The consumption of Indian whisky
India consumes more whisky than any other country in the world; nearly one in two bottles of whisky is sold in India. According to statistics released in 2021 by market research platform Statista, the average consumption of whisky per capita in India stands at 2.6 litres.
The vast majority of Indian “whisky” is molasses-based, owing in large part to a reluctance to use grain in the production of alcohol, meaning that this liquor is much closer to rum than traditional whisky. Most Indian consumers are not whisky connoisseurs and the popular, inexpensive molasses-based spirit is favoured by a huge number of spirits drinkers.
According to Indian whisky expert Shilton Almeida, molasses-based spirit is well suited to the Indian palette because it mixes well with cola and other sweet drinks in a highball cocktail. A whisky highball appeals to the Indian sweet tooth, while the enjoyment of these cocktails with plenty of ice offers a way to keep cool in the hot climate. The emergence of a wide range of whisky cocktails is encouraging younger generations to enjoy Indian whisky.
Indian consumers are not restricted to molasses-based spirit, however; Scottish brands enjoy popularity too. According to Indian whisky collector Anuj B. Patel, many Indian whisky drinkers favour Johnnie Walker above all else. But international whiskies and molasses-based spirit aside, pioneering brands such as Amrut and Paul John are responsible for creating a range of very fine Indian single malt whiskies.
Experts generally regard Amrut and Paul John as the flag-bearers of the Indian whisky industry. The whiskies produced by each brand, available in 45 countries worldwide, are generally light and fresh in character due to a relatively short maturation process (the Indian climate accelerates maturation, so the spirit spends less time in the cask and can thus avoid absorbing very heavy notes). Sweet notes of tropical fruit such as mangoes, bananas and pineapples are common.
Indian whiskies are, however, remarkably diverse. For instance, Amrut’s Fusion is not at all fruity in character; a combination of distillate derived from both Indian barley and Scottish peated malt, Fusion is a wonderfully complex spirit with a long, spicy tobacco finish. Whiskies such as Fusion might not be among the most popular in India – spirit produced with Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) accounts for over half of the country’s sales – but they are enjoyed by a vast number of consumers around the world.
With the reputation of Indian whisky going from strength to strength, the future looks very promising indeed.