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Indri's triumph: How India's award-winning single malt is redefining the $33 billion spirits market

Explore the unprecedented rise of Indri, named the world's best single malt whisky, as it reshapes India's $33 billion spirits market and captivates global consumers.

Indri triumph: How India's award-winning single malt is redefining the $33 billion spirits market snt
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First Published Dec 17, 2023, 6:22 PM IST

Near New Delhi, in a distillery surrounded by sugarcane and mustard fields, oak casks originally used for bourbon and wine are accumulating, filled with maturing whisky. The facility, owned by Piccadily, the two-year-old Indian brand, is increasing production to nearly 10,000 bottles daily of the award-winning Indian single malt, Indri. As India transitions from being a whisky consumer to a prominent producer, the country's $33 billion spirits market is undergoing a transformation, with Indian single malts playing a pivotal role. Piccadily is not only expanding production but also enticing enthusiasts with the addition of a three-hole golf course to the distillery premises.

Renowned international labels like Glenlivet, produced under the banner of France's Pernod Ricard, and Talisker, a creation of Britain's Diageo, are in fierce competition for retail prominence alongside local contenders such as Indri, Amrut, and Radico Khaitan's Rampur.

In contrast to numerous Asian nations where beer holds sway over alcohol sales, India stands out as a predominantly whisky-loving nation. The whisky landscape in India has undergone significant upheaval, driven by global accolades, rising affluence, and a surge in consumers experimenting with new brands during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to industry executives and analysts.

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The appeal of Indian whisky

As per a Reuters report Aditya Prakash Rao, a long-time consumer of foreign brands, has shifted his preference towards Indian malts, both for personal enjoyment and as gifts during festive seasons. For Rao, Indian whisky not only instills a sense of national pride but also complements the spicy nature of Indian cuisine, making it his preferred choice. He expresses his love for Indian malts, emphasizing their unparalleled pairing with the flavors of their local food.

Indri's Diwali Collector's Edition, priced at $421 (Rs 34,960), clinched the prestigious "Best in Show" title at the Whiskies of the World Awards blind tasting in San Francisco, outshining rivals from Scotland and the US. In response to the growing trend of embracing Indian spirits, global brands traditionally focused on single malts from Scotland are now turning their attention to Indian whiskies, recognizing the immense potential in one of the world's largest whisky markets.

Embracing the spirit of India, Pernod unveiled its inaugural made-in-India single malt, the $48 Longitude 77, complete with Bollywood stars and Indian music. The company plans to extend its sales reach to Dubai and subsequently the global market. Kartik Mohindra, Pernod India's chief marketing officer, expresses the company's enthusiasm, citing the unprecedented growth witnessed in this evolving category.

Market Dynamics and Projections

Diageo, the formidable competitor of Pernod, introduced its inaugural Indian single malt, Godawan, named after an endangered Indian bird, which successfully entered five foreign markets, including the United States. Vikram Damodaran, Diageo's India chief innovation officer, observes a notable shift from merely consuming whisky in India to embracing Indian whisky both domestically and globally.

Despite Glenlivet, a Pernod product and long-standing top-selling single malt in India, achieving a remarkable 39 percent volume growth last year, it was surpassed by Amrut, experiencing an extraordinary spike of 183 percent, as indicated by Euromonitor data.

 

The Indian single malt category witnessed an impressive surge of 144 percent in 2021-22, outpacing Scotch growth at 32 percent, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. Projections until 2027 indicate a promising trajectory, with Indian malt consumption expected to grow by 13 percent annually, outstripping Scotch at 8 percent.

Piccadily Distilleries, the maker of Indri, aims to amplify its production capacity by 66 percent to 20,000 liters per day by 2025, targeting expansion beyond the 18 foreign markets constituting 30 percent of its sales, as revealed by founder Siddhartha Sharma. The distillery also plans to double its cask count to 100,000.

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Local Indian brands like Indri, Amrut, and Rampur are positioned as premium offerings, with prices at $37 (Rs 3,000), $42 (Rs 3,400), and $66 (Rs 5,400) per bottle, respectively, in shops near New Delhi. In comparison, Pernod's Glenlivet ranges from $40 to $118, depending on age.

At the unveiling of Longitude 77, Pernod served the new single malt to CEOs, diplomats, celebrity chefs, and other guests, crafting cocktails infused with local elements like Kashmiri saffron and Alphonso mangoes.

Sanjeev Banga, president of international business at Radico, anticipates doubling Rampur's sales annually, with a strategic focus on expanding the domestic market, as 75% of their business stems from international sales. He emphasizes the significance of both Diageo and Pernod venturing into Indian single malts, recognizing it as a forward-looking category, distinct from their mainstream foreign brands.

 

As India cements its position as a formidable producer of single malt whisky, the industry is witnessing a dynamic transformation. The confluence of global awards, changing consumer preferences, and strategic investments from international spirits giants suggests that Indian single malts are not just a passing trend but a category poised for long-term growth. The distinct flavors, cultural resonance, and the ability to cater to local palates make Indian single malts a force to be reckoned with in the global whisky market.

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