Indian Made Scotch Whisky

Indian Made Scotch Whisky

The grouping of Indian Scotch may look like a misnomer but it accurately represents what the beverage is all about. As devices might go saying “Engineered in Germany, Made in India”, that is how Indian Scotch Whisky would define itself. It utilizes the technique of making Scotch whiskies and makes them in India.

This manufacturing of Indian style Scotch goes back to 1820s, around the time of British rule in India. Edward Dyer set up the first brewery in Kasauli, which soon became a distillery, since it had abundant fresh spring water and the climate was quite similar to that in Scotland. Most of the whisky then was made from molasses since it was available in abundance as a by-product of sugarcane. Later, in 1982, Neelkanta Jagdale, pioneered the manufacturing of whisky from malted barley under the banner of Amrut Distilleries. But, there was no practice of consuming single malts then in India. Hence, he proceeded to blend single malt with alcohol distilled from molasses and make the first Indian blended whisky, MaQintosh.

Post 1990s and later in 2000s, the grain production saw increase allowing increased production of grain-based whiskies. Foreign brands entered the Indian market and were immediately considered as more authentic and refined. This provided an impetus and a motivation for Indian brands to buckle up and upgrade. The pioneer of this saga was Vijay Mallya who, under the sigil of United Breweries, sought to acquire Scotch distilleries across Scotland. These would then be mixed with Indian molasses whisky creating a unique blend.

Manufacturing

The use of the word ‘Scotch’ is purely as reference to the manufacturing technique used to make these whiskies. How it differs from the true Scotch whiskies are by the raw materials used, the water for distillation, the climate of India and the time period for maturation. Indian Scotch whiskies are generally blended whiskies. Only a few uncommon brands are single malts.

India being the second largest producer of sugarcane, molasses are always present at your beck and call. Hence, these are primarily used in the first stage of whisky production rather than malts or grains. These fermented molasses form the essence of alcohol generation which is taken ahead in the refining process of distillation.

Similar to the production of Scotch, copper stills are used here as well. The fermented mixture is boiled and the heart of the alcohol vapours are taken and distilled. This point ahead, the time period and climate becomes a decisive factor. Maturation occurs mostly in charred white oak casks. Since India has a predominantly warm climate, the maturation process is faster as compared to whiskies being matured in Scotland. Hence, most Indian Scotch whiskies are a few years old and do not generally have age statements. The loss of alcohol in the angel’s share during the maturation process is higher than Scotland. It is around 12% as compared to 2% in Scotland.

This whisky obtained from molasses is jokingly nicknamed as ‘caramalised firewater’. The taste is further refined by blending it with a single malt true Scotch whisky which lends it a sleek texture and taste.

Nutrition

As with Scotch whiskies, the Indian Scotch whiskies, too, are simply alcohol with few calories. The calorie content per 35ml of whisky can be around 72-80 whereas the alcohol content would be 10.4.

Brands

The Indian liquor market has quite a variety in brands of whiskies. Though this is true for blended whiskies only, since we have only one brand of Indian single malt, namely:-

Amrut: Manufactured by Amrut distilleries, this is the first single malt whisky to be made in India. Amrut, which means ‘nectar of life’ in Sanskrit, became famous when Jim Murray gave it a rating of 82 out of 100. It is manufactured at the main distillery in Mysore Road and is generally aged for 4 to 4.5 years. Its most famous variant is the Amrut Fusion Indian Single Malt 50%.

The blended Indian Scotch whiskies are:

Antiquity: Manufactured by United Spirits Ltd., the whisky has an ABV of 42.8%. It comes in two famous variants.

Antiquity Blue: Made of Indian and Scotch malt whisky blended with grain spirit, it has a rich wood aroma and a dash of peat. It was awarded Silver Best in Class at the International Spirits Tasting competition.

Antiquity Rare: This is a blend of Indian malts matured in oak casks and amalgamated with Scotch whisky. It has a golden colour and a velvety feel, giving it a delicate and mellow taste and aroma.

Blenders Pride: Manufactured by Seagram Manufacturing Ltd. and distributed by Pernord Ricard, this whisky is known for its blend of Indian grain spirits and Scotch malt without any artificial flavours. It has an ABV of 42.8% with a brown colour and smooth and smoky texture. Its premium version, Blenders Pride Reserve Collection, was the most expensive locally made whisky in India.

Imperial Blue: Again from Seagram and Pernord Ricard, this whisky is famous for being enjoyable in every form i.e., straight, over ice or with mixers. Introduced in 1997, it has an ABV of 42.8%. It has immortalised the tagline for its brands in the form of “Men Will Be Men”.

Bagpiper: Introduced in 1976 by United Breweries, this is a blended whisky flavoured with pot still malt whisky having a base of molasses rather than grain. It has a distinct sale style in a square bottle with black and gold packaging. It has a light malty aroma with a wood character due to its maturation in American oak casks. It has an ABV of 42.8%. Bagpiper Gold is a unique blend produced from extra neutral alcohol, distilled via five copper columns for an exclusive refinement and diluted using demineralized water before the blend.

Royal Stag: The leading brand from Pernord Ricard and Seagram, it is named after a deer known for its antlers which are also seen on its logo. Having a brown colour and strong malty flavour, it does not use any artificial colour or flavour. It has an ABV of 42.8% and is supposed to be enjoyed in ice or water without any mixers. Its premium version is called as Royal Stag Barrel Select.

Signature: Also known as McDowell’s Signature, this whisky from United Spirits Ltd., was launched in 1994. It is made from whiskies of Islay and Highland regions of Scotland combined with Indian malts of a good age. These are then blended extensively to synthesize the essence of various whiskies within it. With an ABV of 42.8%, it is well known to be packaged in octagonal bottles. Its bright amber colour grants it a very premier look, called by enthusiasts as ‘liquid gold’.

 

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