Despite the taboo attached to the alco-bev space in India, the ecosystem is not only growing rapidly but also holding the Indian flag across the globe. It’s not surprising to see Indian alcohol brands going head-to-head against global giants, and at the same time, big players taking the subcontinent seriously. Even if you have been following the space closely, it becomes difficult to put everything that happened in the space during the year 2023 in context. That’s why, in this piece, we are aiming to take a big-picture view of what mattered in 2023 in the country’s nascent alcohol space.
1) Indian Whiskies Go Global
The biggest headlines were garnered by Indri Diwali Collector’s Edition 2023. It has won the award for the best whisky in the world. Yes, the brand which came into commercial existence just two years back won the Double Gold Best in Show award at the Whiskies of the World Awards. It managed to beat over 200 whiskies to win this accolade. Indri is also rapidly expanding its capacity and hoping to reach 20,000 liters a day by 2025.
Rampur also became the only Indian why brand to rank among the 100 spirits brands worldwide.
Of course, the OG brands that started it all – Amrut and Paul John continued to win numerous accolades.
All this also meant that Indian brands continued to take the market share away from global peers. Paul John doubled its capacity in 2023 to make 3.4 million liters of the golden liquid.
2) Gin: Looking Inwards
The gin sector in India continued to boom, but something interesting happened in the last year. Instead of looking outwards for international ingredients, we started seeing a lot of brands embracing local. And when we say local, we mean it. Not just in terms of the ingredients, but surroundings or terroir too.
- This is reflected in the names of these gins as well – Cherrapunji, Chambal, Kumaon and I, and many more.
- Cherrapunji is known as India’s rainiest region and this gin is distilled with rainwater. It also uses botanicals from Northeast India like Khasi Mandarin and Sichuan Peppercorns.
- Chambal is made in the region with the same name and focuses on botanicals like wild cinnamon bark and black as well as green cardamom.
- Kumaon and I is the country’s first gin from the Himalayan region. Then there’s Mohulo, which is dubbed as a sipping gin and uses Mahua flower, popular in Madhya Pradesh.
- We also saw sustainability-focused gins in the form of Baagh and Oregin. Baagh sources ingredients from farmers directly, whereas Oregin uses Kinnows from Punjab.
- Radico Khaitan – the distillery behind Jaisalmer gin – introduced Happiness in a Bottle range of gins with each of them having juniper and ashwagandha as key botanicals.
- We also saw existing brands introducing new variants. Satiwa, a hemp gin, launched a passionfruit variant.
- Samsara launched a limited-edition Vale of Paradise, inspired by the Kashmir Valley, and uses saffron and Kashmiri Kahwa.
Needless to say, we are just scratching the surface in terms of gin brands that were launched last year.
3) Rum Revival
If you think Old Monk is the only rum brand from India, then 2023 launches in the rum space would certainly change your perception.
- Samsara gin maker introduced its rum dubbed Sitara, which is distilled from sugarcane juice.
- Eekh Rum, on the other hand, is based on organic sugarcane.
- Camikara – from Piccadilly Distillery, which is also behind Indri mentioned above, launched its three-year-old expression after the popularity of its limited-edition debut rum, Camikara 12.
- Maka Zai rum maker also launched a limited edition premium rum brand called Mesma that has been barrel-aged in multiple casks for 5 years.
- Capping off the year was a surprising entrant – Greater Than Gin maker also forayed into rums with the interestingly named Pipa (Hindi word for cask).
4) Alcohol Giants Take India Seriously
While we’ve highlighted how the Indian brands are giving solid competition to global brands, the latter aren’t sitting idle.
- Diageo – the world’s biggest alcohol brand – introduced Godawan in 2022, a Single Malt whisky paying homage to Rajasthan. Last year, it launched Godawan 100, a limited-edition batch of 100 bottles to celebrate its first anniversary.
- Diageo also brought its premium tequila, Don Julio towards the end of 2023.
- Pernod Ricard, the brand behind massy whiskies like Royal Stag, launched Longitude 77 in the premium segment.
- ABInBev partnered with Slab Ventures, started by Aryan Khan, son of superstar Shah Rukh Khan to launch a high-end Scotch whisky dubbed D’Yavol Inception. Bottled at 47.1% ABV, the whisky is blended from eight single malts from Scotland.
- Anheuser-Busch InBev also took its popular beer brands beyond the beverage by introducing Hoegarden gins. In 2022, it had launched Budweiser Magnum Double Barrel whisky.
- Even the soft drink major Coca-Cola ventured into the alco-bev category with the launch of Lemon-Dou. Interestingly, it doesn’t even fall in the usual category of spirits and is based on a popular Japanese cocktail – Chuhai. It’s a ready-to-drink beverage, made with shochu and lime.
5) Cocktails Go Local
If you’ve been following Gurgl, you know how cocktail bars in India are upping the game. But we also noticed an interesting trend of being vocal for locals in the bars too.
- Sidecar, for example, launched its Arq menu with a focus on essence and local ingredients.
- Mumbai’s PCO on the other hand, launched an entire menu inspired by Mumbai’s textile industry and dubbed it as ‘Ode to Textiles’.
- Slink and Bardot – one of the oldest cocktail places in Mumbai – introduced ‘Tales From The Shoreline’, inspired by the Worli Koliwada area.
- Then there’s The Bombay Canteen which brought the ‘Make Mine A Bombay’ menu, focusing on unique flavours and ingredients to capture the essence of the city.
- Kolkata also stepped up with bars like Little Bit Sober and AMPM harnessing local ingredients such as Kasundi and Nolen Gur.
2023 was a pivotal year for India’s alco-bev industry. It also gives a good indication of how the sector will go from here. In fact, as per a report, the industry is expected to fetch $64 billion within the next 5 years. We also witnessed the growth of the craft beer industry, and at the same time, interest in beer alternatives like seltzers and meads grew. This also resulted in an explosion of the RTD (ready-to-drink) segment with brands introducing cocktails in a can format.
We, at Gurgl, are excited to see how 2024 shapes up, so stay tuned for all the updates.