The Budget Whisky Kings Of India Imperial Blue Vs McDowell’s No. 1

The budget whisky segment is one of the most hotly contested spaces in India, where titans of the industry battle it out for the loyalty of the world’s largest whisky drinking nation. A number of whisky brands lay the claim to being the best budget whisky in India, but only a few have the qualities to back it up.

We are discussing two juggernauts of the budget Indian whisky segment today, Imperial Blue and McDowell’s No.1. They are the third and second highest selling Indian whisky brands, closely competing with each other, out there and out here today at The Whiskypedia.

Let us get to know both Imperial Blue and McDowell’s No.1, their history and their performance in the market over the years before we undertake a qualitative and quantitative analysis of both. The Whiskypedia will then decide our winner for The Budget Whisky King of India title. Let’s get started with Seagram’s Imperial Blue first.

Imperial Blue

Imperial Blue is a beloved Indian whisky brand, and has gained wider recognition than perhaps any of its peers all across the country. The fine grain whisky is a testament to what can be achieved by blending some of India’s finest grain whiskies with imported Scotch malts.

Imperial Blue

Launched in India over two decades ago in 1997, Imperial Blue quickly rose to the heights of success in the country banking on the quality of their product. The Imperial Blue brand was registering sales of more than 3 million cases per year within a decade of their initial launch.

This unprecedented success was made possible by the extraordinary quality of the whisky, and the stylish packaging of the product. The packaging was redesigned in 2002, helping the brand strike a chord with the suave, urban Indian whisky lover.

Over the years, Imperial Blue has cemented itself in the position of India’s top whisky brands. Imperial Blue enjoyed such immense popularity that the initials, IB, forever became associated with the brand. This has established a familiar identity for Imperial Blue in the mind of the Indian whisky lover.

Today, Imperial Blue is one of the few whisky brands of the world to sell more than 22.7 million cases of their product per year. This astonishing sales figure has shot Imperial Blue to the pinnacle of Indian whiskies, where it currently occupies the third spot.

McDowell’s No.1

One of India’s oldest alcoholic beverage brands, McDowell’s No.1 was first launched during the 1960s with some dispute regarding the actual year. Throughout its near 50+ years of existence, the McDowell’s brand has changed hands multiple times. The brand currently forms part of the Diageo India subsidiary, United Spirits Ltd. portfolio.

McDowell’s No. 1

It is a blended Indian whisky created by combining Scotch malts with neutral molasses-based spirits and Indian grain whisky. McDowell’s No.1 has been a popular admix segment brand since the turn of the millennium, enjoying relatively subdued success earlier.

McDowell’s No.1 is an umbrella spirits brand, wherein the whisky is accompanied by two additional products, rum and brandy. All three products under the McDowell’s No.1 umbrella are popular, selling a predominantly higher chunk in the rural regions of India.

Today, the McDowell’s No.1 whisky brands sells more than 29 million cases per year, which makes it the second highest selling whisky brand in the world. It has been involved in a fierce battle with Imperial Blue over the years with both brands competing strongly for the loyalty of the Indian consumer.

Let us pit the two giants of blended Indian whisky against each other for an in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to determine the King of India’s budget whisky!

Picking The Budget Whisky King Of India

Understanding the superior budget Indian whisky takes more than a look at the sales figures of both brands, and at The Whiskypedia, we believe in being completely thorough. So we tried both whiskies, Imperial Blue and McDowell’s No.1 Reserve, and here are our thoughts.

The smoothness that Imperial Blue is renowned for, is an authentic claim because we found it to be the smoother drink when compared with McDowell’s No.1. In terms of aroma, we found McDowell’s to have an off-putting acetone finish, which could be due to the neutral spirits used in the blend.

Imperial Blue was the more flavourful whisky out of the two, and a terrific drink with a splash of water. Indian whisky drinkers prefer their whiskies to have a bit of bite, which determines how ‘strong’ a whisky is. Both whiskies fare equally well on the ‘strong’ factor, although The Whiskypedia found Imperial Blue to be a significantly better product.

Let us now delve deeper into the sales figures, and popularity of the two whisky brands to uncover the driving force behind their domination of the number two and number three spots for bestselling whisky brands all over the world.

While Imperial Blue is a fairly younger entrant in the Indian whisky market when compared with McDowell’s No.1, both brands hit their stride during the late 2000s. Over the years, the veteran McDowell’s No.1 was performing at a similar pace as the challenger, although Imperial Blue has caught up with its competitor.

In 2010, Imperial Blue was selling as many as 6.1 million cases per year, whereas McDowell’s No.1 was doing significantly better at 14.3 million cases. This is where things get interesting, and the astonishing performance by Imperial Blue becomes clear.

Currently, Imperial Blue’s sales figures stand at 22.7 million cases per year. On the other hand, McDowell’s No.1, although still outselling its competitor at 29 million, has had their lead cut down to just 7 million cases per year.

The Indian whisky industry is a booming, burgeoning space, and both brands are experiencing tremendous growth. However, McDowell’s No. 1 has their growth clocked at 10% each year, Imperial Blue is doing considerably better at a growth rate of 19.3%.

Not only does Imperial Blue rank much higher than its competitor in terms of quality, their performance in the market tells the story of a consistent, revolutionary product slowly taking its rightful spot over a seasoned veteran. The Whiskypedia declares Imperial Blue as the budget whisky king of India for its amazing taste, and their well-deserved growing domination in a fiercely competitive industry.