Although still quite small in Australia, the Indian whisky category has been tipped as a fast growing one, largely thanks to the work of independent retailers.
There are currently only four main single malt distilleries in India, three of which are available in Australia. On our shores we have access to Paul John from Goa and Rampur from Uttar Pradesh (both distributed by SouthTrade International), as well as Amrut from Bangalore (distributed by Alba Whisky).
While there has been little growth in the number of distilleries, Andrew Milne, Brand Manager at SouthTrade International, said the range of products in the category is increasing, and the quality of such products is being highlighted along the way.
“It’s definitely a fast growing category, albeit from only a small number of distilleries. The many recent awards that have been won by Indian whiskies however has helped gain visibility and recognition for these brands,” Milne said.
“Much like Japanese whisky was in the early 2000s, Indian whisky is waiting for its moment to shine, and that time seems to be fast approaching. I’d say it’s currently transitioning from unknown to world renowned.
“With limited distilleries, I think it will still take some time to grow internationally. I doubt it will go the same way as Japanese whisky did, but if anything that’s a good thing for the consumer, ensuring that prices don’t rocket up, preventing bottles from being opened and enjoyed. I definitely think it will be a country that whisky lovers will expect high quality from much like America, Scotland and Ireland.”
While on the cusp of such an expected revolution, the role of independent retailers has and will continue to be of the utmost importance.
“Independent retailers have been vital to growing the category, and have done a superb job. With lesser known brands or countries, the role of the retailer becomes vital in educating consumers and encouraging them to try something outside of their normal habits,” Milne told National Liquor News.
“Offering this confidence in the product has certainly made a strong impact on sales and widens the net of knowledge when it comes to recognising Indian whisky.”
Unlike more well known whisky regions, there isn’t a widespread consumer understanding about what Indian whisky offers. It’s often something new and exciting for people to learn about, an experience which independent retailers are known for.
But its also something that many in the retail space not yet know about too deeply, so Milne gave some background and said: “With so few distilleries producing single malt in India, it’s hard to have a ‘style’ for India as yet.
“Climate certainly plays a huge factor in maturation and style. The humidity results in faster ageing than the likes of Scotland and Ireland, but not too dissimilar to that of some regions within Australia.”
To give an example of how this is illustrated in the products themselves, Milne described one of the Indian whiskies in the SouthTrade International portfolio.
“Paul John uses local, Himalayan barley, which is high in protein and provides and richer mouthfeel and texture to those from Scotland. The quicker maturation rate of Indian whiskies certainly plays into their ‘house style’ however, offering a richer, more ‘up front’ style rather than a very delicate bourbon casks Scotch or Irish whisky for example” he said.
“There’s many similarities, but just as in Scotland and Ireland, the variance is wide and there’s a great deal of experimentation still taking place in India.”
Tips for retailers
With independent retail so core to the potential success of Indian whisky, Milne shared some solid retail tips with National Liquor News that will help businesses capitalise on the growing category.
“Definitely try it, but also talk to your customers about it – whether it’s using minis to drive trial, or having someone in store to help give confident advice to customers. Consumers continue to seek new flavours, styles and regions as this thirst for knowledge continues,” Milne said.
“The range available in Australia can rival some of the best. Whether it’s a light, unpeated style of whisky, a heavily sherried whisky or a big smoky, peated whisky; India has that breadth in its offering. So definitely give it a try.
“If that’s not enough, Paul John is the most awarded distillery in the Southern Hemisphere, that alone will drive intrigue from consumers. Previously, much of the Indian whisky available in Australia has been in the +$80 bracket. The newly released of Paul John Nirvana however, will certainly open up further opportunity to try Indian whisky for the first time. At around $70-75 this is by far the most affordable Indian whisky in Australia.”