At the BOTTLE MARKET, visitors get to know the company's products from the importer Kirsch Whiskey. In the run-up, brand ambassador Pramod Kashyap spoke to BOTTLE magazine about aspects of whiskey production on the subcontinent.
BOTTLE: Amrut was the first Indian distillery to release a single malt outside of India. How did that happen?
: Our head of the company, Rakshit N. Jagdale, originally specialized in blends, as is typical for India, but has also distilled malts for other blenders and a single malt. In 2000, Jagdale went to the University of Newcastle to study management and at some point raised the question of whether Indian whiskeys would have market opportunities in England. He held many blind tastings of his single malt in some of the UK's high-end bars - and the whiskey went down well, and has even been compared to the best in Scotland.
So your launch was easy?
We started in Glasgow first. When we started exporting our single malt in 2004, connoisseurs were delighted. In terms of the general public, on the other hand, we found the market launch difficult, really challenging - because everyone was used to aged whiskeys and people couldn't imagine that good whiskey could be made anywhere in the world. In order to present our whiskey, we have therefore participated in whiskey festivals all over Europe. And we still do a lot of tastings too. This is the only way to reach end users and familiarize them with our product.
What are the difficulties?
As a rule, we sell our whiskeys without any age information - however, the average whiskey drinker attaches great importance to this and does not understand the background.
How does that look??
Our whiskey matures much faster than in Scotland due to the climate. When it is four and a half or five years old here, it tastes like a twelve-year-old Scotch because the Angel’s share is much higher here. That makes it so unique. In fact, I would be thrilled if we could also offer a 25-year-old single malt - but that doesn't work because the whiskey would evaporate before it could get that old
How do you produce, for example do you buy the stills in Europe?
We source our raw materials from India. The barley for the malt, for example, grows at the foot of the Himalayas; the water from the Himalayas contains an abundance of good minerals. They make the soil very fertile, so that good grain grows here. We also build the stills on our distillery site in Bangalore. We never have and never will buy stills in Scotland.
„If you assume 10 percent of 1.3 billion people are connoisseurs, we're not dealing with a small market.“
India is an excellent sales market for whiskey, but above all for cheap blends. In contrast, you work almost exclusively in the upper segment today. How are you doing in India?
Around 1.3 billion people live in India. About ten percent of them know what single malt is, and are particularly familiar with Glenfiddich or Johnnie Walker Black Label. At first we only exported our single malt and sold a little of it at our Bangalore factory. We have only been expanding our sales in India for five years and want to be represented everywhere in the country by 2023. In fact, people are beginning to appreciate high quality whiskey, and if you assume ten percent of 1.3 billion people are connoisseurs, we are not dealing with a small market. On the other hand, single malts in India will generally never reach the popularity of blends.
What are the most important non-Indian markets for you and where do you see the greatest unexploited sales potential?
France, Germany, the USA, Canada and some other countries. In the United States, given the size of the country, we see opportunities. We are also interested in Great Britain. No sales area for us - unlike other Indian distillers - is the Middle East, although many Indians live there. For example, many work there in construction and cannot afford our products.
Some of your bottlings with age information are sold for a pretty penny. A recently launched ten-year-old variety costs 800 euros per bottle. Where do you find customers for this price range?
This is of course a niche whiskey for which consumers make a reservation long in advance. At our German importer Christoph Kirsch, 150 customers were waiting for this bottling. We sent 30 bottles and were sold out in a few weeks. We will soon deliver another 40 (Editor's note: Interview was held in October 2019). We were not prepared for such a request and it is difficult to meet it. Up until November last year, we were able to produce a maximum of 360,000 litres of New Make per year. Then we opened our second distillery on our factory premises - now we can increase the output to one million litres a year. Nevertheless, we see our mission in quality, not quantity.
In addition to Indian whiskey, there is also whiskey from Indonesia, Japan and other countries. Which Asian whiskey would you recommend for beginners or would you stick to the Scots?
I would recommend a Kavalan from Taiwan. This fabulous whiskey makes the whole world sit up and take notice and has won the most awards from Asian spirits. However, of course, you have to try Scotch as a beginner - otherwise you have missed something in life.
What is your favourite Scottish whiskey?
I love Glenfarclas, Ben Navis or old Benriach. Depending on the mood, I also like islays, Talisker for example.
Lastly, what is your favourite liquor from another manufacturer?
My personal favourite is Chichibu whiskey from Japan.