Blended Dominance & Single Somnolence? The Indian Situation!
Another article I have encountered in Times of India, Bangalore Edition. (Please see below picture) This article in a way re-emphasises my belief voiced in my previous article ‘Bull Run’
I don’t know if I quite agree with the author’s view of India being the final frontier for Whisky but yes the consumption of ‘Indian Bottled Scotch’ and ‘Fully Imported Scotch’ is on a steady increase. I would not look at the appended article in isolation especially in the narrative when the author quotes the dip in sales figures for ‘100 Pipers’ or ‘Teachers’ brands of scotch whisky. I rather analyse the situation in conjunction with the sales figures for Single Malt Scotch whisky which according to me will give a more comprehensive view of the situation in India.
There is a huge difference in price for the Indian bottled Scotch also synonyms with IMFL and imported Scotch. Most of the blends described in the article such as Vat 69, 100 Pipers and Black Dog itself hugely benefits from the SWA’s* regulation act 5.2 passed in 2009. This regulation essentially says that post 23 Nov 2012 no Single Malt Scotch whisky can be exported from Scotland in bulk and has to be essentially exported in bottles for retail sale. As emphasised in italics this rule is applicable to Single Malt Scotch whisky and not to grain or blended whisky. So depending on the state or province in India Single Malt Scotch is taxed anywhere from 140% to 170%! The prices make this evident; in Bangalore a Laphroaig Std edition of 10 Year old Single Malt Scotch whisky costs close to 6000/- INR (100$ USD) as against a bottle of Black Dog which costs 1400/- INR (22$ USD) at the same store.
So yes, the story of Single Malts in India; though on a positive trend will be slow unless there is a change in the draconian taxes. Apart from the killing taxes, the exposure to Single Malt Scotch whisky is very limited in India. While one can see various promotions by USL & Pernod Ricard for their various blends, for Single Malt Scotch the only evident inroads made by a brand at grass root levels (in my humble opinion) would be ‘The Glenlivet’. This brand has managed to deliver some tangible presence in the retail stores. Marketing activities such as the recently conducted “Guardians’ Chapter Tasting held in Delhi and Mumbai in the month of November is further ensuring that the brand gets a firm toe hold in the arena otherwise dominated by blended whiskies.
The silver lining is that some of the plans that a few distilleries have chalked out for India which I am privy to are very promising and may change the landscape of whisky in India
* SWA- Scotch Whisky Association
Opinions cited in the above article are purely of the author. Hemanth Rao is a Single Malt lover and the founder of Single Malt Amateur Club India. www.facebook.com/smacamatuteurwhisky club/