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BW Businessworld

‘Balvenie’s India sales to grow 20%’

Samuel J. Simmons, global brand ambassador, The Balvenie, talks to BW Businessworld about the whisky market in India

Samuel J. Simmons, global brand ambassador, The Balvenie, talks to Smita Tripathi about the whisky market in India.

Excerpts:

How important is India for Balvenie?

India is a market that enjoys whisky, and of late has started enjoying single malts. We see that as a positive sign. We are currently selling around 4,000 cases of Balvenie annually in India. We expect it to increase by 20 per cent per year in the coming years. Balvenie is the most handcrafted single malt in the world. We have our own home-grown barley, malting floor, coppersmith, coopers and the longest serving malt master, David Stewart, adding to our credibility.

Which is the most popular Balvenie in India?
Across the world, it is our 12-year-old which sells the most, but in India, it is the 14-year-old Caribbean cask, which is growing the fastest.

How should a single malt be drunk?
It is important to distinguish between tasting and drinking. The primary objective of drinking is pleasure. So across the globe people drink their malts differently. Some have it neat, others mix it with coke, coconut water, green tea, etc. But the main objective of tasting is appreciation. And to appreciate a single malt, you need the right glass, as it helps all the aromas to gather on the top. Ideally, you should have it neat or with a few drops of water. David Stewart has it with a few drops of water, but when he is tasting it professionally, he brings down the alcohol content to 20 per cent.

How do you decide how many barrels will be bottled at 12 years, 14 years, 18 years, etc?
There is an algorithm based on our projection of the market and what we can produce at the distillery without compromising on the flavour. Scotch whisky is a finite product. We are not scalable. So we need to find ways to distribute what we already have across the globe. It’s a bit of science and good chunk of guessing. We are family owned and don’t need to declare profits. And that works well for us because in the whisky industry you have to wait 12, 14, 18 years to see results.

Have you had any of the Indian malts? What is your opinion of them?

I’ve had Paul John and Amrut. Every market that drinks Scotch whisky is now producing Scotchstyle whisky. They are all imitating the model of Scotland, where whisky is made up of malted barley. In 1920s, that’s how Japanese whisky was started. But India wouldn’t be able to make an equivalent of Scotch whisky because of its climate. A whisky made in Bangalore will not mature for 12 or 18 years. It will evaporate even if they tried. But for a 3 or 4-yearold whisky, Amrut packs a punch and I know that David Stewart has had it and enjoys it.

smitatripathi@gmail.com



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