Bourbon begins to make a splash in Scotch country
American whiskies have, in fact, been making a strong comeback globally among the hip Millennials and India is no exception.
"The iconic status of Jack Daniel's had been introduced to me through films and pop culture before but now, over the last few years, I've become an aficionado of American whiskies including many from exclusive crafted distilleries around the US," says Dikhit. And while his favourites include Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, a super-premium Kentucky bourbon and Jack Daniel's Silver Select, a Tennessee, Dikhit is also willing to try the famous American whiskey cocktails and their variations at the neighbourhood bar. His preferences: Old Fashioned, an iconic bourbon cocktail.
"Some of the variations that I love include the smoky, spiced version at Trident, Gurgaon, bar, a cinnamon version at Nutmeg & Clove in Singapore and the barrelaged avatar at Romano's, JW Marriott, Mumbai," adds Dikhit.
American whiskies have, in fact, been making a strong comeback globally among the hip Millennials and India is no exception. This is due, in part, to the resurgent cocktail culture and flavour revolution in cocktails globally. "Adult Indian consumers — particularly those between 25 and 35 — are drawn to American whiskeys because of their authentic heritage, distinctive taste profile, and their versatility in cocktails," says Christine A LoCascio, senior vice president, international issues and trade of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), who was recently in India on a promotional tour.
In 2014, American spirits exports to India (92% of which is whiskey) were pegged at $3.9 million; as of October 2015, that figure had crossed $4.3 million. American whiskeys, primarily Bourbon and Tennessee, represented the vast majority (89%) of the 2015 total to date.
For the past two years, DISCUS has had Mumbai mixologist Shatbhi Basu as American Whiskey Ambassador in India. She travels across the country training bartenders and leaders in the hospitality industry about American whiskey and how it works well in cocktails. "People are appreciating the intense and fragrant flavour of American whiskey and even Indian women, who don't like whisky traditionally too are surprising themselves when they taste our whiskies," Basu told ET Magazine.
US whiskey producers are increasingly looking to export markets for long-term growth potential including investing in marketing and other efforts to promote their brands in key markets such as India. "American spirits are seeing a renaissance globally and in India too new consumers in the 25 plus age group prefer our whiskies. The premiumisation of the alco-beverages retail space and the cocktail culture is helping American whiskey brands. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey is the highest selling premium whiskey in the world and we're confident of replicating our global success here," says Vineet Agrawal, marketing lead, Indian subcontinent and Maldives, Brown-Forman Corporation, the makers of Jack Daniel's.
Beam Suntory, the other American whiskey major, too sees a big potential in the Indian market and has started bottling its flagship bourbon Jim Beam locally in Rajasthan, in a rare example of bourbon being bottled outside the US.
"As a spirits category, American whiskey is among the fastest growing in India notching up around 20% y-o-y growth. The biggest players, Beam Suntory and Brown-Forman see a lot of potential and are now launching their more expensive varietals here," says Amrit Kiran Singh, chairman of the International Spirits & Wines Association of India. These include Woodford Reserve, Maker's Mark and Gentlemen Jack from Tennessee.