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Top Indian single malt whisky makers

A look at premium indigenous whisky makers who are tingling the taste buds and senses of aficionados worldwide with exquisite flavors and craftsmanship

Top Indian single malt whisky makers
[Source photo: Chetan Jha]

Consumption of Indian whisky is at an all-time high, and a new wave of Indian malt whisky makers has risen to meet the growing demand.

Last year, Indian premium single malt whisky constituted a little more than half of the about 675,000 cases sold in India, data from the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) showed. Each case contains 12 bottles, with each bottle holding 750 milliliters of whisky.

Brands from indigenous whisky makers like Piccadilly Distilleries, Amrut Distilleries, Radico Khaitan, John Distilleries, DeVANS Modern Breweries, and Mohan Meakin Ltd are gaining popularity worldwide among premium alcohol connoisseurs.

Riding high on the popularity of Indian whiskies, Indian embassies abroad are showcasing made-in-India whiskies. Last month, the Indian embassy in Beijing played host to a whisky-tasting event replete with seven products from Paul John, Amrut and Indri.

CIABC director-general Vinod Giri said the industry lobby is working as an interface between the Indian missions abroad and single malt producers in India to showcase premium Indian alcoholic beverages and promote the segment’s export potential.

“Indian whiskies were recently included in the range of products with export potential in London, and missions in Seoul and Moscow have shown interest in showcasing Indian premium whiskies,” Giri said.

The popularity of Indian whisky got a boost last year when Indri Diwali Collector’s Edition from Piccadilly’s stable was adjudged among the best at the Whiskies of the World Awards 2023, winning the ‘Best in Show, Double Gold’ tag.

On Monday, 1 April, Piccadilly’s Indri Dru won the ‘Best Indian Single Malt’ at this year’s edition of the World Whiskies Awards. ‘Dru’ means wood in Sanskrit and Indri Dru is a tribute to the divine drink “soma” that was offered to the gods and collected in wooden vessels or dru, Piccadilly said in a statement, citing Indian mythology.
The launch of Godawan and Longitude 77 in India by Diageo and Pernod Ricard, two of the world’s largest Scotch malt whisky producers, endorses the success and emergence of the Indian single malt industry. Diageo launched Godawan, while Pernod Ricard rolled out Longitude 77 in December last year.

Despite concerns over the impending UK-India free trade agreement potentially favoring Scottish whisky due to reduced tariffs, Indian distillers remain optimistic. The growing domestic preference for indigenous brands suggests they will continue to thrive in India’s evolving whisky landscape.

A look at premium indigenous whisky makers that are tingling the taste buds and senses of global aficionados with their exceptional flavors and craftsmanship:


Piccadilly Distilleries


Siddhartha Sharma, founder of Piccadilly Distilleries and maker of the award-winning Indri-Trini, said, ” Our sales in India have seen an exponential growth of 67X since 2021. We have penetrated and gained a strong foothold across India and 19 countries overseas. We are present in most European countries, the US, across Asia, and the UAE. Our appetite for the international market is expanding, and 28% of our current sales comes from there. We have also recently started operating at the travel retail channel, which is anticipated to boost our sales further.”

“In all the markets we have launched our products, we have received an overwhelming response with regards to quality. Since its debut in November 2021, Indri has earned over 15 esteemed global awards. The most recent addition to the collection, Indri Diwali Collector’s Edition 2023, achieved the prestigious title of ‘Best in Show, Double Gold’ at the highly coveted Whiskies of the World Awards 2023, and Indri Dru won the title of ‘Best Indian Single Malt’ at the World Whiskies Awards 2024. These accolades, coupled with other achievements, underscore the remarkable distinctiveness of Indri,” Sharma said.

On new products in the pipeline, Sharma said Piccadilly will “soon introduce more expressions of Indri for both domestic and international markets. We recently introduced the Camikara 3YO, India’s first pure cane juice rum, and we plan to expand the rum category in India. The premium rum category is currently untapped and has a lot of potential. We are looking at availability across India and increasing our footprint in more and more countries internationally.”

Piccadilly’s Indri Trini, a triple-cask single malt whisky distilled in Indri, Haryana, featured in the premier ‘New World’ category at US-based alco-bev platform VinePair, alongside Wilderness Trail small batch high rye bourbon and Glenglassaugh Sandend Highland single malt whisky. “Trini” refers to the three casks in which the whisky is matured—ex-Bourbon, ex-French wine, and PX Sherry.

“The (Indri Trini) whisky matured in triple casks reveals delightful notes of caramelized pineapple, vanilla, black tea, raisins, honey, and a lingering aftertaste of sweet fruity flavors. Specially crafted using the finest 6-row Indian barley from Rajasthan, it pays homage to the region’s time-honored traditions,” Sharma said.


Amrut Distillery


Amrut began operations just three years after India gained independence. Owners of the Bengaluru-based distillery are eyeing a larger pie in the Indian luxury single malt market.

About 26% of business comes from the luxury division, Rakshit Jagdale, the managing director of the company told the Telegraph newspaper in a recent interview.

The luxury division, which produces single malt, contributes ₹130 crore to overall revenues of about ₹500 crore. Jagdale said his company has set a target to bolster turnover by 35-40% in the next five years.

Domestic sales comprise six-tenths of the business for the company, which has an annual distillation capacity of 1 million liters and plans to increase this to 1.3 million by August.

Speaking about the challenge that the impending UK FTA may pose for single malt manufacturers, Jagdale said that the agreement may lead to lower prices for “bottled in origin” products, or whisky that is bottled in the country of its production, including Scotch whisky. The implication is that Scotch whisky might become cheaper in India due to reduced tariffs. But Indian producers are prepared to face any market changes brought about by the FTA as Indian single malt whisky is on par with Scotch can stand their ground on the basis of quality, Jagdale said.

Amrut’s premium single malt accounts for over 120,000 cases of its total 5.8 million case sales, which includes gins, rums, and blended whisky. Exports of Indian malts hit 60,000 cases, and distillation capacity surged from 300,000 liters annually in 2018 to 1 million liters.


Radico Khaitan Ltd


Radico Khaitan Ltd, originally known as Rampur Distillery and founded in 1943, prides itself on “crafting magic” in the spirits industry. For over 50 years, it offered bulk spirits and bottling services to other brands before launching its 8 PM whisky in 1998. 8 PM achieved millionaire brand status, where a product reaches sales of over one million cases, within a year of its launch.

The company expanded its portfolio to include vodka, Contessa rum, and brandy by 2016, and introduced the Rampur Indian single malt whisky.

The Rampur Indian single malt whisky and Jaisalmer Indian craft gin, two of Radico Khaitan’s offerings, were recognized among the top 100 Premium Wine and Spirits Brands of the World 2023 by the Luxury Lifestyle Awards.

Sanjeev Banga, reflecting on Rampur Indian single malt whisky’s journey since its April 2016 launch, said, “It has been a very satisfying journey so far. There are seven expressions of Rampur available currently in over 40 countries and 22+ airport duty-free locations.”

“Rampur is a 100% Indian single malt and everything that goes inside the bottle is 100% Indian. Our location at the foothills of Himalayas in North India makes our malt smooth, fruity, and floral,” Banga said.

“All expressions of Rampur Indian single malt are loved around the world and have been winning accolades, including the “Best World Whisky” in the 2023 John Barleycorn Awards. Rampur is truly the ‘Kohinoor of Single Malts’,” Banga added.

The Rampur distillery, renowned for its vast malt spirit maturation capabilities, can process up to 2.6 million liters annually. It relies on traditional copper pot stills for distillation while aging the spirits in American oak barrels to ensure a distinctive flavor profile.


John Distilleries


John Distilleries, India’s fourth-largest liquor company, boasts a diverse brand portfolio including whisky, brandy, rum, wines, and single malts. Its flagship brand, Original Choice whisky, ranks among the top 10 globally, with annual sales exceeding 11 million cases.

Operating across 12 sites in eight states, the company has significant international presence with Paul John whisky available in 44 countries.

Heemanshu Ashar, head of marketing at John Distilleries, said, “Exports of Paul John whisky have been growing steadily at 15% per year. This year we expect a growth of 16%, and hope to maintain and build on this rate of growth in the coming years.”

“Our strategies for growth include enhancing distribution depth, collaborative work with distributors and customers, and expanding the product lineup with new, limited releases,” Ashar added.

Paul P. John, the founder of John Distilleries, ventured into the alcohol industry in 1996, quickly expanding from Bengaluru, Karnataka, to various Indian states and international markets. Driven by a passion for single malts, he pioneered the creation of Paul John Indian single malts, focusing on indigenous ingredients. Committed to this vision, he established a malt plant in Goa, producing exceptional single malts that have garnered global acclaim.


DeVANS Modern Breweries


Jim Murray, a renowned whisky expert, praised DeVANS Modern Breweries’ GianChand whisky in his 2022 ‘Whisky Bible’, highlighting its delicate, refined nature compared to other Indian single malts.

“GianChand is far more delicate and refined than any other Indian single malt, with soft barley and spice taking different but vital paths as the complexity increases,” Murray wrote in his Whisky Bible, an annual guide ranking over 1,000 whiskies around the world.

Founded by former journalist Dewan Gian Chand in 1961, the company began as a bottling plant and now boasts distilleries in Jammu and Rajasthan, with popular beers such as Godfather and Six Fields in its lineup.

Based in Jammu, the 63-year-old brewery, known for supplying malt spirits, is set in the Himalayan foothills.
With a 156,000-liter capacity and growing beer production partnerships, chairman Prem Dewan told The Hindu-Business Line in October that company is targeting net revenues to the tune of ₹700 crore in fiscal 2025. The brewery aims to clock sales of ₹500 crore in fiscal 2024, up from ₹350 crore in the previous fiscal year.


Mohan Meakin Ltd


Mohan Meakin Ltd, which brews the popular Old Monk rum, introduced Solan Gold, a standout in the single malt whisky category. Originating from their distillery in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, this distillery has been producing the venerable Solan No. 1, setting a precedent for quality malt whisky in India well before it became a widespread trend. While specific plans for expanding their single malt production capacity remain under wraps, it was reported over five years ago that there were ambitions to sell 5,000 cases of the rebranded Solan Gold.

The legacy of Mohan Meakin traces back to 1855 with the establishment of a brewery in Kasauli by British entrepreneur Edward Dyer. Dyer’s initial ventures expanded to include breweries and distilleries across Simla, Solan, Lucknow, and Mandalay (Myanmar).

H.G. Meakin of the famed Burton-on-Trent brewing lineage had acquired the Simla and Kasauli operations, further expanding to Dalhousie, Ranikhet, Chakrata, Darjeeling, and Kirkee. These entities operated independently until the early 20th century, eventually merging to form Dyer Meakin and Co. Ltd.

Following the separation of Burma (now Myanmar) in 1935, the company was renamed Mohan Meakin Breweries Ltd, before simplifying its name to Mohan Meakin Ltd. Under Brig. (Dr.) Kapil Mohan’s leadership, the company diversified into a multi-faceted conglomerate with three distilleries and two breweries in India, alongside numerous franchises, achieving a turnover exceeding ₹400 crore.


Kaumudi Kashikar-Gurjar is an Associate Editor at Press Insider. Based in Pune, Kaumudi is a resourceful writer and a trained multimedia journalist who covers business and economy. Formerly the bureau chief at Sakal Times and Mid Day, Kaumudi has written extensively on politics and governance over her career spanning 20 years for publications including the Pune Mirror. More

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