The entry-level Scotch whisky segment makes for the largest chunk of Scotch whisky sales in India. Luxury Scotch whisky brands might be growing their presence in India in an unprecedented manner, but the bedrock of Scotch whisky sales in India are made up by budget Scotch whiskies.
Brands such as 100 Pipers, Teacher’s, Black & White, VAT 69, J&B Rare and Black Dog indulge in cutthroat competition to win over the loyalties of the India’s Scotch lovers. Today, we compare and draw a competition between two well-known Scotch whisky brands that have performed exceptionally well in India. Our aim is to find out which of the two brands resonate better with consumers in one of the world’s largest whisky-loving markets.
100 Pipers Deluxe Blended Scotch Whisky
The 100 Pipers blend was first created in 1965 by Alan Ballie, the Master Blender at Chivas Regal. It was launched in India, under the Seagram’s umbrella in 1995. It is a no-age-statement blend, and happens to be incredibly popular in India. Alongside India, the 100 Pipers brand of blended Scotch whiskies are a huge success in Thailand, Spain, Venezuela, Australia and many more South American countries.
100 Pipers tagline ‘True Legend’, and the brand name itself have been inspired by the legend of Bonnie Prince Charlie. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops were led into battle by a 100 Pipers, and the legend was turned into a ballad sung in their praise. Another fantastic saying associated with the brand goes, “When you taste a good whisky, you head a piper play; and when you taste a truly extraordinary whisky, you can hear a 100 Pipers play.”
The Allt a’Bhainne single malt is the blueprint source whisky around which the 100 Pipers blend has been designed. The blend also contains some of the finest malt and grain whiskies at the disposal of Chivas Brothers. In addition to Scotland, 100 Pipers is also bottled locally in India, one of the biggest markets for the whisky. In fact, 100 Pipers is the most successful and bestselling brand of Scotch whisky in India.
It became the first ever Scotch whisky brand to sell more than 1 million cases in a single year, elevating the brand over its peers in a fantastic manner. 100 Pipers blended Scotch whisky is also the ‘No. 1 standard whisky’ in Thailand, and also happens to be the ‘seventh largest blended Scotch whisky brand worldwide’.
VAT 69 Finest Scotch Whisky
The VAT 69 blend was created by William Sanderson in 1882. Although it was locally renowned, and exported to neighbouring countries back in the day, the brand began exporting on a global scale only after Prohibition had ended in America in 1933.
Sanderson created more than a 100 vattings in different casks, and had a panel of judges taste them in order to ascertain which one stood out. The ‘vat number 69’ received a near unanimous level of approval, and thus both the name of the brand and the recipe for the blend were born. The brand name has been the source of some confusion in the past, with many confusing it for a ‘vatted malt’ which is another name for blended malt whiskies.
The VAT 69 blend was built around the Glen Garioch single malt in the past. No information regarding the recipe for the blend has currently been made available by the company. Some estimates suggest that the VAT 69 blend is a combination of more than 40 different single malts and grain whiskies.
The brand has enjoyed steady success in India and other parts of the world where it competes closely with 100 Pipers Deluxe Scotch whisky such as Venezuela, Spain and Australia. As of 2019, VAT 69 was selling nearly 1.3 million cases of their product worldwide.
Deciding India’s Favourite Budget Scotch Whisky
Now that we have had a fair insight into the history, recipe and market performance of both 100 Pipers and VAT 69, let us move forward and explore how both brands fare against each other.
100 Pipers Deluxe Scotch whisky has outperformed all their competitors in recent years to take home the title of India’s bestselling Scotch whisky. Not only does 100 Pipers outperform its competitors by an impressive margin, it also became the first ever Scotch whisky brand to register sales of more than 1 million cases in a single year.
The size of the Indian Scotch whisky market is estimated to be at 3.7 million cases, with an impressive 10% rate of growth each year. With 100 Pipers making up for 1 million cases from this number, it only goes to show how dominant the brand has been. This unprecedented victory has cemented 100 Pipers authority as the reigning champion among Scotch whisky brands in India. This indicates a clear preference of the Indian consumer towards 100 Pipers.
On the global stage, 100 Pipers has sold around 1.5 million cases last year, which indicates how India makes up for a huge chunk of the brand’s sales. VAT 69 on the other hand, sold more than 1.3 million cases of their product globally in the same timeframe.
In India, 100 Pipers is the clear winner by a long shot, and even on the global stage, the 100 Pipers brand has asserted its superiority over VAT 69, a worthy yet ultimately unsuccessful challenger commercially.
Let us move forward to conduct a taste test on both brands to determine whether 100 Pipers, or VAT 69 fare batter critically with regards to their tasting notes.
First we shall be trying the 100 Pipers Deluxe Scotch whisky. It has a wonderfully balanced nose with ample amounts of fruit and peat making their way through, followed by hints of oak and vanilla. On the palate, the fruity flavours return with a pleasant sweetness of honey and delicious vanilla. The finish is smooth, well-rounded and complex, and it is a delightful whisky overall.
Now let us go for a dram of VAT 69, and find out which blended Scotch whisky takes the cake. The nose on VAT 69 is soft with a hint of malty sweetness, some caramel and spice. The palate is gentle, a little sweet and spicy balance with hints of fruit. The whisky is not too flavourful but it makes up for it with smoothness, and we sense a higher proportion of grain whisky. The finish is medium, oaky and spicy, and it could really use an ice cube to make the overall experience better.
It is time to declare the winner for The Whiskypedia’s battle for India’s favourite budget Scotch whisky, and we have to say this – not many of our battles have looked quite as one-sided as this one. 100 Pipers Deluxe Scotch whisky is the clear winner, as it has shown a greater resonance with the Indian whisky drinkers, and also blew us away with its quality during the taste test.