Indian single malts have come of age, truly. And they have been savoured in India and elsewhere too. The good news is that in 2023, Indian single malts outperformed global brands, with promise of doing better. According to early estimates by the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) Indian single malts accounted for approximately 53% of total sales in 2023, a very impressive performance considering that Indian single malts are a decade old phenomenon.
As per CIABC estimates out of the total sales of around 675,000 cases of single malts in 2023, Indian-origin makers sold around 345,000 cases and the rest was sold by Scottish and other international brands. Indian brands such as Amrut Fusion; Amrut Kurinji; Rampur Indian Single Malt; Paul John Mithuna; Indri; Kamet; and GianChand have all given the global players a tough competition. The Indian brands have been competing with well established brands such as Glenlivet, Macallan, Lagavulin and Talisker.
Domestic brands grow 23%
In 2022, Scotch brands sold 2,96,000 cases with a 35 % increase in sales, while Indian brands sold about 2,81,000 cases with a 2.4 % increase. With growing popularity, the overtaking by Indian single malts was given. In 2023, the domestic brands have registered a growth of about 23 per cent, compared to 11 % by imported brands.
Indian whiskies have been making global waves too since 2010 when Amrut Fusion got global recognition with Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible ranking it third, after blind tasting of over 4,000 whiskies. In the 2022 International Wine and Spirits Competition, of the 11 awards that came India’s way, four were for single malts.
In sync with premiumisation
The Director General of CIABC, Mr. Vinod Giri said that this has been made possible due to the premiumisation drive that is happening across all segments of the alcohol sector. Indian single malts have upped the game, in terms of quality, presentation and reach, hence the stunning turnaround was expected. Indian distilleries have worked hard to come to this level, matching international brands. CIABC, he mentioned, is working with the Indian players and government agencies to evolve product and process standards that ensure product quality uniformly and consistently.
What is heartwarming is that the Indian consumer, many of whom have travelled globally, knows that Indian brands are making it to the global stage. This endorsement of the ‘Make in India’ products has largely helped sales.
Price-sensitive consumer gravitating towards Indian brands
Hemanth Adapa, founder of Single Malt Amateur Club (SMAC) said “Indian whiskies are riding the third wave of global recognition and success. It is no simple feat that high quality single malt whiskies are being made from scratch in India and repeatedly being featured in the top whiskies of the world. While the awards and ‘expert views are giving the whiskies a thumbs up what is most encouraging is the consumer gravitating towards these. It is an extremely difficult task to convince the price sensitive Indian consumer to reach for an Indian made brand as against a Scotch which has been the mainstay for premium whiskies in India. This has taken a lot of effort by the manufacturers of repute to encourage this transition. While there are other factors to be considered such as the supply chain issues and global shortage of aged Scotch whisky causing many brands to follow an ‘allocation’ strategy towards India, this is no small feat and perhaps the greatest recognition to the quality of these fabulous whiskies.”
Asked whether the short supply of aged Scotch whisky and supply chain issues had led to increased sales of Indian single malts, answered in the negative, adding “This has not been a flash in the pan for it to be short lived. There are many risks around the governance and quality control of the newly formed category of Indian single malts which is very similar to the challenges in the Japanese whiskies but surely not a doubt around the whiskies being recognised today.”
Amrut started it all
The fact that brands such as Amrut and others have been performing consistently is testimony to the popularity of Indian single malts, not just in India, elsewhere too. One cannot forget what Jim Murray the legendary whisky critic of the world had said in 2010 that “Amrut Fusion, whisky from India, can only be a dream of many Scottish distilleries.” Prior to that, Indian whisky was not even considered as a whisky as it was only producing molasses-based whisky. ‘Amrut Fusion’ changed that as it is made of 80 per cent Indian malted barley and 20 % Scottish peated barley.
In 2022, Amrut which soared by 183 % dethroned Pernod’s Glenlivet which grew by 39 %, according to Euromonitor data. In 2022, two Amrut offerings topped the list, much more sales than Glenlivet, followed by Paul John. Amrut Fusion sold 99,000 cases and Amrut Amalgam 94,000, Solan Gold 20,00 and Rampur 10,000 cases.
Global players go local
Such impressive sales have led to global players in India to start Indian brands such Godawan from the stables of Diageo in 2022. Godawan the artisanal single malt whisky is finished in special casks selectively curated with Indian botanicals. In 2023 Pernod launched Longitude 77, its first Indian single malt with plans to export to the UAE and later to other markets. Further endorsement has come India’s way from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which said that India has overtaken France to become the largest market for whisky sales by volume and single malts are also contributing significantly.
From 2010 onwards, Indian single malts have been cornering global awards at regular intervals. The latest is Radico Khaitan’s Rampur Asava Indian Single Malt Whisky which bagged the ‘Best World Whisky’ at the prestigious John Barleycorn Awards. Rampur’s innovative approach to the ageing process distinguishes it from other world whiskies. The Himalayas provide polar opposite climate conditions throughout the year with the flavour of the famous Indian Summer giving Rampur an added dimension and depth. The malt interacts extensively with the cask, resulting in maturation almost four times faster than in Scotland.
Sanjeev Banga, President of International Business at Radico Khaitan Ltd, and the creator of the iconic Rampur range of whiskies says, “Our position as possibly the only Indian company in the industry with products such as Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky, Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin and Sangam World Malt Whisky in the super-luxury space, alongside international alcohol companies is testament to their quality. The global availability of our products, coupled with the admiration and recommendations from top experts including this latest achievement in the John Barleycorn Awards, stands as proof of our unwavering commitment to product quality and consumer satisfaction.” Banga further added that Rampur Asava will soon be available for Whisky aficionados in the Indian domestic market.
In emphasising the global significance of Indian whisky, Kunal Madan, Vice President of International Business at Radico Khaitan added, “India commands a staggering 48 % share of the global whisky market. While the majority stays within our borders, the efforts of producers like us have successfully introduced our exceptional Indian whiskies to markets such as the US and UK. In a landscape dominated by only a handful of Indian whiskies, Rampur has earned its place as one of the most highly regarded brands. This recognition reinforces the impact of our journey, guided by quality and innovation, beyond national borders.”
Another Indian single malt to walk away with another prestigious award is the Indri Diwali Collector’s Edition which won the ‘Double Gold Best in Show’ at the 2023 Whiskies of the World Awards, beating over 100 other varieties including scotch, bourbon and British single malts. Indri, the peated Indian single malt whisky is a product of the Haryana-based Piccadilly Distilleries, launched in 2021.
“The industry can offer much more and consumers want much more as well. This growing appetite for experimentation could translate into a brighter future for the Indian spirits market, beyond the projected flatline of 2024,” Vinod Giri added.