India is emerging as the fastest-growing market for whisky with world-class brands. Amrut Distilleries (ADPL) created history in 2010 when their single malt whisky won global recognition in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’. Thrivikram Nikam, joint managing director of Amrut Distilleries talks to FE’s Rajesh Ravi about their single malt whiskies and plans of the company. Edited excerpt:
It was reported that premium liquor, especially whiskies, did well during the pandemic. How were ADPL’s experience and your take on the near future?
Comparatively, we saw better sales during the pandemic. When liquor shops re-opened following the lockdown, there was a heightened state of mixed purchase. Gradually, premium products started doing better than expected our premium products did quite well too. Since takeaways were encouraged by the government and Amrut is a consumer favourite, people started collecting a broad range of our brands, given future uncertainty. Even in the international market, we achieved a 30% increase in sales, above and beyond our forecast for FY 2020-2021, which is something we are very happy about.
How come you thought about an Indian-made single malt and the urge to compete with the best?
The prospect of Amrut Indian single malt was serendipitous. Having said that, we were already making quality blended whisky since the late 1980s but at the time the market preferred lighter whiskies and we were therefore forced to cut down the malt whisky content from our premium blended whiskies. Eventually, we ended up with a significant quantity of quality malt whisky.
It was around the turn of the century, at a time when western countries, particularly Europe were seeing a single malt trend. It was then that our late CMD Neelakanta Rao Jagdale and current MD, Rakshit Jagdale envisaged the inception of an Indian single malt. The urge was always to showcase what India can.
What is your take on Indian-made whisky and how well are the connoisseurs appreciating it?
India is a massive market and accordingly, the consumption across categories is also huge. Whisky is the most consumed category in the alcohol segment and that chiefly, because of economy segment whiskies. However, it is very heartening to see so many liquor companies aspiring to enter the premium segment. It’s a great time to be a connoisseur.
Do you think our policies augur well for the development of Indian-made premium liquor that we can export and others will cherish?
As a distillery from Karnataka, we are very proud and fortunate to have a very knowledgeable and industry-friendly excise department. It has helped the industry grow with its regulations and also has adopted policies that encourage good manufacturing practices. Amrut’s global reputation as an innovative distillery would not have been possible if policies were rigid. A lot of credit goes to the Karnataka excise department.
What about domestic sales in the last fiscal and total exports?
Our luxury malts and spirit divisions are growing exponentially. As of now, the demand for our products exceeds supply. However, in terms of quantity, we have seen a growth of approximately 20% across the luxury malts division year on year for the last 3 years.
What is your take on the Indian consumers about brand and preference? Do you think IMFL is taxed more and not good for the industry?
Indian consumers are still very brand. However, there has been a recent trend observed in people making purchases based on the content of the label and showing an inclination towards trying newer brands.
Different states are adopting different tax rates for Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL). However, we as a company would be glad to see that the variations in prices are not too high. Having said that, each state has its priorities and we will abide by their respective policies.
What next for ADPL? Focusing more on whiskies or can we see other products too?
Of course, there are some very exciting and innovative brands lined up to be launched shortly. Not limited to the only whisky: We are also working on rum and gin and other experimental products.