. The constant globetrotting has hindered the possibility of forming lasting relationships. I’ve never remarried, but it’s not due to a lack of romantic inclinations. Unfortunately, my genuine love for others has been weaponised by jealous individuals aiming to undermine the influence of the Whiskey Bible. Frankly, I feel sorry for these people, in their pursuit to tarnish my reputation, reveal a certain poverty in their character.

During a recent visit to Kentucky, a woman expressed admiration for my writings on whisky, considering it one of the most beautiful things ever shared with her. The hypersensitive woke culture on certain social media platforms seizes any opportunity to unleash their destructive tendencies, fuelled by baseless hatred. Many of these individuals are familiar with my identity and knowledge of whisky, yet they target me simply because I’m a convenient male figure to attack. This trend reflects the fragility of Western society.

Watching a stunning sunset often sparks a longing for someone to share the experience. Similarly, I take pleasure in sharing my love and passion for whisky with the world. I want to introduce people to the finer things in life.

Jim Murray at the launch of Amrut Bagheera and Portonova

When comparing Indian whisky to traditional whisky-producing nations, do you observe any notable differences?

The primary distinction lies in the heat when comparing it to traditional whisky-making countries. The maturation process in cooler climates allows for an important element: time. This time factor plays a vital role as tannins and other components from the environment have the opportunity to integrate and blend seamlessly. In contrast, hotter countries face a more accelerated maturation process, making it challenging to achieve the desired balance. Balancing whisky in warmer climates requires more effort and skill. While some argue that water quality influences whisky, the key is ensuring water is free from contaminants like pesticides and iron deposits, which can discolour the whisky. Interestingly, despite the romanticised notions surrounding water sources, many Scotch whiskies use tap water.

Unlike the present era filled with marketing gimmicks, the industry in the late ’80s and ’70s was less saturated with such tactics. Kentuckians, for instance, boast about having the best whiskey due to their water source originating underground, having been there for centuries, dissolving limestone and aiding fermentation. This stands in contrast to other Scottish distilleries, although not Glenmorangie and Highland Park, two renowned Scottish distilleries, which also derive their water from limestone, similar to the Kentuckians. I advocate for focussing on the contents of the glass rather than getting swayed by marketing claims on labels.

What trends do you perceive in the whisky industry, in your view?

Looking back at the whisky industry’s history, it’s been characterised by cycles of growth and decline. In the 1980s, whisky consumption dwindled as it was perceived as a drink of the older generation, with younger drinkers favouring lighter spirits. A common joke was that one could spot a whisky drinker by looking at the obituary column, as they were diminishing in number. This decline in blended whisky consumption led to an excess of single malt whisky sitting idle in distillery warehouses. It was during this time that efforts to promote single malt whisky, spearheaded by individuals like Michael Jackson, began to gain traction, revitalising interest in the category.

Similar to the boom in distillery construction in the 1890s, the recent surge in new distillery openings has created a crowded market. However, the current global situation introduces uncertainty, making it challenging for new distilleries to establish themselves and sell their products. Despite these challenges, smaller distilleries are poised to thrive, although they will face significant pressure. Nevertheless, it’s crucial for them to remain authentic and transparent in their approach to whisky production.

A concerning trend observed among some Irish distilleries is the practice of finishing whisky in various casks, obscuring the true character of the spirit. This approach detracts from the whisky’s identity, akin to wearing excessive layers of clothing that mask one’s true self. Moving forward, distilleries should prioritise honesty and authenticity to attract discerning consumers. The road ahead may be arduous, but it presents an opportunity for distilleries to redefine themselves and engage with consumers on a more genuine level.

Jim Murray at the launch of Amrut Bagheera and Portonova

How can Indian distilleries enhance their quality and global standing?

When considering the steps Indian distilleries can take, it’s important to acknowledge the unique dynamics in the Indian market. Unlike Scotland, India has a massive population of over a billion people, with a growing middle class. Over the past 30 years, I’ve witnessed significant changes in India, particularly in terms of economic growth and an expanding consumer base. The challenges faced by Scotch whisky in India may not be as pronounced, given the increasing number of people who can afford high-quality whisky. Notable distilleries, like Amrut and Paul John, have set a commendable standard, maintaining their commitment to excellence. In my early involvement with Paul John, I assisted in training their blender and witnessed their staunch dedication to quality. Several other Indian companies are also making strides in improving their whisky, demonstrating a continuous pursuit of excellence. While there is always room for improvement, the progress made in all these years is remarkable.

Comparing the whisky from three decades ago to the present would reveal a staggering leap in quality. This positive trajectory showcases the dedication and attention to detail exhibited by Indian distilleries. The success of Indian whisky on the global stage can be attributed to the determination of distilleries to make a lasting impression. Unlike some companies that may compromise on quality when relying solely on their brand name, Indian distilleries have prioritised maintaining high standards. The meticulous attention to detail is a driving force behind the success of Indian whisky. Even distilleries that were once considered mediocre have elevated their standards, while new entrants to the market are setting the bar even higher.  

VINEXPO Delhi 2023 – All set to Roll

Keep an eye out for European Wines with Sommelier Devati Mallick

The stage is all set for VINEXPO Delhi 2023 to get underway tomorrow. While there is much to look forward to for the visitors, with many foreign producers gracing the event, the European Union (EU), located at Booth F50 in Hall 1B is expected to have a strong showing as the Region of Honour. The fair will be held from 7th– 9th December, 2023.

European wines, beers and spirits are more than alcoholic beverages, thanks to exceptional raw materials, timeless craftsmanship and unwavering safety standards. Europe is the birthplace of the world’s wine industry, and traditions of winemaking are proudly passed from generation to generation; they have defined European rural landscapes for centuries. Nowadays, the EU accounts for 45% of world’s wine-growing areas, 65% of wine production, 57% of global wine consumption and 70% of exports, making it the world leader in each of these categories.

A tradition of quality and excellence

More than 1700 European wines have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) protections, serving as a guarantee of their authenticity and quality.  The consumers can enjoy these products in the knowledge that they have been produced to the highest quality and safety standard. Whatever your preference, you will find something to delight you among the wines of Europe. Red, white, rosé or sparkling wines from Europe can help make any occasion special.

European Union: The Region of Honour at SIAL and VINEXPO in New Delhi

What makes this year’s VINEXPO particularly noteworthy is the presence of over 50 company representatives, including 14representing wines and spirits sector, facilitating B2B matchmaking sessions on December 7 and 8. These sessions offer invaluable opportunities for Indian buyers, retailers, and distributors to connect with European businesses across various food and drink sectors

Moreover, the European Union’s VINEXPO booth will host a series of enlightening masterclasses on wines, beers and spirits. Each Masterclass, lasting 30 minutes, will feature a selection of beverages for tasting. Among these, the EU Masterclasses, led by renowned sommelier Devati Mallick, promises to be a highlight. As you sip and savour the wines, you’ll embark on a journey through Europe’s finest vineyards, guided by the expertise of a true connoisseur.

As we gear up for VINEXPO Delhi 2023, we invite you to join us in celebrating the union of tradition and innovation in European winemaking. Stay tuned for an unforgettable wine experience that promises to captivate your senses and leave you with a deeper appreciation for the world of wine.

Let’s raise our glasses to VINEXPO Delhi 2023, where European wines and spirit drinks will take center stage, and the EU’s commitment to vinicultural excellence, along with the expertise of Devati Mallick, will shine brighter than ever before.

The EU’s participation in SIAL and VINEXPO 2023 is part of its ‘More than Food’ campaign, actively promoting outstanding European agricultural products on a global stage. For the latest information and updates, visit the official ‘More than Food India‘ webpage.

For media inquiries, please contact: sial2023@agripromotion.eu

India’s alcobev market size of $52.4 billion targetted to touch astounding $64 billion by 2030

The International Spirits & Wines Association of India (ISWAI), the apex body of the premium alcobev sector, unveiled its report titled “Economic Value of the Indian Alcoholic Beverage Industry”, presenting it to Shri Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa and former CEO, NITI Aayog. This comprehensive report is a first-of-its-kind and takes an in-depth look at the vital elements and the significant roles played by the Indian alcobev sector.

The report offers valuable perspectives on the alcoholic beverage industry, highlighting its economic impact, patterns of consumption, and its positive effects on related industries like agriculture, tourism, and more.

Expressing her gratitude, Nita Kapoor, CEO, ISWAI, said, “I extend our heartfelt thanks to Shri Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa, on behalf of ISWAI for allocating the time to receive this crucial report. This is a significant moment for ISWAI and the broader industry, affirming the sector’s substantial relevance to the nation. The alcobev Industry serves as a pivotal economic engine, making it imperative for pertinent stakeholders to recognise and value our sector’s economic contributions.”

Nita Kapoor further emphasised, “The alcohol industry holds a vital position within the national economy, presenting opportunities for growth, job creation, and revenue generation. As we look to the future, the importance of the alcohol industry in India is poised to expand. Therefore, it is crucial to simplify its operational complexities, enhance its Ease of Doing Business (EODB), and unlock its full potential for growth.”

Shri Amitabh Kant, G20 Sherpa and former CEO, NITI Aayog, being presented a copy of the Report titled ‘Economic Value of the Indian Alcoholic Beverage Industry’ by Nita Kapoor, CEO, and Suresh Menon, Secretary-General of the International Spirits and Wines Association of India (ISWAI) at his office in New Delhi.

Key Highlights:

With an estimated market size of $52.4 billion in 2021, roughly 2% of the country’s nominal GDP, the Indian alcobev industry is significant and burgeoning (₹3.9 lakh crore, including country liquor).

Projections suggest the Indian alcoholic beverage industry could reach an astounding $64 billion over the next five years, ensuring India’s position as the fifth-largest contributor to global market revenues in the near to medium term.

In the fiscal year 2021, the industry contributed a significant ₹2.4 lakh crore in indirect taxes to the state governments, representing many income streams. Customs duty on alcoholic beverages alone accounted for ₹2,400 crore.

The alcohol revenues represent 1.2% of India’s nominal GDP, 7.7% of the total tax collection, and 11.7% of the nation’s indirect tax revenue. The sector contributes a significant 24.6% of the overall own tax revenues of the states.

Around 1,235 million litres of extra neutral alcohol (ENA) were used to produce Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages in 2021. It is estimated that to produce 741 million litres of extra neutral alcohol for IMFL, 1.9 million tonnes of grain are required. This amounts to 0.6% of India’s total grain production of 316 million tonnes in 2021-2022.

Approximately 724,611 farms and 36,23,057 farmers are involved in grain production for ENA. 2.9% of the persons employed in the agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishery sectors are engaged in the production of grain/sugarcane/grapes utilised for ENA for spirits and wine.

The scope of the alcohol industry in terms of employment is remarkable at a staggering 79 lakh individuals, both directly and indirectly. This accounts for 1.5% of the total manpower employed in the country.

About 14-19% of the overall revenues of the organised F&B industry are dependent on the ₹28,000 crore sales of alcoholic beverages.

An enabling policy environment for the alcoholic beverage industry can thus drive investments, jobs, and exports. India-manufactured alcoholic beverages have large untapped export potential and should be treated like any other industry.

On the occasion, Suresh Menon, Secretary-General, ISWAI, remarked, “Beyond its substantial tax contributions, the industry plays a vital role in supporting farmers’ livelihoods. It is also intricately linked to the food and beverage, hospitality, tourism, and packaging sectors. With India’s demographic shift, the growth of the young and expanding middle class is projected to persist for several more decades, driving an increase in per capita consumption of various goods and services. Constructive governmental policies can streamline the ease of business in this sector, fostering a more conducive operational climate. By addressing and removing certain barriers, we can propel the sector’s growth to the advantage of all involved parties.”

Delhi Government to grant license for wholesale vends

The Delhi Government has decided to grant license in form L1, L1F and L2 for the wholesale vend of Indian liquor in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi for the licensing year 2023-24 with effect from October 1, 2023.

The Excise Department has said that the prescribed forms can be obtained from its website and that there would be a processing fee of Rs. 5,000 for each license. The Department said that the terms and conditions for the licensing 2023-24 would be the same as that of 2022-23. The government said that it reserved the right to review the duties / fees to be paid / payable in case of any amendment to the law related to liquor and bonded warehouses.

The Department said that in case of existing licensees / registered brands active up to September 30, 2023 there is no change in the EDP / right structure / label / source warehouse etc. The registered brands for the year 2022-23 may be registered for 2023-24 on the same terms and conditions of the previous year, consequent to the payment of requisite fees and submission of undertaking / affidavit of the same.

It said that for new registration of brands applications received without complete information and supporting documents as required in the prescribed form along with annexures shall be liable to be rejected.

These changes are to ensure continuity of supply and the amendments will be in place till the new policy is formed. This will be third time the Delhi Government is giving the extension.

It may be mentioned here that the previous policy introduced in 2021 by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had to be scrapped as it ended up in scandal which is currently under investigation.

The excise department has proposed to extend the existing 2020-21 liquor policy by six months till March 31, 2024, to ensure the continuity of liquor supply. The excise department will issue a formal order in this regard.

Expert welcomes policy

Mr. Raju Vaziraney, one of the veterans of the wine and spirits sector and presently Adviser and Business Development Head of Amrut Distilleries, has welcomed the policy saying technically it is a new policy thereby allowing new companies to get registered and pay one-time fees and not fees from retrospective effect. The Companies will be encouraged to bring – in new brands, thus ensure more variety of brands, more consumer choice. However, he said the new policy gave only two days for companies to submit all documents.

However, he reiterated that the salient features are a) Existing Licences to be renewed by giving an undertaking / affidavit; Existing licences are renewed till March 31, 2024; Existing brands with existing EDPs to continue till March 31, 2024; Existing brands to pay proportionate fees of six months and not  18 months as was the practise in the policy of 2022-23.

In order to ensure continuity of supplies the online transparent system worked overnight & supplies commenced from October 3, 2023. However in view of paucity of time lot of prominent brands are under process of being made available. Mr. Vaziraney said that however, the challenges are that Delhi will have to wait till six more months to get a full-term year policy with possible participation of private trade thereby offering a great buying experience. The vends at the airport could also open next year as presently a world class city like Delhi does not have any vends at the airports

It is expected that Delhi will have a full year policy which will bring-in consumer choice brands and also bring – in reforms in terms of more liquor stores, more in trade outlets, he added.

IWSR appoints Julie Harris as CEO

IWSR Drinks Market Analysis has announced the appointment of Julie Harris as its new CEO. The transition comes following Mark Meek’s decision to step back from the CEO role and to take up a non-executive director position within the company, the world’s leading source of data and intelligence for the $1.5 trillion global alcoholic beverage market.

Julie Harris joins from Comparison Technologies, a leading tech-enabled comparison and customer acquisition platform in the home digital services market, where she was CEO since 2019. Prior to this, Julie held several CEO roles across a number of sectors, including WGSN, the global leader in trend forecasting for the fashion and retail industry.

Julie Harris commented, “I am delighted to be joining the very talented team at IWSR at such an exciting stage in its evolution and to build on the phenomenal growth of the last few years. Mark leaves the company in fantastic shape and I look forward to working with our global teams to continue to develop new and exciting products for our valued clients.”

Under Mark Meek’s leadership, IWSR has delivered annual revenue growth of 20% and has significantly expanded the coverage and functionality of its core database. The company has also developed a range of new products, including annual strategic consumer sentiment studies on topical issues such as e-commerce, no-and-low alcohol drinks and the impact of Covid-19. In conjunction with its strong organic growth, IWSR has also completed the acquisition of Wine Intelligence France, broadening its coverage of the wine sector.

Julian Masters, managing partner at Bowmark Capital, leading private equity investor and IWSR majority shareholder, commented, “Mark has been both a great leader of IWSR and partner to Bowmark, driving transformational change during his tenure as CEO. We thank him for his significant contribution to the company’s success and are delighted that we will be continuing to work together in his new role. We look forward to working closely with Julie Harris on delivering IWSR’s next phase of growth and continued product development.”

Mark Meek said, “I’m incredibly proud of what the IWSR team has accomplished, with the support of Bowmark, since the management transitioned from our founder. The business has grown strongly, and we’ve considerably enlarged our talent base and product range. The future continues to look bright. So now, after nearly 10 years, I believe it is a great moment to hand over the reins of the business to the talented Julie Harris. I look forward to being part of the IWSR story as a non-executive and will give Julie all my support to ease her into the new role.”

Ron De Ugar Handcrafted Rum Review

The Ron De Ugar Rum comes from Ugar Sugars Works Ltd who have been in the Sugar business for about 75 years. And as you know that manufacturing ENA is a natural extension of being in this business and in line with that Ugar Sugar also has a portfolio of spirit products in the market. This is their first rum product and is priced at Rs. 1300 in Goa for a 750 ml bottle. The rum features a 42.8% ABV and is currently only available in Goa and Karnataka, with plans to launch it soon in others states as well.

Why the Name?

It is common to believe if this rum is from India? The name suggests that it might be an international product and honestly I also thought for it to be one at first glance. But this is a 100% Indian handcrafted Rum and it is manufactured in the Ugar Khurd region, which is a small hamlet in the erstwhile princely state of Sangli in the West of India, on the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The region is a sugar manufacturing-focused township with large areas under sugarcane cultivation, which is where the distillery is based and also of course this rum is also made there. And since this comes from the Ugar region, its named after it, the ‘Ron de’ has been added to give it some flair of course. 

Apart from the name there are few other interesting things about this Rum, and the most important is that this is made from cane spirits and not molasses. Most of the rums that you find in India are made from Molases, whisky’s also in fact. Much like Camicara Rum, which is also a small batch rum made from cane spirit, Ron De Ugar is mixed with mature 3-5 year rums and cane spirit.

Another interesting thing about this rum is the moniker on the rum. When you look at him it seems like an international figure, but this is actually Shivaji’s Naval Commander, Kanoji Angre, who use to monitor that belt and is also known as askilled navy chief hence used here. 

Kanoji Angre features as the moniker on the label

How is it made?

So, how exactly is this rum produced? The aged rums are combined with cane spirits and left to mature gradually in Oakwood casks. Afterward, they’re mixed with fragrant spices to create a unique flavour. This rum is crafted and bottled at the Ugar Sugar Works Ltd. in Ugar Khurd, located in the Belagavi district of Karnataka.

The Rum is matured in Oakwood Cask


Similar to many other rums available in this segment, it comes in a canister. A marron base colour along with gold letterings make it look good and the canister also has some night texture with the picture of the Naval Commander Kanoji Angre on it. The shape of the bottle is similar to that if Monkey Shoulder whisky somewhat.

The bottle looks like Monkey Shoulder Whisky


With an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 42.8%, this rum is undoubtedly smooth while nosing. Its sweetness carries note reminiscent of vanilla, which is evident from the aroma it imparts. There’s a distinct and clear vanilla scent. While there’s not much spiciness, the scent is deep and intense. Taking a whiff of this rum can also provide a pleasant sensation, gently expanding one’s nostrils.


Talking about the taste, as expected, it’s smooth. When the spirit enters the mouth, it feels refined, smooth and also warm. The spiciness hits you slightly late just as the vanilla sweetness fades away. There’s a lingering texture on the palate, offering a warm and comfortable feeling. Interestingly, although the spiciness isn’t obvious at first sip, it becomes evident shortly after. The spiciness is balanced and not overwhelming, providing a relaxed experience. The finish is prolonged, felt at the back of the throat, and carries a warm sensation with a subtle hint of spice. Despite the enticing aroma of vanilla and sweetness, these flavours don’t translate as strongly onto the palate. For a rum with a 42.8% ABVit goes down smoothly.


Priced at ₹1300, this rum certainly falls into the premium category. It’s important to note that this isn’t a budget-friendly option, especially when considering potential higher costs in other states. But the makers are very clear that this is meant to be a handcrafted small batch rum. While the rum is good I would’ve been happier if it would’ve been priced at around Rs. 900 – 1000, it would’ve flown off the shelves then. But overall you must try this for sure, atleast once.

The House of Suntory celebrates 100 Years of Pioneering Japanese Spirit

  • The Founding House of Japanese Whisky partners with film icons Sofia Coppola and Keanu Reeves
  • Introduces new limited-edition whiskies to toast its centennial

The House of Suntory, the Founding House of Japanese Whisky, celebrates its 100th anniversary of whisky innovation: a major milestone not only for Suntory’s history but for Japanese spirits culture. In honour of this centennial, the House releases a Suntory Anniversary Tribute as imagined by Academy Award-winning director Sofia Coppola and starring actor Keanu Reeves, as well as exclusive 100th anniversary editions of its world-renowned whiskies.

Twenty years after filming Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola returned to Japan to create the Suntory Anniversary Tribute. Coppola brings her artistic genius and admiration for Suntory Whisky to life as the creative director of The Tribute that honours Suntory’s illustrious past, present and future. The Suntory Anniversary Tribute tells the remarkable story of the brand’s heritage and whisky-making legacy over the last 100 years, depicting the meaning of “Suntory Time” through the eyes of its creator. It features actor Keanu Reeves, a lover of Suntory Whisky and who previously appeared in a Suntory Reserve ad campaign in 1992, debuted yesterday during the Suntory Time 100th Anniversary Global Premiere event in New York City.

“As the pioneer of Japanese whisky, the House of Suntory played a significant role in shaping culture and leading craftsmanship in Japan over the last century,” said Jon Potter, Managing Director of House of Suntory. “To mark this historic milestone, partnering with Sofia and Keanu, who are Suntory Whisky fans, makes perfect sense. From our Fifth Generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo’s striking blends to Sofia and Keanu’s unique cinematic creations, this commemoration has surpassed all expectations to celebrate our iconic Japanese whiskies.”

Later this summer, Reeves will star in another creative project in partnership with the House of Suntory: a series of documentary shorts from filmmaker Roman Coppola titled: “The Nature and Spirit of Japan.” The series explores Japanese whisky culture inspired by harmony with nature (Wa), elevated by Japanese craftsmanship (Monozukuri) and enjoyed as an authentic Japanese cultural experience (Omotenashi). The docuseries will strike a balance between education and entertainment, aiming to foster a deeper exploration of the House of Suntory and Japanese culture overall.

“I’m honored to partner with Suntory Whisky again thirty years after our Suntory Reserve campaign,” said Keanu Reeves. “I’m a huge fan of Suntory Whisky, so it’s very special to collaborate in honour of this milestone anniversary. My admiration for the whisky goes beyond tasting the whisky. It is the elevated Japanese craftsmanship and attention to every detail that makes Suntory Whisky so special. As an actor honing and perfecting my own craft, sharing this process in a docuseries is a thrill.”

In honour of the centennial, the House of Suntory is releasing several limited-edition whiskies that highlight the unique Japanese craftsmanship at Suntory’s whisky distilleries and their meticulous art of blending, including Yamazaki 18 Year Old Mizunara and Hakushu 18 Year Old Peated Malt whiskies. Limited 100th anniversary labels of the flagship Yamazaki 12-Year-Old and Hakushu 12-Year-Old will also be released for the centennial.

“Hakushu and Yamazaki whiskies are gifts from our past handed down by generations,” said Fifth Generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo. “It is fitting to release limited editions as part of this incredible milestone, as they represent our relentless pursuit of quality and symbolise our promise to carry our philosophy on for the next one hundred years and beyond.”

The centennial of the House of Suntory began with the establishment of its Yamazaki Distillery in 1923 – the first and oldest malt whisky distillery in Japan’s history. The House of Suntory founder Shinjiro Torii’s 100-year legacy began with a dream to “create an original Japanese whisky blessed with the riches of Japanese nature and craftsmanship,” which his grandson Shingo Torii carries forth today at Yamazaki and its distilleries across the country. Since its founding, the House of Suntory has been crafting world-class spirits and is known for Yamazaki, Hakushu, Chita, Kakubin, Hibiki, Suntory Whisky Toki and Ao, as well as Roku Gin and Haku Vodka.

This landmark anniversary is a significant milestone for House of Suntory and for its home country of Japan. As a first step toward its promising future, the House of Suntory is investing 10 billion JPY ($77 million USD) to enhance its Yamazaki and Hakushu Distilleries which are currently closed for renovation and scheduled to reopen this fall. The House of Suntory has become synonymous with some of the best Japanese whiskies in the world today, and it has undoubtedly built a legacy worthy of celebration.

The House of Suntory has invited fans to join its new global membership programme. Members will be among the first to hear about House of Suntory new releases, receive priority consideration for invitations to consumer experiences, learn news from the distilleries, gain early access to content and more. The House of Suntory membership programme aims to bring Japanese whisky enthusiasts together around the world and provide a cultural journey through Japan.