Views by Hemanth Rao, Founder of the Single Malt Amateur Club

The environment around the alco-bev industry in India is buoyant, the post-pandemic period has seen some unprecedented sales across the board, and those who survived the hardship of the recent times are experiencing better times. The expo by Brews & Spirits in India held in Bengaluru on the 6th and 7th of July reflected the positivity. Expansion plans were on the cards for many, and the sentiment was optimistic about the opportunity. The other factor to observe was the change in the usual skewness of the exhibitors; the usual bigwig’s dominant presence was notably condensed, from 40-50% to 25% -30%.

Coming closer to the subject on the headline, Indian whisky undoubtedly is enjoying the glory and recognition world over. The honors from multiple collectives from across the globe have been appreciative of homegrown brands such as Amrut, Paul John, Rampur, and now Piccadily (known better for the brand Kamet & Indri). What piques my interest is the change in the dynamics within the country; all subsects of the premium whisky in India, Imported, IMFL, and Indian manufacturers, were impacted differently. The former two sects were hit by import delays and continue to suffer from stock inadequacies. The latter, who suffered losses for their exports and import supply chains, had the option to switch focus towards the domestic front as soon as possible.

The initial inertia of the stock clearances for imported whisky brands created the illusion of availability only meant that the replenishment was hit due to production shortages further impacted by commercial shipping delays. The gap seems to be well covered by the Indian manufacturers; while the scotch blockbusters of Chivas and JW Black Label were not dethroned, there is a perceptible increase in the number of consumers who reached out for a single malt from India rather than an imported one! The resurgent Indian consumer has started to travel again, and a few duty-free options are beginning to show up on the bar tables, but an increasing number seem to be basking in the golden glow of the Indian malt. So, was this change expected and planned?

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As an observer, I would place this as a planned move accelerated by the phenomena; the Indian whisky offerings were getting to a position that could not be ignored by the customer anymore. Qualitatively and variants included, the Indian options now available to the local malt connoisseur are unprecedented. Will this trend remain when the much-awaited stocks from the imports arrive and the exports resume business as usual is something that time will tell. The antonym of this singularity is happening in the oversea markets where the Scottish brands encroached the shelf space, which was usually world whisky. What is clear is that consumer across the globe is enjoying the attention.

Consistency and governance are the only elements that seem to be the risk factors for Indian whisky. The number of new ‘handcrafted’ blends launched daily in the market reflects the clamor for the coveted mid-premium segment. Liquid bottled may be very different from the label representation. India does not have an association or a regulator that encourages the governance and sanctity of established practices, which may hurt the newly formed repute of its whisky. Following up on the creations consistently is another factor that can spoil the party, but for the moment, the wheels are in motion!


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