A wave of excitement rippled through the global liquor industry earlier this year when Indian liquor houses announced plans to boost the production of world-class single malts. This was welcome news for liquor distributors all over the globe, who had seen sales to millennial consumers plummet in recent years. Luckily, it would seem that things are changing for the better. The country’s thriving wine and whisky scene has attracted many new players, including private labels and small-scale distilleries looking to capitalize on growing demand from both domestic and international markets. This article covers everything you need to know about India’s single-malt revolution.
The demand for contemporary whisky across age groups is directly proportional to the increase in demand for single malts. Single malts offer manufacturers a means to appeal to both older purists and millennials who are used to more contemporary palates. The accessible price points of these offerings mean that there is plenty of room to experiment and try out a wide variety of styles to see what suits one’s tastes, an excellent proposition for people who are new to the spirit, with the introduction of miniature bottles making the process all the more convenient. As with anything to do with taste, what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Some consumers are looking for something more exclusive or premium than others; these nuances are what propel brands forward over time. Several Indian companies have joined the fray, launching their own single malts in this consumer segment.
Indian single malts are not meant to compete with scotch or bourbon; all three spirits have their own place in the market. Indian distilleries draw inspiration from spirits made in both countries while employing several proprietary processes that help them stand out in foreign markets. The primary difference between Indian single malt and Scotch or Bourbon is the age statement. While single-malt scotch may be aged for anywhere between eight and thirty years, Indian single-malts are limited to a range of four to twelve years, with most barrels rarely seeing the light of a decade. The reason for this is that India has much higher temperatures, which leads to a much higher percentage of whisky lost to the angel’s share.
The angel’s share is a phenomenon that affects all whiskies, regardless of the area they are produced in. The term is used to refer to the amount of whiskey that is lost through evaporation in the barrels. In Scotland, this number is usually 2%, which is nothing close to the staggering 6-8% that Indian barrels lose to the wind every year. A few distilleries have dared to venture beyond the four-year mark, let alone ten. Amrut Distilleries, a pioneer of the Indian single malt, is the only house to sell an Indian malt that has been aged for more than ten years. The aptly named “Greedy Angels” series features three single malts at three different ages, namely the Chairman’s Reserve 8, 10, and 12.
All three whiskies have won the hearts of reviewers and enthusiasts alike, the world over. All of the bottles are limited editions and in high demand across both domestic and international markets. A large part of this can be attributed to the actual taste of the whiskies. The whiskies were among the first, if not the first, to be aged at such high temperatures for an extended period of time (eight years or more). This lets them take on the barrels’ characteristics in a rather unique way. The fruitiness and char from the barrels pair beautifully with the peat of the grain in a way that is entirely unique to the series. That’s why connoisseurs of the golden elixir don’t mind the hefty price tags attached to the bottles, which are often three times as expensive as scotch of the same age.
Other whiskies sold by the brand and rival domestic distilleries are half the price of comparable scotch and bourbon. Indian distilleries have long relied on competitive pricing to carve a niche for themselves in the global whisky market, as almost no scotch or bourbon sold in the same price range can compete with their offerings in terms of value for money. Indian malts are also appreciated for their novelty; even ridiculously young malts, such as the four-year-old Amrut Fusion, can stand up to a scotch that is twice as old while being distinctly different, owing to the endemic barley used for the malt and the unique aging conditions it is subject to.
The Indian single-malt market has more to offer today than it ever did before. We’d recommend that you try a dram at your favorite bar or, better yet, buy a whole bottle at your neighborhood liquor store. Paul John, Amrut, Godawan, and Kamet all have great single malts below the five thousand rupee mark, making them great points to start your journey into the premium Indian spirits market.