The plates of the gargantuan, yet homogenous Indian whisky industry began to slowly shift in 2004 when Amrut Distilleries flagship product, the first Indian single malt whisky arrived on the international scene. Until then, the major players in the whisky industry in India did not make plays beyond premium Indian blends.
Owing to no true quality whisky brands in the Indian whisky industry, major foreign whisky brands enjoyed unchallenged success in the luxury and super-premium. Brands such as Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Johnnie Walker are some of the biggest names in the global whisky industry, and enjoy a similar level of fame and popularity in India.
The brands we shall be discussing today are Johnnie Walker, a global giant that continues to be one of the most sought after brands in India, and Amrut Single Malt, an Indian-made rising star that is finally challenging the heavyweights of the whisky industry.
Before you scoff, and dismiss the conversation entirely, allow us to declare that we are aware how different both brands are. While Johnnie Walker is a blended Scotch whisky brand, Amrut is an Indian single malt whisky. The Whiskypedia is merely trying to ascertain which brand deserves your attention the next time you step out to get a bottle of whisky for yourself!
So with that sentiment, let us explore the history and background of both, Johnnie Walker and Amrut Single Malt before we delve deeper into comparing the two brands, pitting them against each other to see who triumphs.
The origins of Johnnie Walker can be traced back to 1820, when John Walker entered the grocery store business. The family did not move into the whisky blending business until 1865, nearly a decade after John Walker had passed away.
John’s son, Alexander Walker is credited with creating the Johnnie Walker blended Scotch brand. Alexander Walker II, John’s grandson also eventually joined the company to help his father grow the family business. The White Label, Red Label and Black Label were the three expressions first released in the market. These expressions were earlier named the ‘Old Highland’, the ‘Special Old Highland’, and the ‘Extra Special Old Highland’ respectively.
The Johnnie Walker logo of a ‘striding man’ is one of the most easily recognized brand insignias in the world. Some expressions from the Johnnie Walker stable of blended Scotch whiskies are among the bestselling bottlings worldwide. The brand is also immensely popular in India, a country that has witnessed a boom in demand for premium blended Scotch whiskies in recent years. The Red Label is Johnnie Walker’s bestselling expression in India, followed by the Black Label.
Now that we have a decent background and knowledge of where Johnnie Walker stands in the Indian market currently, let us get to know the whisky that shall be challenging it today.
Amrut Single Malt
Amrut Single Malt is an Indian whisky, and was the first ever single malt whisky to have been distilled, matured and bottled entirely in India. It was created by Amrut Distilleries, and has been named after the company.
Established in 1947 as Amrut Laboratories, before moving in to the spirit-based beverages business in 1949 with Silver Cup brandy, their first product. J N Radhakrishna Rao Jagdale was the man who created the Amrut brand, before passing it onto his son, Neelakanta Rao Jagdale.
NR Jagdale joined the company in 1972, but it was not before 1982 that he began distilling malt whisky from barley. This was a practice not undertaken in India at the time as most distilleries relied on spirit distilled from molasses.
The flagship product from Amrut Distilleries, the Amrut Single Malt was launched only in 2004. After learning that the hotter, more humid weather conditions in India are well-suited to accelerate the aging process for a whisky, NR Jagdale, his son Rakshit Jagdale and Surinder Kumar, the Master Blender at Amrut Distilleries, decided to create the first single malt whisky in India.
Their efforts paid off, and although the brand was met with scepticism, blind taste tests confirmed that its quality was on par with respected Scotch whisky brands. Over the years, critics and even whisky enthusiasts warmed up to the Amrut brand, which had begun to garner raving reviews from all quarters.
More and more expressions were released from the Amrut Single Malt stable. Expressions such as Amrut Naarangi, Amrut Fusion, Amrut Greedy Angels and more were all appreciated. Today, Amrut Single Malt whisky continues its ever growing popularity not just in India, but also in many foreign countries, especially in South Asian and European countries.
Johnnie Walker or Amrut Single Malt? Which Should Be Your Next Drink?
As we discussed, both Johnnie Walker and Amrut Single Malt cannot be compared effectively since they belong to different segments; the former being a blended Scotch whisky, and the latter being an Indian single malt whisky.
With that in mind, join The Whiskypedia as we try to figure what your next drink should be? Sticking to the old ways and going with the tried and trusted historic giant, or take a risk with the fresh new trailblazer on the horizon?
What do we, at The Whiskypedia think about this?
For starters, The Whiskypedia believes that people who are more open and likely to seek out new experiences, should go for a bottle of Amrut Single Malt whisky for their next purchase.
Now for the ones that are sceptical, and do love their Johnnie Walker more than everything else, here is why you should try something new. For a lot of people, trying Amrut Single Malt is matter of pride, as it was the first ever single malt whisky distilled in India. The whisky not only managed to impress critics and regular drinkers overseas, it managed to carve a niche for itself. Withstanding great scrutiny, scepticism and stereotypical prejudices, Amrut stood its ground on the international stage, and proved its mettle for all to witness.
Amrut Single Malt was already selling more than 15,000 cases annually by 2014, and that number has only risen manifold. The world seems to be enamoured with Amrut, and while Johnnie Walker continues to sustain their quality, the brand has not produced anything noteworthy since the Double Black was widely released in 2011.
The Amrut stable of single malts are not only exciting and innovative, but show an exceptional drive to experiment and present an experience to their drinker.
Expressions such as the Amrut Naarangi which has been matured in barrels of Oloroso Sherry, wine and orange peel for three years; the Amrut Fusion, distilled using malted barley from both Scotland and India, creating a delightful balance of flavours and aromas; and Amrut Peated, a peated version of the standard Amrut Single Malt.
Nearly every single expression from the Amrut single malt range has been received astonishingly well by the audience and the critics alike. Not to mention the fact that Amrut whiskies are reasonably priced since they are home-grown, which is another massive advantage they have over any Johnnie Walker whisky expression.
These qualities are a statement of intent from Amrut Distilleries, who are currently offering some of the best drinks available in the market. For the avid whisky enthusiast, it would be a travesty to not explore this promising and revolutionary new brand of single malt.