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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Indian Whisky: Whisky or Rum?

Bhaichand Patel has written an interesting piece about authenticity of Indian whisky in today’s edition of Brunch, the Sunday magazine of Hindustan Times.

He says that majority of Indian Whisky is fake. By definition, Whisky is made from grain, mainly barley but other grains like wheat and rye are also acceptable. But in case of Indian whisky the constituent is not grain but molasses, a by-product generated in production of sugar. Technically, whisky made from molasses is not whisky at all. It is, in fact, rum, which has been given a flavour of whisky.

He further says that the modus operandi is to add colour through caramel and taste through addition of essence and tinctures in the alcohol to pass it off as whisky. This is the story at lower end of the market. One step above, the practice is to add small amount of Indian malt whisky to this alcohol produced from molasses. But this doesn’t stop here. Even reputed mid-level brands like Royal Challenge, which costs 400 bucks for a bottle, have molasses content blended with Scotch and matured Indian malts. In fact, 90% of Indian Whisky brands are made with molasses content.

There are only few brands like Royal Stag and Blender’s Pride that don’t have molasses content and are made of “only Scotch and matured Indian malts”. Royal Stag and Blender’s Pride are the brands I like because of their full bodied taste which is equally smooth. In fact, I prefer Seagram brands and avoid touching other Indian whisky brands. Now I realize why!

Well, why the Indian companies use molasses instead of grain? First, grains are costly compared to molasses, a waste material. Second, making whisky from grains is a time consuming process (maturing for years in oak casks). On the other hand, molasses based alcohol can be produced in relatively short span of time. So it turns out to be a case of making big bucks fast. Now I can understand how Vijay Mallaya made his fortune.

And this is the reason why other countries, including European Union, are not allowing import of Indian whisky labeled as whisky since it is not whisky.

So the bitter truth is that in India, the largest consumer of whisky in world, there is dearth of genuine whisky brands. Indeed, a pity for the lovers of full bodied, smooth whisky.

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Comments on "Indian Whisky: Whisky or Rum?"

 

Anonymous TV Sinha said ... (11:09 PM) : 

No need to take this article by Bhaichand Patel so seriously. For all you know, he might have been paid by foreign daruwalas.

Some people only consider malt whisky as true whisky. Majority of the blended whiskies like Balck Label and Chivas Regal is grain whisky. Whisky from US is bourbon. Irish whisky was quite good but the industry got destroyed when Ireleand ceded from the UK in early 20th century and UK goras played politics with their industry.

Incidentally, the Johhny Walker red label is a very down market whisky and so are brands like Teacher's and Vat 69.

 

Blogger Bang Brews said ... (2:47 PM) : 

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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:42 PM) : 

Royal Stag is definitely made of molasses, not sure about Blender's Pride.
The only Indian spirits surely not made through molasses are Amrut Fusion, Rampur Select and John Paul; these are hardly known in India. I have tried Amrut Fusion and it's way better than any other whisky Indian or other.

 

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