Indian Single Malt: Whisky’s Indian summer

04 February, 2019

John Distilleries has a slightly different perspective. While Amrut has been consolidating its position in various world markets – its new distillery allows it to triple its production – John Distilleries has recovered from an unsteady starting point a few years back to revamp its core Paul John offerings and to follow up with an impressive stream of consistently good special bottlings.

According to regional manager Shilton Almeida, regular tasting sessions, whisky festivals, and involvement on social media platforms have helped promote his whiskies. “2018 has been a very busy year for us, with the launch of our limited editions such as Kanya and the Christmas Edition whiskies,” he says.

“World brands are very much accepted today. People are more and more curious to try out new whiskies. Before there were questions such as ‘how old is it?’ and now we get ‘where is it from?’

“A lot of people are knowledgeable about the category now. They are also aware of the faster maturation that we get in hotter climates and are looking at trying different expressions from the category.

“Not far from now, people will start categorising whiskies by country, specially when there is more than one distillery there. Today I am often asked about how many more distilleries there are in India, and if there are any new single malts coming out in the future.”


Amrut’s Chokalingam agrees that the battle to establish Indian single malt is being won. It’s just he’s keen to take it to the logical next level.

“[The attitude to Indian whisky] has certainly moved on,” he says. “My answer is simple. We will be the next Japanese category in terms of recognition and awards. This is what created the momentum for Japanese whiskies. That day will come for sure.”

Given the success of Japanese whisky, and the current shortages of it due to exceptional demand, Chokalinga is not only aiming high, but must realise that the coming months provide the best opportunity for Indian whisky to achieve such status. It helps the Indian cause that the standard of its malt whisky are so good. Expressions such as Amrut’s Two Continents and Kadhambam and Paul John’s single cask bottling and special releases such as Mars Orbiter have been highly praised and have sold well.

The latest company to enter the whisky market is Radico Khaitan. The company was established in 1943, and operates two types of business: bulk spirits and branded bottled products.

“RKL is one of the largest distillers of ethyl alcohol in Asia, producing molasses grain neutral spirit and malt spirit,” says the company’s president for international business, Sanjeev Banga.

“Our distillery is based in Rampur, in the northern part of India at the foothills of the Himalayas. We currently export to more than 35 countries. On the branded side, we produce whisky, vodka, rum, brandy, gin, and ready-to-drink brands.” The company’s single malt whisky is named Rampur after the place where it is made. It was launched in America three years ago and is now sold in 20 countries. It has started picking up international awards in the same way that its countrymen have done. But Rampur is no overnight success.

“Our malt distillery has been in operation for 25 years and we have been ageing malts since then,” says Banga. “We were never in a hurry to launch our single malt. Once we felt confident of having a very fine product and adequate stock, we decided to venture in o our own single malt whisky.


Nick Strangeway

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