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Business News/ Companies / News/  Define single-malt whiskies afresh, says alcobev industry

Define single-malt whiskies afresh, says alcobev industry

Consumption of single malt whiskey in India is about 475,000 cases (9 ltr each). One fourth of this is of Indian brands

In India, spirits age three to four times faster compared to other countries. Typically, single malts should be a product of a single distillery though the malt can be matured in different casks. (Hindustan Times Media Mint Delhi India)

New Delhi: The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has requested the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority to come up with a narrower, India-specific definition that will serve as a benchmark for producing single malts in the country, considering the varied climatic conditions compared to other whisky-producing nations.

In India, spirits age three to four times faster compared to other countries. Typically, single malts should be a product of a single distillery though the malt can be matured in different casks.

Graphic: Mint

At present, there are 8-9 distilleries producing their own single-malt brands. Paul John, Amrut, Solan Gold and Rampur have become household names, while new brands such as Indri and GianChand are yet to make a mark despite receiving considerable recognition from connoisseurs. While Diageo has launched Godawan, more distilleries plan to launch their single malts soon.

However, with both regulatory and industry perspectives coming into play, the single-malt category faces a dilemma over the definition. 

According to the 2018 food safety and standards regulations for alcoholic beverages by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), single-malt or single-grain whisky is defined as a distillate derived from fermented mash utilizing malted barley, or malted or unmalted grain, distilled in a pot and originating from a single distillery.

However, experts argue that the FSSAI’s definition of single malt is too broad and regulatory in nature. They emphasize the industry’s need for specific and practical standards, tailor-made to address the unique considerations of whisky production in India.

Unlike the climate in Scotland, where most single malts are produced, India has varied climatic conditions within the country that can significantly impact the product’s characteristics. So, industry insiders contend that India should standardize the definition of single-malt whiskies produced in the country to mitigate variations as Indian products have distinct notes and flavours due to the use of domestically grown barley and the impact of warmer climatic conditions during the maturation process, CIABC director general Vinod Giri said.

The lobby group represents interests of firms such as Radico Khaitan Ltd, Jagatjit Industries Ltd and Allied Blender and Distillers Pvt. Ltd.

“Rampur, Indri, Amrut, Paul John, GianChand and others doing well is an endorsement of Indian whiskies by Indians. It is a very vital step in building global acceptance for our local products. For the Indian single malt becoming a strong global brand, we must deliver quality product experience uniformly and consistently. This requires well-defined product and process standards," Giri added.

It will also help in better regulation of the industry, he said. Benchmarks are also required to help the industry’s growth and to check spurious, doubtful products. It could also help exports by defining Indian single malts as a separate category with a certification by the government agency, Giri added.

The consumption of single-malt whisky in India is about 475,000 cases (of 9 litres each). One-fourth of this is said to be of Indian brands. Of the 220,000 cases of single malts produced by Indian companies, about 100,000 cases are exported. While still at a nascent stage, Indian single malts have been gaining strong market share of late. International drinks market analyst, IWSR, said premium local brands are evident across all categories, but Indian single malts are the most credible and expensive, given that the most aged liquid in barrels are found here.

And these introductions or new launches demand a fair bit of forward planning, particularly as price and age are often linked in consumer minds, explained Jason Holway, market analyst for IWSR.

Amar Sinha, chief operating officer at Radico Khaitan, said that this move will be good for the industry and bring in more meaning to the globally well appreciated category.


Varuni Khosla

Varuni Khosla is a journalist with close to 14 years of experience in writing business news stories for mainstream newspaper companies like Mint and The Economic Times. She reports and writes on luxury and lifestyle brands, hospitality and tourism news, the business of sports, the business of advertising and marketing and alcohol brands.
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Updated: 13 Jul 2023, 12:06 AM IST
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