Bacardi is promoting Stephanie Macleod, Master Blender for its portfolio of Scotch whiskies, to a newly created role as Director of Blending, Scotch Whisky – a promotion that recognises her talent and 25 years’ experience in crafting Scotch whisky.
A multi-award winning and highly respected figure in the whisky industry, in her new role Stephanie will continue to lead the famed blending legacy of Dewar’s Blended Scotch whisky, William Lawson’s Scotch whisky, and the five Single Malts – Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, The Deveron and Royal Brackla – as Malt Master.
Her expanded remit will also see her develop the people and processes needed to continue to the premiumisation of the range and help deliver on the family-owned spirits company’s ambition to be industry leaders in innovation and quality.
“It’s an exciting time for Scotch whisky right now as demand grows around the world for top quality, beautifully crafted blends and malts. In my new role, I’ll be ensuring we are able to meet this increasing demand – both now and for many decades to come – while continuing to deliver new, exciting and curated Scotch whiskies, spanning our Blended and Single Malt portfolios,” says Stephanie Macleod, Director of Blending, Scotch Whisky, Bacardi.
At the 2022 International Whisky Competition, Stephanie was crowned ‘Master Blender of the Year’ for an unprecedented fourth year in a row, a feat which recognises her world-leading expertise in the art of blending. She is only the seventh Master Blender in Dewar’s 176-year history.
Stephanie became the first female Master Blender for Dewar’s in 2006, following her official three-year training with the then Master Blender. She joined Bacardi, based in Glasgow in 1998, and began her career in whisky as a Sensory Analyst at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, working on a project which attempted to unlock the maturation secrets of Scotch whisky.
“The consistent quality and flavour of every drop of our Scotch whiskies is thanks to Stephanie and her team. As Director of Blending, she will bring her mastery of the entire whisky-making process – from barley to bottle – to play a pivotal role in delivering our bold growth ambitions for Scotch whisky,” says Dave Ingram, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Bacardi.
Stephanie is passionate about nurturing the next generation of talent within Bacardi and the whisky industry. She leads a team of Blenders and Assistant Blenders who learn from her wealth of knowledge and expertise every day.
As well as heading-up this talented team, Stephanie will continue to share her story and her love of whisky to inspire others around the world to nose, taste and enjoy a sensory experience which is unlike any other.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which conducted a poll shows that a third of the voters are less likely to support the Conservatives if the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt increases duty, while 72% support a freeze on Scotch whisky tax in the Spring budget.
Jeremy Hunt has been urged to freeze duty to fulfil the pledge made in 2019 to “ensure our tax system is supporting Scottish whisky”. The Chancellor will use his Budget to finalise a long-awaited review of the duty system, but reports suggest whisky drinkers and producers will get nothing – and even see tax rates increase.
Per unit of alcohol, duty paid on spirits is already significantly higher than the European average, with around £3 in every £4 spent on a bottle of Scotch whisky going to the treasury as tax. A further increase to spirits duty in the budget would further add to the cost of living and fuel inflation – which the UK government has pledged to halve this year.
The poll, conducted by Survation, also shows Scotch Whisky’s crucial role in supporting the wider supply chain, with 76% believing support for the Scotch Whisky industry will boost hospitality businesses. Spirits like Scotch whisky account for 34% of sales in the UK on-trade, but 99% of distillers do not have access to proposed tax breaks in pubs and bars, known as “draught relief”.
The Scotch whisky industry already contributes more than £5.5bn to the UK economy every year. The sector supports more than 42,000 UK jobs, employing 11,000 people directly, the majority of whom are in rural communities of Scotland. More than 90% of all UK spirits production is based in Scotland, and the SWA has argued that any increase to spirits duty would put Scotch whisky distillers at a further competitive disadvantage and disproportionately impact business north of the border.
Commenting on the results of the poll, Mark Kent, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said, “Distillers across Scotland are waiting for the pledge made in 2019 to be fulfilled. There has been a review of alcohol taxation, but still Scotch whisky is taxed more than beer, wine or cider and 99% of distillers do not have access to tax breaks available to sales in the on-trade. The competitive disadvantage faced by the industry could get worse if the Chancellor further raises tax on Scotch whisky and other spirits in the Budget this week. We urge him to listen to people across Scotland, make good on the commitment to support Scotch Whisky, and freeze duty.”
The House of Suntory, the founding House of Japanese Whisky, recently announced the release of Hibiki Blossom Harmony, a limited-edition blend featuring whiskies finished in Sakura casks.
The Sakura Blossom season in early spring has always been an occasion for celebration in Japan, with many gathering around the beautiful flowering Sakura trees that inspire the Japanese to appreciate life as it blooms. Hibiki Blossom Harmony captures this joyful spirit by blending a rare selection of whiskies finished in Sakura wood casks with diverse matured malt and grain whiskies to create this particular Hibiki.
This limited-edition bottle will be available beginning in October in select global markets including in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. The expression is bottled at 43% ABV and has a suggested retail price of $160 USD.
Hibiki is a harmonious blend of various malt and grain whiskies from Suntory’s Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita distilleries. Constantly pushing the boundaries of what Japanese Whisky can be, the House of Suntory continues to explore and experiment with various wood types. The Sakura cask was one that intrigued Fifth Generation Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo.
“I have been mesmerised by the Sakura cask for the last five years now due to its symbolism, but also because of its distinctive, subtly floral and spicy aroma and flavour notes,” says Fukuyo. “There have been many experiments with malt and grain whisky components, and we found that there was a special alchemy between the grain whiskies and the Sakura cask. It is this special relationship – harmony – that inspired me to create this blend.”
Achieving the right balance and orchestration proved to be a great challenge from the start since the Sakura cask is one with strong character that can easily become overbearing. After a period of trial and error, Fukuyo found that the grain whiskies finished in the Sakura cask best elevated the overall balance, and the end result is a particularly distinctive expression of Hibiki. It begins with an enticing floral bouquet, followed by the signature Hibiki depth and complexity of honey, candied orange peel, jasmine and chocolatey decadence. The finish features surprising bittersweet spicy notes.
Meaning “Resonance” in Japanese, Hibiki embodies the Suntory philosophy ‘To Create Harmony with People and Nature’. As a House of Master Blenders, the House of Suntory has gone to great lengths to explore the breadth and depth of what Harmony can mean for a blend. Hibiki Blossom Harmony celebrates a particular kind of Harmony.
Indri Single Malt comes from the house of Piccadilly Distilleries who also jointly brought us the Kamet Whisky. But Indri is now independently brought to you from the house of piccadilly and what makes this single malt special is that recently it won the top honours catapulting its demand amongst the favourites for consumers. So let’s taste and see how it is and if you like viewing video review then click above and enjoy watching the experience instead of reading it.
The price of this whisky is Rs. 5,100 in Maharashtra and it is much cheaper in some of the other States like Haryana, Goa, UP, Delhi and Bangalore at Rs. 3,100.
What’s in the Name?
Now you might be thinking what’s in this name Indri? It is very unique and different from what we have seen? So the name of the malt is based on Indriya, which are the five golden senses of our body like the smell, taste, touch, sight and sound and also on the name of the distillery based in Indri, Haryana.
Now there is another important thing about this malt, which is the word Trini – which denotes the word three, meaning 3 woods that have been used to mature this malt. Now what’s interesting is that the Kamet whisky was also matured using the same woods. These include ex- bourbon, ex-wine, and PX sherry casks and as we know these add a unique flavour to that blend. And like Kamet this also comes from Piccadily’s Distillery based in Kurukshetra. Indri has been developed by two people, a Master Blender, Surrinder Kumar and a Master Distiller, Graeme Bowie, who was also one of our judges at the Ambrosia Awards this year. They both come from a rich experience and combined they have the capability of blowing your senses away.
Now this malt is made from six-row barley and then distilled in an onion head pot still and then maturing it in 3 casks that adds a unique flavour to the blend.
But before we taste it let’s take a look at the packaging and at first look although this is a 750ml bottle it really looks tall and makes you feel like a 1 ltr bottle. The colours are nice soothing beige with a slight gold on the outside with the words Product of India beaming loud and clear. You do have the signature of the blenders as well alongwith all the necessary info.
On the inside it is you have the label and also the packaging material and colour that looks familiar like the Kamet whisky. What we liked is also that there is a QR code that takes you to the dedicated Indri Page. I wish more manufacturers would do this so that the consumer can get more info on the product.
Now let’s get to the nosing and at the first instance you get a little bit of those spices, some sweet notes, surely some wood as well. The spirit does seem refined and also doesn’t really hit you hard, which is always a good thing.
The spirit does feel really smooth and relaxed. There is a hint of that nutty, caramelly flavour with a little spice. You do get sweet savoury fruit as well which is nice and balanced. Not something that is over powering or over bearing.
Kamet Whisky Tasting
Since we also tasted Kamet Whisky recently, we did a quick taste of that as well to see the difference honestly. Now you do get a nice flavour profile and also those notes of the sweetness, spiciness.
Indri is nice and you can get the sense of the consistency as well from these, which means that there is a method that has been followed while making these malts. And finally what do we think about Indri? It is really good. It is balanced, nice, smooth and also consistent in delivering the taste it does, which naturally explains why it won the accolades. Is it worth Rs. 5,100 in Maharashtra. Not really, especially since you can get it for Rs. 3,100 at other places. So if you can get your hands on this outside of Maharashtra then surely it is something that you should taste because there is something there that will surely satisfy your taste buds.
Sterling Reserve B10 whisky is made by ABD, which is Allied Blenders and Distilleries, the largest manufacturer of IMFL spirit by volume. The whisky is priced at Rs. 1,350 in Maharashtra and it is available almost Pan India. The reason why this whisky is called ‘B10’ is because it is supposed to give the experience of 10 different flavours to the consumer. If you are more of a video person then you can check out the video review on top as well.
Before we start talking about Sterling Reserve let’s take a look at ABD. So ABD is a very renowned name in the industry and has been in the market for decades now. One of their best- known millionaire brands is Officers Choice, which also is a category leader in that segment. For ones who don’t know what a millionaire brand is, millionaire brand means that it sells more than a million cases in a year, which isn’t an easy feat to achieve.
Now what is interesting is that this is also a millionaire brand which means it automatically puts pressure on it to taste good. This whisky is placed in the same segment as Blenders Pride and Antiquity Blue. So basically, this is positioned in a category where you have some of the best premium and highest selling Indian whisky’s honestly. This whisky comes in two variants, B7 which is positioned in the popular category and of course this, which is the B10. If we talk about the blend of this whisky, then there isn’t much clarity about the age of the malts that have been used in this. But this uses imported Scotch malts, which means malts that have aged at least 3-year’s have been used. This is combined with the Indian grain spirits with the Scotch Malts used from different barrel origin including bespoke bourbon oak casks. Naturally there is neutral spirits that are used as well in this since it has Indian grain spirits as well. Now this whisky is also chill-filtered, which means it won’t change colour when you add ice or water to it.
If we talk about the packaging of the brand, then it is very clear that ABD wanted to create an impact since it is a tough market and they have spent a considerable time on this packaging as well. In comparison with blenders and antiquity it is the only brand that comes in a canister, which shows how serious they are about this category. In terms of packaging, it gives you a feel of the premiumness like others as well. They’ve gone with the deep Purple as the base colour and I think it could be coz they want to stand out on the shelf and they’ve managed to achieve that as well to some extent. In terms of the bottle as well it is nice and reminiscent of Indian whisky bottles.
In terms of the nosing you get some honeyed sweetness, nuttiness of the barley and a fruity and heathery nose.
The ABV is 42.8% and it gives you that punch as you taste it. The flavours of oak are clear and also a sweet flavour also comes from the whisky. Although it feels like honey but it is more of vanilla. There is a fruit as well which I think it berries. The finish is meduim-longish and honestly it is difficult to identify 10 flavours honestly but the whisky does seem smooth.
So what do we think about the Sterling Reserve B10 whisky? For a price of Rs. 1,350 in Maharashtra it is already a very popular brand. It gives you that mix of nice flavours, smooth refines for the price and you really can understand why the people who have this brand swear by it and won’t touch anything else. It is not something that you can have on the rocks naturally like most of the whisky’s in this segment. But with water or a mixer of your choice is suited. Maybe you can try it next when you are going to have any whisky’s in this segment and let us know how it is in the comments.
The Covid-19 pandemic has continued to impact India since its arrival in spring last year. The government initially reacted by imposing a national lockdown from 23rd March to 4th May last year. The on-trade was completely closed, as were most liquor shops in every state. Places of work shut down, so many young office workers left the urban centres. With the on-trade stifled, retail purchases and consumption of beverage alcohol at home became the norm in most mainstream categories. In India, however, women and younger consumers still feel uncomfortable drinking in front of more conservative parents and family members at home. Limitations on space and refrigeration favoured spirits over beer, RTDs and – especially for young urban women – wine, all of which are usually consumed cold.
The implications of the pandemic response for India’s status as a federal republic soon became clear. The importance of excise duty income from alcohol, tobacco and fuel was brought into sharp relief as revenue streams dried up and the diminishing income from national taxes, such as GST, were used to offset fiscal shortfalls at state level. Most states responded by increasing excise duties – often suddenly and steeply – as well as charging taxpayers one-off cess payments, commonly levied by central governments for a specific purpose. Unusually, this cess (tax on tax), commonly levied by central government for a specific and clearly defined purpose (and not shared with state governments), has been applied in a number of instances at state level as a Corona-cess. Some states have been more reluctant than others to review, reduce or cancel such supposedly temporary measures. For instance, Andhra Pradesh – where the government had tried to enforce prohibition before the pandemic – imposed a 75% excise duty incre for two days just as the national lockdown ended last May; and on the same day, Delhi imposed a 70% cess on the maximum retail price (MRP) of all liquor, which remained until 7th June.
The timing of the lockdown could not have been worse, especially for beer. The category relies on young urban drinkers and after-work occasions and its peak season for consumption was about to start. When lockdown ended, bars and restaurants re-opened in most states, but were limited to 50% occupancy, and workers were slower to return to offices. Many are still working from home or – during Q1 2021 – have returned to it.
Compared to some countries, where citizens often remained risk-averse and pessimistic after the first lockdown, Indian consumer confidence seemed to bounce back quickly. Many Indians assumed – wrongly – that their everyday hygiene challenges afforded them a high degree of natural immunity to the coronavirus.
The past year has confirmed that India is squarely a brown spirits market. Whisky absorbs two-thirds of consumption in this market; brandy – with a strong presence in the south – takes 20%; and rum takes around half of that. In a total market that has shrunk by around one-fifth, whisky declined only slightly less than brandy and rum, which fell around one-quarter. Beer and RTDs suffered precipitous falls, deprived of many of the venues and occasions that had driven consumption forward. All clear spirits witnessed steeper declines in consumption than dark spirits: in each category, sales of domestically produced brands bottled in India (BII) fell away faster. Even allowing for the experimentation evident in categories such as Irish whiskey, consumers sought out brands that they knew, had earned equity and had consistent quality. In short, they sought out certainties.
Two other fundamental shifts have also occurred. Firstly, the premiumisation trend – evident before the pandemic – saw some importers shift their focus to retail, increasing its offering of high-end brands, which were previously targetted at Duty-Free and at the on-trade. Disposable income spent on going out to eat and drink before the pandemic was instead often redirected to premium-and-above products for at-home consumption. Secondly, as a corollary to this and confirming the pressure on the mainstream, was down-trading out of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), either bottled in origin (BIO) or BII.
Budget-conscious consumers instead chose either country liquor or illicit alternatives, having long been deprived of licensed outlets in which to purchase their nips.
The on-trade closure has also impacted routes to market and the supply chain and it increasingly determines choice. When all outlets closed, some states permitted home delivery, which many thought heralded the long-expected rise of the e-commerce channel. In reality, this was an expedient option for retail outlets: e-commerce has not seen a consequent increase in regulation or investment since. On the contrary, drinks ordering apps, such as Hipbar, appear to have been actively discouraged.
The effects of a six-week shutdown of alcohol supply lasted long after it ended: restocking and logistics issues extended out-of-stock occurrences well into the summer months. Importers often found it difficult to source supplies as exporters were reluctant to ship to trading partners in an uncertain economy, not least because they wanted to avoid passing on rising logistics costs to consumers.
One of the responses, driven by leading country liquor suppliers, has been the emergence of intermediate or medium liquor produced locally: this refers to a price band of distilled liquor sold under licensed quota in certain states – presently Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh only – competitively priced between country liquor/IMIL (Indian-made Indian liquor) and IMFL. Commonly the price, set by the state, is at a 25% premium to the country liquor price, a similar proportion lower than IMFL pricing.
This system has the additional benefits of almost guaranteeing state excise income and reducing the occurrence of country liquor-related health issues through better-quality product. In theory, this model should be attractive to many more states. In practice, its implementation may be limited by the relative scarcity of country liquor distillers able to produce medium liquor of the requisite quality. Nevertheless, with investment and a little covert encouragement from the states, that provision will doubtless evolve over time.
In a decentralised India, the domestic beverage alcohol industry relies on a relatively small number of states for its success. The top three states – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal – account for one-third of India’s population. The top six states account for half of the population. West Bengal is the only corporate state: the beverage alcohol industry is regulated directly through a state body. By contrast, the five largest states in the south are each home to beverage alcohol corporations.
This complexity and large size of India means that there are very few companies that are truly national. Even those that are considered national – thanks to a contract bottling network – still retain large regional brands in their portfolios. There is a small number of multinationals twinning domestic production with imports that are focussed on urban distribution shared among importers and wholesalers. India has a larger number of local distillers aspiring to convert their regional origins into a multi-region or national presence; and there are many smaller distillers, the majority of whom supply locally. Most distillers, therefore, will only be trading in one or two jurisdictions and navigating one or two bureaucracies. For the larger players, these challenges are manifold.
The second half of 2020 saw the Indian beverage alcohol market emerging quickly and largely unscathed from Covid-19 and lockdown. Leading spirits companies in particular were reporting quarterly revenues and volumes that had recovered to pre-pandemic levels. This was in spite of the on-trade remaining stifled, e-commerce failing to expand and the regulation and excise duty rises imposed by most states. However, by the second quarter of this year – the beginning of the new financial year for most corporations – this initial optimism about rapid recovery has somewhat evaporated.
The picture, though, is mixed. India’s federal state model shows up the inconsistencies between states: decisions can often be arbitrary, poorly thought through and political rather than practical, but a successful model in one state can be swiftly adopted in another. On the one hand, the Delhi state government’s legislation lowering the legal drinking age from 25 to 21 is positive for the industry. On the other, Andhra Pradesh will join Bihar, Gujarat and some other smaller states and territories to prohibit alcohol for around 250m people, which is nearly one-fifth of the population.
It cannot be overstated how the pandemic and its effects demonstrated the importance of beverage alcohol revenues to individual states’ budgets. Some state governments recognise this and are approaching their beverage alcohol policy with pragmatism by listening to the industry more attentively.
The key issues revolve around the temporary and permanent changes brought about by the pandemic. Office work may have changed permanently, calling into question whether or not urban on-trade lighthouse accounts will recover. It is uncertain when occupancy rates in on-trade venues rise above the current 50% constraint. The medium liquor system may see expansion into further states. It is also questionable whether premiumisation will persist or the second Covid-19 wave will dent consumer confidence fundamentally.
The wider economy, of course, is a determining factor. Declining disposable income has particular relevance for beverage alcohol spend. The industry is circumscribed by its investment in advertising and promotion. The pandemic has sharpened the senses of many executives and players, but left others close to collapse, unable to survive further uncertain events. States have pursued short-term solutions throughout the pandemic and it is unknown if this approach will persist. However, it is likely that the distilling capacity of the domestic industry will not grow. This has implications for all, given the contract-bottling model that has enabled the largest players to become truly national.
General Forecast Assumptions
On-Trade – In some states, the on-trade had re-opened up to 85% of its former capacity by Q1 2021. However, the occupancy restriction to 50% remains, so the real throughput is also likely to be at 50%. This will continue to affect beer and RTDs. Furthermore, on-trade sub-channels are re-opening at different rates.
Restaurants opened faster than bars; and bars faster than night venues. Whilst this appears to affect wine and premium spirits in higher-end outlets, the impact will be mitigated by the flexibility of suppliers, many of whom have switched attention to retail and targetting wealthier consumers.
Medium Liquor – Consumers in some states are now being offered a wider choice. Those who had traded down to country liquor may choose medium liquor instead of IMFL. Currently this is available in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, but more states may institute this. A significant number of consumers may prefer the taste and the brands on offer in the category to IMFL.
E-commerce – When three of the larger eastern states – West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkand – permitted home delivery of alcohol, it was thought e-commerce would, at last, be stimulated by the lockdown conditions. They were soon joined by Orissa and Maharashtra. However, steep delivery charges, regulatory uncertainty, a reluctance to invest and a poor delivery-logistics framework continue to hamper growth, as well as the nature of Indian e-commerce defined on the invitation issued by the West Bengal authorities as “handling the electronic ordering, purchase, sale and home delivery of alcoholic liquors from licensed food [and liquor] outlets”. Retail competitors required to pay for annual licences have lobbied against the channel as well. Some significant platforms – Amazon, Flipkart (Walmart), Big Basket, Swiggy, Zomato and the mobile app Hipbar, reportedly backed by Diageo and, in Mumbai, Living Liquidz – responded to state-level invitations to get involved after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of home delivery from licensed retail. However, it has become clear that any bureaucratic encouragement of home delivery has primarily been one of a range of responses to the crowds that gathered outside liquor shops last year and, while recurring lockdowns may help to accelerate e-commerce, the channel will not significantly impact the industry for the foreseeable future. Informal delivery, where customers call up the liquor store and get an order dropped off by moped, already existed and will continue.
Regulation – Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, had previously imposed a cess of 20 per bottle of beer. West Bengal, the fourth most populous state, increased consumer tax by 30%. Rajasthan, the sixth most populous, enacted both, adding20 per bottle and imposing a 10% increase in consumer tax. Their approach is unlikely to change. Additionally, the election in Bihar state did not return a government willing to reverse prohibition. Andhra Pradesh’s government was unable to enact prohibition but has discouraged some national players by making trading there problematic. However, it is assumed there is no foreseeable regulatory movement throughout the forecast period.
Consumer Base Expansion – India’s population is approaching 1.4bn, with less than half being of legal drinking age. The actual number of alcohol consumers is believed to be closer to 160m, only 7.5% of whom are women. Per capita rates for beer and RTDs remain low at around 1.2 litres for men and 150ml for women, re-calculated at 10 litres and 1.25 litres on estimated drinking population numbers. Wine has similar rates to RTDs, spirits are 1.8 litres per capita and nearly 15 litres on a re-calculated basis. There are more younger consumers joining the potential drinking population every year. Uptake by women reportedly increased during the pandemic.
At-Home Consumption – This trend is likely to persist beyond the pandemic. Wealthier consumers of premium spirits and imports spend for indulging at home and for gifts. The wedding industry will revive: most wine suppliers are focussing on higher-end offerings, educating consumers about its accessibility and suitability during meals, as well as drinking before and after. Beer and RTDs will find difficulty switching as their core message is based on going out and socialising rather than at-home consumption, and most consumers have insufficient refrigeration space at home.
Key Market Factors
Cultural – The legal drinking age varies from state to state. In most states it is 21, but 25 in the populous states of Haryana and the Punjab. In Maharashtra it is 21 for beer and wine, and 25 for liquor. Bigger states with a drinking age of 18 include Rajasthan in the north and Kerala in the south. Delhi is about to lower its LDA from 25 to 21.
Three states with larger populations prohibit alcohol. Gujarat has been dry for the longest, with Bihar and now Andhra Pradesh having imposed prohibition more recently. Outcomes are mixed, with Bihar and Andhra Pradesh reportedly having some of the highest per capita consumption rates for beverage alcohol nationally once illicit alcohol is factored in.
Demographic – A key driver of consumption has been urbanisation, particularly among younger LDA drinkers. The lockdown appears to have reversed this, with young office workers returning to their parents’ houses in smaller cities, towns and the countryside.
The overall population is nearly 1.4bn and grows by 15–20m or more every year. The drinking population is considerably smaller: at least half can only afford very cheap country liquor, which is largely unbranded alcohol with an estimated market of 250–285m cases.
The rapidly growing middle classes, who can afford premium-and-above, may number more than 150m. However, 98% of middle-class women and more than 20% of men are said not to drink for philosophical, religious or cultural reasons.
Some 49% of the population is aged under 19, and few drink, although younger consumers are generally more willing to consume alcohol than many of their parents. This leaves a market of between 25m and 30m people with the inclination and resources to drink IMFL.
Economic – There is little state support in India and wellbeing is the individual’s responsibility. With livelihoods uncertain but a young population inclined to optimism, the second Covid-19 wave may hit confidence hard and a volatile economy will see more cautious expenditure. Excise rates vary substantially from state to state even before the pandemic, which exacerbated the difference when states imposed cess payments to make up fiscal shortfalls.
A number of observers mention a shift to modern retail. This is consistent with state governments looking to secure the revenues they can expect from beverage alcohol and also with consumer expectations around improving retail venues.
Trade – Difficulties with the supply of stock have been widespread. It is reported that lack of supply inhibited sales, especially of premium products. The pandemic hindered logistics and rendered delivery more expensive. Brand-owner allocations have also reduced the agility to respond to demand.
A further element is that the phenomenon of medium liquor in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh offers more settled revenue for states and gives consumers an alternative to IMFL. One leading country liquor supplier reports now selling twice as much medium liquor as it does country liquor per month. India is unusual in that spirits demand is significantly more developed than demand for beer. While there is some interplay between the two with bang-for-buck consumers keen to maximise alcohol content per rupee delivery, there were some signs that demand for beer was beginning to develop separately.
However, strong beers of 8.5% ABV still represent more than 82% of demand. The first lockdown also affected trade, and was both severe and ill-timed – six weeks without sales, just before peak season for beer and RTDs. The on-trade revived in the second half of 2020 with near full re-opening in some states, but night and weekend curfews, combined with 50% capacity limits, continue to constrain this channel. The uncertainty of lockdown and the unavailability of liquor drove some consumers back down to country liquor, although not in the south where it is banned in five large states.
There was more limited up-trading by wealthier consumers. However, mainstream products, brands and players have been affected with some of the less financially secure domestic players closing for some months. In some of the larger states, competition in the beverage alcohol category is relatively open. In more there are state corporations set up as wholesalers and frequently as retailers too. In all states, beverage alcohol participants must navigate a web of licences, quotas and taxes, and sometimes incentives.
In certain key states, the regulatory authorities that control pricing have rationalised their price lists. In Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana the correction has been downwards for higher-priced imports.
It is reported that there is shift to modern retail. This is consistent with state governments looking to secure revenues from beverage alcohol and also with consumer expectations around improving retail venues.
Political – Breweries have been investigated by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) which has now resulted in fines for collusion and operating a cartel. The reputational impact is more serious than the financial cost.
Indri Trini is making waves in its nascent years. The new Indian Single Malt, from the stables of Piccadily Distilleries launched in 2021, has been rated as the ‘Best Indian Single Malt’ across all categories by the World Whiskey Awards 2022.
In the first round of World Whiskey Awards Indri Trini won the category winner tag of Gold. Paul John’s Mithuna and Nirvana was tagged silver and bronze respectively. In the second round, Indri Trini walked away with the title of ‘Best Indian Single Malt’ from India across all categories irrespective of being single cask, cask strength or age.
Awakens five senses
True to its name Indri Trini, the Single Malt awakens all the five senses – smell, taste, touch, sight and sound. Indri or Indirya in Sanskrit refers to these five senses. Indri is a quaint little village situated in the catchment area of River Yamuna, nestled in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. Indri is the place where Piccadily has one of its distilleries, the other two located in Patiala and Bawal.
Indri Trini is truly the new star that the alcobev world is awakening to. Launched recently, its inaugural expression has bagged some of the most prestigious awards globally. Indri has not only got the Indian Single Malt enthusiasts excited, but also has been generating a lot of attention in the international arena.
Indri backed by a mammoth stock of 40,000 barrels with the distillery churning out 12,000 litres of malt spirit every day is all set for the long haul.
The awards have encouraged the distillery to excel. In its debut year, it has also bagged
● Category Winner, No Age statement at World Whiskey Awards 2022 @www.whiskymag.com
● Winner Asian Whisky of the year at Dom Roskrow’s New Wizards Awards 2022 (that is Best whiskey from India/Taiwan/Japan) https://www.newwizards.co.uk/
● Silver, with a 91 score at The International Wine & Spirit Competition 2022
Dom Roskrow, a spirits writer, editor and consultant specialising in whisky, said, “This was one of the most competitive categories in this year’s Awards, with several gold medal winners competing for the title. This, though, was a revelation and joins a growing band of wonderful Indian whiskies. It is matured in ex sherry, ex bourbon and French oak casks so unsurprisingly there’s a lot going on- berry fruits and red peanuts, lemon, grapefruit and tropical notes, all held in place by freshly shaved wood tannins and soft spice.”
Another feather in the cap is the Silver with 91 points at the International Wine & Spirit Competition. Tasted by the connoisseurs across the globe such as Ivan Dixon, Dawn Davies MW, Andrea Dionori, Jeremy Stephens and Ludo Ducrocq have all praised Indri stating that it is clean, malty nose with oak sweetness and hints of tropical fruits. They have said it is tannic, yet has delicate mouth feel revealing prunes, figs and dates giving it an earthy finish.
Trini, the Three Wood
Trini – The Three Wood, is curated by the distillery’s master craftsmen. It is distilled using the traditional Indian 6 row barley, matured in selected barrels, and blended carefully to bring out the individual contribution of each wood (first fill bourbon, ex-French wine and PX sherry casks) without overshadowing the original whisky profile. Indri Trini is bottled at 46% ABV and is a non-chill filtered whisky.
Nose: Hints of black tea, caramelised pineapple with a whiff of oak from the barrel comes forward, followed by vanilla and honey from the bourbon oak and traces of spiced tannins from the European oak, finally topped up with vinous raisin and sweet sherry notes. Gentle and mellow on the nose.
Taste: Elegant richness, smooth and warm on the sides of the mouth. Gentle spice and wood characters come through, followed by nutty flavours and hints of burnt pineapple, citrus and raisins.
Finish: A subtle and balanced finish where each flavour compliments one another without dominating. A smooth and long after taste with sweet fruity flavours coming up from the warmth of the throat, lingering long after.
The extreme temperature of the Northern plains helps the malt spirit mature faster inside the barrels, naturally. This also means the angels happily take away their share, leaving behind sweet tropical flavours and rich natural colour. The distillery proudly uses no fossil fuels to generate its power needs.
Piccadily Distilleries growing from strength to strength
Thanks to the vast experience, Piccadily Distilleries have been able to touch one milestone after other. Having started in 1953 as a liquor distribution firm as Kedar Nath & Sons, in 1967 it formally registered as Piccadily. The brand has only grown from strength to strength. In 2008, it became the first Indian company to receive permission to produce alcohol from sugar cane juice and in 2009 it imported oak barrels from the United States and began distilling spirits from cane juice. In 2010, the founders’ envisioned the creation of a distillery on par with those of Scotland. It commissioned Raj Industries to build what would become of the largest malt plants in India.
Importantly, the company embraced in 2018 a new philosophy towards producing premium, high-end spirits that adhere to EU and Scottish standards of production while phasing out the molasses-based whiskeys of the past. In 2020, it launched Whistler blended whiskey and conceived Camikara rum – representing ‘liquid gold’. The following year it launched Indri single malt whiskey and this year it released Camikara rum, India’s first sipping rum.
The malt distillery at Indri, located off the famous Grand Trunk Road (which linked Central Asia to the Indian Sub continent for almost 2500 years) was set up in 2012. The distillery is also home to 6 traditional copper pot stills (designed and made in India) and 40,000 barrels. Today, it is India’s largest independent malt manufacturer and seller of malt spirits. The distillery is rapidly expanding its warehousing capacity to hold another 30,000 barrels. A new visitor center is also under construction and will be open for visitors by the end of the year.
Diageo launches Godawan, its artisanal single malty whisky, set to redefine the world of sustainable, modern and conscious Indian luxury.
Godawan, the Great Indian Bustard, a regal, majestic avian… once found all over India, is now nearing extinction, and finds its last refuge in Rajasthan.
Rajasthan, a land of stark contrasts… an arid land of extremes which envelops within it some of the harshest weather conditions. However, culturally, it also preserves and conserves with delicate care and passion everything that exists on its land – whether it is the fauna such as Godawan, its flora such as barley, its innovation in the form of step wells, or its people – known across the world for their thriving, colourful and intricate arts & craft.
The flourishing and world-renowned arts and craft of Rajasthan, such as sandstone and marble art, are a testament to “beauty in scarcity” and crafting exceptional things of beauty from what nature provides.
Godawan, Diageo India’s artisanal Single Malt Whisky, is crafted in, its provenance inspired by, and dedicated wholeheartedly to this Rajasthani ethos – of beauty in scarcity, and sustainability. The heat of over 100°F combined with six-row barley, that requires lesser water, helps create a whisky with an incredible depth of flavour, and a rich and complex character. The aridity means the “Angel’s share” is higher than average in Godawan – leaving behind a whisky with stunning taste profiles, which are finished in special casks selectively curated with Indian botanicals.
Diageo proudly call themselves “The Spirit of the Desert” – the spirit of Rajasthan with its culture, people and ecology which permeates in the character and flavour of their liquid. With Godawan, they doff their hats to the artisans and the innovators who are defining modern Indian luxury that is sustainable, that is ecologically conscious, and truly nurturing of the land it comes from.
Speaking about Godawan, a Single Malt which will change the way world perceives Indian whiskies, Shweta Jain, Chief Business Development Officer, Diageo, says, “When it comes to premiumisation, we, at Diageo India, believe in constant disruptions to up the ante. We believe that our consumers deserve better. We also know that modern affluent Indians are looking for luxury that makes them feel rooted and enriched. Godawan is a product borne out of this belief. It will help our consumers discover an Indianness hitherto unknown – rich and meaningful. Godawan – the spirit of the desert – will redefine the way Indian single malts are perceived globally with its truly world-class story and flavour.
Vikram Damodaran, Chief Innovation Officer, Diageo India, says, “Godawan, Diageo India’s innovation in artisanal single malt whisky, is proof that India is the next emerging destination for quality single malts as well as artisanal craft spirits. Each bottle of Godawan can be traced back to a cluster of barley farms in Rajasthan, ensuring transparency and authenticity of the product and gets its provenance from extreme temperatures which lend it a rare & subtle complexity, and a unique taste. The whisky is not just a testament to the region’s craftsmanship and ingenuity, but also commitment to sustainability and preservation of the land it comes from – and it begins with the Great Indian Bustard.”
Godawan is a labour of love, for our roots, for our heritage, for our land. And it is the embodiment of our commitment – to the conservation of the Great Indian Bustard, and to our communities of artisans and craftspeople. With only a few Great Indian Bustards left in the world, every bottle we make contributes to the conservation of this exquisite bird.
Godawan, The Spirit of the Desert. A story waiting to be told.
The unique whisky-making process involves: Slow-trickle distillation from locally sourced six-row barley; Uniquely matured at temperatures reaching 100°F; Finished in special casks selectively curated with Indian botanicals Godavan will be available in Rajasthan and Delhi to begin with and will then be subsequently available in the rest of India. It will also be available in Dubai from April onwards.
Global exports of Scotch Whisky grew to £4.51bn during 2021, according to figures released recently by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), as the industry continues to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and US tariffs.
In 2021, the value of Scotch Whisky exports was up 19% by value, to £4.51bn. The number of 70cl bottles exported also grew by 21% to the equivalent of 1.38bn.
Growth in 2021 was driven in particular by consumers in Asia Pacific and Latin America, with value increases of 21% and 71% respectively. Key emerging markets for Scotch Whisky – like India, Brazil, and China – grew strongly. Exports grew by 8% in the United States – the industry largest market by value – despite the first quarter of 2021 impacted by the 25% tariff on Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Exports to the European Union grew by 8% in the first year since the UK left the transition period.
Despite the return to growth in 2021, the value of Scotch Whisky exports has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, with exports remaining 8% lower than 2019.
Commenting on the figures, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association Mark Kent said, “The global footprint of the industry in 2021 is a clear sign that the Scotch Whisky industry is on the road to recovery.
“Value and volume are both up as consumers return to bars and restaurants, people return to travel and tourism, and we all return to a degree of normality after a period of enormous uncertainty for consumers and business.
“Scotch Whisky growth in global markets means more jobs and investment across Scotland and the UK supply chain. The industry has continued to invest in its production sites, tourist attractions and workforce to ensure that Scotch Whisky remains at the heart of a dynamic international spirits market and attracts new consumers around the world.
“But this this is no time for complacency. The industry continues to face global challenges, including ongoing trade disruption, growing supply chain costs and inflationary pressures, and undoubtedly there is some road to run before exports return to pre-pandemic levels.
“The UK and Scottish governments should do all they can to support the industry’s continued recovery by making the most of global opportunities, including the ongoing UK-India trade talks, ensuring fairness in the UK duty system, and investing in a more sustainable future as the industry works to reach net-zero by 2040.”
Export value of Scotch Whisky in 2021 was £4.51bn, up £705m compared with 2020, but down £403m compared to 2019.
Export volume of Scotch Whisky in 2021 was 1.38bn 70cl bottles (equivalent), up 238m 70cl bottles compared with 2020 and up 73m compared to 2019.
On average, 44 bottles of Scotch Whisky are exported every second (up from 36 bottles per second in 2020).
Top 10 Markets
The largest export destinations for Scotch Whisky (defined by value) in 2021 were:
8.4% (£729m in 2020)
2.8% (£376m in 2020)
24.3% (£182m in 2020)
-14.3% (£247m in 2020)
84.9% (£107m in 2020)
-11.8% (£176m in 2020)
6.4% (£139m in 2020)
42.9% (£102m in 2020)
16.2% (£114m in 2020)
7.9% (£109m in 2020)
The largest export destinations for Scotch Whisky (defined by volume, 70cl bottles equivalent) in 2021 were:
-0.1% (176m bottles in 2020)
44.3% (95m bottles in 2020)
12.6% (112 m bottles in 2020)
80.5% (45 m bottles in 2020)
25.9% (45 m bottles in 2020)
32.0% (36 m bottles in 2020)
13.0% (42 m bottles in 2020)
7.2% (43 m bottles in 2020)
19.4% (37 m bottles in 2020)
40.7% (30 m bottles in 2020)
In 2021, Scotch Whisky exports by global region (defined by value) were (% change vs 2020):
As vodka comes under the spotlight amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, IWSR takes a deeper look at the Russian alcohol market.
Russia is the 4th largest alcohol market in the world in terms of volume, with imports accounting for 9% of total consumption. Whisky makes up 5% of Russia’s spirits consumption, and a third of its spirits imports. 91% of Russia’s whisky consumption is from imported whisky. While there have been calls to ban Russian-made goods in light of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, boycotts of Russian vodka brands will have a fairly minimal impact on Russian vodka producers. Any significant impact is more likely to be symbolic.
While Russia is the largest vodka producer in the world, with over 30% of global production, the vast majority (over 90%) of Russian-made vodka is consumed domestically.
Outside of Russia, the UK, Germany, the US and Israel round out the top five markets for Russian-made vodka, although volumes are relatively small.
Russian vodka accounts for under 3% of all vodka consumed in Europe (excluding CIS) by volume.
In the US, the world’s second largest vodka market by volume, Russian vodka accounts for less than 1% of all vodka consumed. Approximately half of all vodka consumed in the US is made in the US. While vodka is the country’s largest export, Russia is also a relatively large producer of beer and wine – though much of this is consumed domestically.
Russian beer makes up 1% of the global beer market. Over 99% of Russian beer is consumed domestically.
Similarly, Russia produces 2% of the world’s still wine, with almost all of it consumed locally.
Russia also produces 6% of the world’s sparkling wine, with 99% of it consumed domestically.