Japanese whiskies have been toast of the whisky world for nearly two decades & classified as fine examples of Luxury in Whisky. From luxury cars to haute couture and fine whiskies; Japanese products are coveted around the world. The legendary Japanese craftsmanship draws inspiration from nature and heritage. Nature and its distinct manifestations through the four beautiful seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter – is central to art, culture and aesthetics in the land of the rising sun.
The story of Japanese whisky goes back just about a 100 Years. Suntory, headquartered in Tokyo, pioneered Japanese whisky & are renowned for their Art of Blending. The founding father of Japanese whisky, Shinjiro Torii, dreamt of creating an authentic Japanese whisky, by choosing a terrain & climate completely different to that of Scotland, thereby cultivating unique conditions for maturation. Japanese Whiskies have been conquering the palate of global drinkers, since early 2000`s.
Over the last few years, Japanese Whiskies have grown at a higher pace than Scotch, Bourbon & Irish whiskies. Even though some of the most sought-after whiskies have stopped production, the pace of growth in Value & Volume is quite significant.
Suntory with its brands, like Hibiki, Yamazaki & Hakshu and Nikka with Miyagikyo, Yoichi & Nikka, are feeling the shortage of whisky. These brands were leading the explosion of the Japanese Whisky industry & have a huge following globally but may not be on offer due to a lack of the ageing stock needed to create them.
The alco-bev category is witnessing rapid premiumisation in India and one of the strongest momentum witnessed is in Japanese whiskies. Led by quality and authenticity, Japanese whiskies have emerged from the side-lines to find a more permanent place in home bars and top bars in the country. The geographical indication (GI) rules expected to come into play in 2024 have further strengthened quality perceptions and clarify genuine standards of quality for consumers.
House of Suntory is the Founding House of Japanese Whiskies and has pioneered high quality whisky craftsmanship leading to high reputation for its whisky and white spirits portfolio globally. In India, since its launch of the premium portfolio of Yamazaki Japanese Single Malt whisky, Hibiki Japanese Harmony whisky, Suntory whisky Toki and Roku Japanese craft Gin from the House of Suntory in 2019, has seen a growing appeal amongst premium spirits connoisseurs across top tier Hotel chains and premium bars and restaurants in the key cities of India.
I spoke to Neeraj Kumar, managing director, Beam Suntory India, on the way ahead for his company.
On consumers in India
As consumers actively transition towards experiential and quality-driven spirits inspired by Japanese provenance, there has been a sustained increase in the preference of the immaculate craftsmanship, high quality ingredients and technically superior blending processes of authentic Japanese whiskies. As Indian consumers become more discerning and well-traveled, they have displayed a desire to explore and experiment with different flavors, which has contributed to the uptake in demand of Japanese luxury spirits.
On consumer connect with Japanese whiskies
Consumers connect with our wide portfolio of premium brands that comprise the best of the East and the West. These include the most desired and authentic Japanese whiskies, the highest selling global Bourbon brand – Jim Beam, high quality Single Malts like Laphroaig, Bowmore and The Ardmore and Teacher’s Blended Scotch whisky which holds a position amongst the top selling Scotches in India. The breadth and depth of our portfolio shape the unique culture that differentiates us, best captured by the spirit of Yatte Minahare, a Japanese phrase that literally means “Go for It”. This philosophy of dreaming big is at the heart of all our businesses worldwide.
On Japanese spirits in India
Talking about the position of Japanese whisky in India, it has become a premium and high quality portfolio which t has established itself in the country as coveted, well reputed and exquisite. With tremendous growth in the last five years; the curiosity around Japanese spirits and a growing taste for unique and blends are driving this prominence which will continue to grow when we look at the future of Japanese whisky in India, which was previously unexplored.
On Suntory brands in India
Taking a top spot in this segment, Japanese whiskies from the House of Suntory are true to their craft and their demand is being driven by a growing taste for unique and authentic blends. With premiumization and consumers’ expanding repertoire, Beam Suntory introduced some of the rarest whiskies in the world, including Yamazaki 55, Yamazaki 12, Suntory Whisky Toki, Hibiki in Indian cities and Indian Duty Free airport retail stores.
On Beam Suntory plans for India
At Beam Suntory, we are continuing to bring in high-quality Japanese brands like Yamazaki LTO’s (Limited Time Offer packs) and Suntory Whisky Toki, which are limited release like rest of the House offerings. Suntory Whisky Toki is specially positioned for the younger generation legal dringing age consumers. We are also looking at bringing in newer innovations by Hibiki and participating in gin subculture, through Roku Japanese Craft Gin. Suntory Whisky Toki positions itself as a timeless blend and has successfully solidified its position as a spirit appreciated by consumers wanting to try new innovations, regardless of gender.