Teachers Highland Cream Vs Black Dog: India’s Favourite Whisky

India has one of the world’s fastest growing demands for Scotch whiskies, which makes it an area of focus for some of the world’s largest Scotch whisky makers. While the luxury single malts and blended Scotch whiskies remain an ambitious pursuit for many, it is the standard blends that form the backbone of this category.

Entry-level blends are responsible for a huge chunk of India’s massive demand for Scotch whisky, a number with stood at 3.7 in 2018. This indicates that blends such as 100 Pipers Deluxe, Teacher’s Highland Cream, Black & White, J&B Rare, Black Dog and VAT 69 are the ones that fulfil many Scotch lovers’ desires in India.

100 Pipers Deluxe is the runaway winner of this segment, selling more than 1 million cases out of the total 3.7 million cases of Scotch sold in India. This leaves the battle for second place to be an interesting and closely fought. Two contenders for the second spot, Teacher’s Highland Cream and Black Dog, are the subject of our focus today.

Teacher’s Highland Cream represents a brand that had to give up its top spot, yet remains a strong brand in India. However Black Dog represents the rising star among standard blended Scotch whiskies in India, challenging the likes of Teacher’s and others. The Whiskypedia decides which blended Scotch has the bragging rights to be the second best blended Scotch brand in India – Teacher’s Highland Cream or Black Dog?

Teacher’s Highland Cream Blended Scotch Whisky

William Teacher first established the brand in 1884, many years after he first began dabbling in whisky and whisky blending. His very own ‘dram shop’ was one of the business endeavours that led to the creation of the Teacher’s Highland Cream. After William passed away, his sons took up the family business, further advancing their father’s vision.

The Ardmore Distillery was built by the Teacher brothers in 1896 to keep up supply for the growing demand of their proprietary blend, and primary product, the Teacher’s Highland Cream blend.

Today, Teacher’s Highland Cream is a bestselling blended Scotch whisky brand throughout the world, and retains an extraordinary popularity in India. The Teacher’s brand was so immensely popular in India that the Teacher’s 50, a 12 year old, 50:50 grain and malt whisky blend was released to commemorate India’s 50th Independence Day.

Until it was dethroned by 100 Pipers Deluxe, Teacher’s Highland Cream was the bestselling blended Scotch whisky in India. This was no small feat in India, which outnumbers any other whisky drinking nation by a huge margin. It may not be the number one brand in India anymore, but the Teacher’s brand is still a force to be reckoned with. Let us take a closer look at Black Dog blended Scotch whisky.

Black Dog Blended Scotch Whisky

The origins of the Black Dog whisky brand are unclear, and unsubstantiated although the company claims the brand was established in 1883 by James MacKinlay. First mentions of bottling Black Dog whisky for India date back to 1992, a couple years before Teacher’s made its debut in India. Earlier, the product had to be imported like most whisky brands.

Black Dog

The name Black Dog was chosen by Sir Walter Samuel Millard, a young employee who was closely involved in bringing the brand to India. It is believed that Millar chose the name after his favourite salmon fishing fly, a type of lure used for fly fishing. Although the company attests to this fact on their website, no corroboration of this story has been made.

Black Dog does resonate with many Scotch lovers in India, and the brand has steadily rose in popularity over the years. Like most entry-level blends, Black Dog is bottled in India in order to keep the prices for the product lower.

In addition to the standard Black Dog expression, the Black Dog Black Reserve, the company also produces three different expressions such as Black Dog Gold Reserve 12 Years, Reserve Aged 18 Years, and Quintessence Aged 21 Years.

What Does India Love?

In order to pick the winner of the battle between Teacher’s Highland Cream and Black Dog blended Scotch, we shall be conducting a taste test, and a study of how both brands have performed in India over the years.

We first begin by trying Teacher’s Highland Cream, a no-age-statement blend built around the heavily smoked Ardmore single malt. In addition to the smoky aroma and flavour, Teacher’s Highland Cream has a sweet, malty profile accompanied by hint of fruit, vanilla and oak, followed by a long finish. It has been described as a classic, a reliable blend to go for when you’re not sure what to pick. We found Teacher’s Highland Cream to be a great value-for-money blended Scotch whisky.

It is time for us to give Black Dog a quick taste test, and The Whiskypedia will be trying the Black Dog Black Reserve, an 8 year old blend. It was launched by the company in 2006, and has been placed at the entry-level spot in the Black Dog core range. Toasted oak, soft smoke and sweet caramel flavours have a stronger influence, and there are traces of sherry, and leather. The finish is medium, with some more oak influence.

Our observation, when it comes to a direct comparison between Teacher’s and Black Dog was that Teacher’s was a superior, more intricately put together blend. The harmony of flavours and aromas is impeccable, and this explains why the former has always remained one of the top performing Scotch brands in India.

Moving towards a more quantitative analysis, we look at the sheer numbers in order to determine whether the Indian Scotch whisky lovers’ opinion is different. Unfortunately, there are no reliable sales figures available for either brand.

The only previous report listing the market share of either brand shows Teacher’s to have commanded a 29% share of the blended Scotch whisky segment in India. Black Dog was shown to have been in fourth place, with an 18% share of the segment. 100 Pipers Deluxe, the category leader in the budget Scotch whisky segment remained in pole position with a 33% share. 100 Pipers further consolidated their grip on the top spot years later when they became the first Scotch whisky brand to sell 1 million cases in India.

Back to Teacher’s Highland Cream and Black Dog, where we do not have enough data to process the superiority of either brand in the market. Thus, on the basis of The Whiskypedia’s taste test, we declare Teacher’s Highland Cream as the winner of this brief battle. What are your thoughts about it?