India sets a new tone

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Amrut has faced a battle in some territories to hold its position, first from Taiwanese distiller Kavalan and, more recently, from India’s John Distilleries, which has launched a range of single malts under its Paul John brand.

The new whiskies – a mixture of peated and lightly peated at cask strength and 46% – were launched to the same flurry of activity. And then nothing. The global brand ambassador left, there were rumours of stock damaged in a ship fire, and plans for expansion were put on hold for at least a year as the company quite literally took stock.

But, according to Krish Kumar, John Distilleries general manager, international sales & marketing, the company has made major strides forward in the past year or so. Paul John is now exported to more than 20 countries and can be found in some of the most exclusive travel retail outlets in the world.

“Currently all markets for us are up and coming and are performing well,” he says. “The focus will be to strategically develop each market depending on its individual trends. We have seen a great increase in interest in France and Germany recently.

“Having established a presence in the UK and Europe, we will be focusing more on the US and Australia this year. However, we believe every market has great potential and that there is always scope for growth across markets.”

According to Chokalingam, one of the most surprising trends for Amrut is the growing acceptance of its whiskies in India itself.

“In India, the mindset of consumers has been changing,” he says. “We are gaining acceptance among the early 30s age group and acceptance of Indian products is gaining momentum which is a great sign for us. In the global market we are gaining momentum which is stretching beyond the whisky geeks who have been our main market over the years. This is certainly encouraging.”

Both Paul John and Amrut believe that recent months mark a lengthy calm before a fresh storm for Indian whisky. Amrut has two new whiskies planned for later in 2016, including one that it reckons will surprise and delight the ‘whisky geeks’. There are two new Paul John malts on the way, including an oloroso sherry cask finish, as well as a couple of single cask expressions.

There are signs, too, that India is set to produce more of its own whisky. Two or three distillery projects are in the pipeline and Rampur Distillery has announced firm plans. So, is Indian whisky set to return to the world stage? It seems so.

“Overall it is all very encouraging and I believe India will have a [single malt] category of its own shortly,” says Amrut’s Chokalingam.

“More Indian whiskies are on the horizon. Growing interest in Indian culture will be an integral part of the Indian whisky phenomena. The future will be exciting and challenging and we are up for it.”

John’s Kumar agrees. “We hope that we are spearheading an Indian whisky revolution,” he says. “There is a willing and receptive consumer market the world over for Indian whiskies, so we are sure many more may follow.

“We definitely hope to keep creating and delivering great whiskies from

our end.”