The whisky craze in India

Photo by Johnny Vigersten on Unsplash

In India, the arrival of Scotch whisky was, pun intended, not so smooth….

It arrived just before the outbreak of World War I, amid much protest from local authorities, who argued that India already had one local recreational intoxicant – cannabis – and saw no need to add another. The destruction of European vineyards in the mid-19th century took Scotch whisky from zero to hero in a matter of a few years.

Gradually, Scotch made its way into all social events and ceremonies, and soon became India’s most cherished home. All this happened just over a century ago.

Today, when other spirits or ferments want to enter the Indian market, they fear whether they will be able to resist (and perhaps penetrate) the fondness this country (or rather the men of this country) has for Scotch.

Here’s what Santanu Chanda, mixologist of international repute and beverage director of PVR Group and head of beverages at Home Bar in the capital, had to say about the poison of choice: “Scotch moves faster than bourbon or any other spirit.” He further classifies that single malts are preferred over blends and that “some customers specifically ask for Japanese malts.” In such a situation, launching a gin or rum will never have the same appeal. Moreover, the fact that whisky has become a glamorous product throughout India only helps its promotion.


Whisky and Indian pop culture

In Bollywood, depictions range from the wealthy with lavish homes and an amply stocked whiskey bar, – replete with mirrors and cut glasses – to the general portrayal of the antagonist settling in with a whiskey to celebrate his newfound success.

This correlation of whiskey with wealth dates back to its earliest imports in India, when whiskey from the motherland was requisitioned primarily for the uniformed gentry.

Whether as a Bollywood baddie, a leading man or a malt aficionado, neat, on the rocks or perhaps in a cocktail, whether served ceremoniously over haggis or casually accompanying a plate of kebab, whiskey is just the right measure for all times, places, moods and seasons.

One thing is for sure: India’s love of whiskey will be with us at all times. It only helps whisky’s case that it is glamorized all over India.

Don’t drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly.


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