With a whisky market worth in billions, India is one of the top whisky consuming countries. However, as the consumers grow in numbers, so do the whisky produced within the country. In this article we’ll give all the information on the top 7 Indian Single Malt Whisky Brands from the pioneers to the upcoming expressions.
Looking to the whisky market, India has been on the rise both for consuming and for producing whisky. And, if experts tend to disagree on whether or not this Indian spirit is whisky per se, the truth is that Indian single malts have been looked for either within or outside the country.
It is also true that, given that India produced spirits from sugarcane molasses, the European Union did not approve the denomination of this spirit as “whisky”. Although the product denomination was qualified as whisky in India (due to the current regulations), it could not be sold with that labelling within the EU.
As the EU had already established, in order for it to be sold as whisky, the spirit must be produced from grains. And that was what India distilleries did: the country became one of the largest wheat producers of the world and two giant Indian whisky brands launched their first single malts.
Since Amrut launched the first Indian Single Malt Whisky, in 2004, a lot of other distilleries followed. Some of them already won international medals and quite a few expressions Paul John Whisky were featured on previous Whisky Flavour Subscription Boxes sent to our customers.
Table of Contents – Sip this Article
- What is Indian Single Malt Whisky
- Indian Single Malt Whisky Brands – A Top 10 List
What is Indian Single Malt Whisky?
Paul John, Rampur and Amrut are only three major Indian whisky brands waiting for you to taste them. As Amrut took the first step in producing Indian Single Malt Whisky, the others followed and even Diageo have now a foot on the Indian whisky market with an expression of their own.
The Indian Single Malt Whisky was a product of necessity, though. Amrut produced expressions mostly for blended whisky, but there came a time in which the brand had a lot more malt whisky maturing than it was needed. Out of this necessity to not accumulate stock, the brand labelled that expression as single malt and launched the first Indian Single Malt in Scotland, in 2004.
Paul John whisky, however, followed Amrut leap of faith, but aiming for the premium market of Single Malt whiskies. The Paul John Classic Single Cask Whisky was launched in London, in 2012.
Indian Single Malt Whisky vs Single Malt Scotch Whisky
As said before in this article, in order to be sold in Europe as “whisky”, Indian Single Malt has to follow the regulations of Scotch Whisky’s production and aging.
As part of the process, it has to be made of at least 51% malted barley and aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks. However, there are a couple differences between the two.
First, the type of barley used for mashing of Indian whisky is the six-row barley, instead of the two-row barley used in Scotch whisky. The main distinction is that the first has less carbohydrates, so it generates less sugar that turns into alcohol.
The other difference is the years of maturation in oak casks. As the weather is hotter in India than in Scotland, whisky matures faster. It is said that 1 year of maturation in India is equivalent of 3 aging years in Scotland. And that is one of the reasons why a lot of Indian whisky brands are no age statements.
The hot climate also influences the high quantity of ‘Angel’s Share’. Indian whisky brands lose around 12% abv for this spirit evaporation collateral.
These two factors in Indian Single Malt Whisky production are enough to give a fruity, spicy and malty flavour profile to the spirit. There are also Peated Indian Whisky expressions, which are made with imported peat from Scotland.
Indian Whisky Brands – A Top 7 List
Paul John Single Malt Whisky
Paul John presented its first single malt in 2012 in the United Kingdom and to the Indian market one year later. After that leap of faith, this brand’s single malts have won 250 awards in only 8 years.
This Indian whisky brand is a synonym of excellence and since the beginning it thrived by creating single malt expressions for a niche of people who love to premium whisky. Paul John Whisky is so unique, we had to include 5 expressions in some of the Whisky Tasting Boxes we sent to our costumers in the past.
Paul John was founded in 1996 in the shore of Goa by Paul P John and it is the world’s sixth largest whisky brand. Besides having a large production, the production process of this brand runs carefully to create exquisite whiskies.
Starting with the ingredients, Paul John Single Malt Whisky uses the six-row barley which gives the whisky its depth and robust character, as well as its oily mouthfeel. As for water, it is gathered in Goa’s pure underground, rain-fed water sources and water that flows in the Western Ghats.
To be sold as whisky, Paul John Single Malts have to be distilled in pot stills. The long necks of these stills were designed specifically for Paul John Distilleries, where the spirit is distilled twice. This process gives the whisky its fruity flavours, as well as its full body and smooth finish.
The maturation takes place in American Oak Casks for as long as it is necessary, since this Indian whisky brand’s expression have a No Age Statement.
With no additives and being non-chilled filtered, the Paul John whisky expressions have been awarded time after time and the brand comes up with new and more creative ranges of whisky completely worth tasting.
Here are the 5 expressions we have included in previously sent Whisky Tasting Boxes:
- Paul John Brilliance Indian Single Malt Whisky – Smooth, sweet and light spices flavour notes, this whisky has been awarded 9 times, including a Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018.
- Paul John Edited Indian Single Malt Whisky – Lightly peated, herbal, sweet and with hints of coffee. This expression has been awarded 9 times, with a Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018.
- Paul John Bold Indian Single Malt Whisky – A Peated Single Malt with silky mouthfeel. It has honey and spice flavour notes as well. Awarded 9 times as the previous expressions, it also won Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018.
- Paul John Classic Select Cask Indian Single Malt Whisky – With a tropical character, this spirit has fruity and malty aromas, as well as honey flavours. The Classic have already won 9 awards, including a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018 and the Liquid Gold Award by Jim Murray.
- Paul John Peated Select Cask Indian Single Malt Whisky – Smoky and earthy character with sweet and spicy flavour notes.
Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky
The Rampur distillery is running since 1943 and it’s the oldest in India. Although it didn’t produce whisky according to the EU norms since the beginning, the spirits produced there are unique since day one.
Being located in the Himalaya’s foothills, the distillery has everything it needs to produce one of the richest whiskies in the whole India: the climate, the fresh water sources and the 6-row barley.
Rampur Indian Single Malt Whisky, that was launched in EU in 2015, is also handcrafted, which means that each bottle incorporates India’s soul and heritage. This whisky is known for its complexity and deep character, as well as its smooth taste and long finish.
This brand’s range have at least two very well quoted expressions – Rampur Select and Rampur Double Cask. But, because two are not enough, we present you for go-to Indian whisky expressions:
- Rampur Select Indian Single Malt Whisky – Known as the “Kohinoor” of Single Malts, this expression is warm and smooth, with fruity, spicy and sweet flavour notes. It has won Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards 2017.
- Rampur Double Cask Indian Single Malt Whisky – Matured in ex-bourbon casks and ex-sherry casks, this single malt has a full-body, sweet and spicy notes and a long finish. It has won a gold medal in the Fifty Best World Whisky 2020.
- Rampur PX Sherry Finish Indian Single Malt Whisky – Only 48 casks of this dram were crafted. This limited edition is matured in American oak and Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks, giving it its fruity, spice and sweet flavour notes.
- Rampur Asava Indian Single Malt Whisky – A pioneer whisky aged in ex-bourbon casks and Indian Cabernet Sauvignon casks, creating an exquisite expression with a velvet mouthfeel, notes of tropical fruit, tobacco, honey and a dry lingering finish.
Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky
The first Indian Single Malt Whisky was produced by Amrut distilleries and presented as such to the European market. From there, the world was ready to taste Amrut whisky expressions – which are now available in 44 countries.
Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky is made from 6-row barley grown in India and 2-row barley grown in Scotland. This mix gives the whisky its complex character that goes from smoky to sweet, from spicy to fruity.
Amrut has a quite a distinct range of whisky expressions and a lot more awards. Here’s the core range of the brand:
- Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky – Aged in Oak Barrels, this was the first Indian Single Malt ever launched. This expression has a rich character with a bittersweet balance and a silky mouthfeel. It has won the Liquid Gold Award by Jim Murray in 2010.
- Amrut Indian Single Malt Cask Strength – As the previous expression, this dram has a bittersweet character, with noticeable sweet barley, spicy oak and hints of citrus. The finish is long and buttery. This single malt won the Gold Medal at The International Review of Spirits 2013.
- Amrut Peated Indian Single Malt Whisky – Dry and spicy, this Indian whisky expression uses imported peat to dry the barley. The result is a dry, spicy and smoky spirit, with a molasses sugar background. It has won the Liquid Gold Award by Jim Murray in 2010.
- Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky – Probably one of Amrut’s most well-known whisky. The Fusion is a complex and heavy expression. It goes from peaty to sherries, passing through notes of vanilla, fresh fruit and chocolate. This expression won the Third Finest Whisky in the World, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2010 and World Whisky of the Year, Malt Advocates Whisky Awards 2011.
- Amrut 004 Spectrum Indian Single Malt Whisky – One of the most innovative of the Amrut range. The ‘Spectrum’ is aged in custom barrels built with 4 types of staves: charred new American oak, lightly toasted new French oak, ex-oloroso sherry and ex-PX sherry. This is a highly fruity and sweet drum, as well as nutty.
Kamet Indian Single Malt Whisky
Produced by Madya Beverages, Peak Spirits and Piccadilly Distillery, Kamet is a Single Malt Whisky that combines Indian heritage with new approaches to whisky production.
Kamet is the name of the third highest peak of the Indian part of the Himalayas, and it all starts in the foothill of this mount. Known as the “Glacier of Fire” by the locals, it’s in its base that grows the 6-row barley used for the mashing and where is located the production site of this Indian whisky expression. With fresh water sources, the town of Kurukshetra is the perfect location to produce such a unique spirit as Kamet Single Malt.
Kamet Indian Single Malt Whisky is matured in 4 different types of casks: ex-bourbon American oak, ex-wine French oak, ex-PX sherry and ex-oloroso sherry casks. All these casks combined with the 6-row barley and the Himalayas water sources create a complex, fruity and spicy whisky. It also has sweet notes of vanilla, hints of nuts and dark chocolate and ends in a warm and lingering sweetness.
Indri Trini ‘Three Wood’ Indian Single Malt Whisky
A triple cask Indian Single Malt Whisky to rule them all! Indri Trini ‘Three Wood’ is one of the upcoming Indian whisky expressions that are truly as innovative as they are a game changer.
Sharing the name of the village where the distillery is located, Indri uses the Himalayas resources to produce one of the best quoted and multi-awarded Indian single malt whisky. It happens with most of the this type of single malts, Indri Trini uses 6-row barley and water from the river Yamuna to create the mash. It is then distilled twice before aging in three different kinds of casks – ex-Bourbon, ex-French Wine, Pedro Ximénez Sherry casks.
All this combined culminate in a complex, warm and very aromatic whisky. It has a fruity and sweet character, with notes of pineapple, blackberries, oranges, vanilla, honey and sherry. It also has notes of black tea and a nutty background.
The Indri Trini ‘Three Wood’ Single Malt Whisky has won several awards, such as Gold Medal at International Whiskey Competition 2022, Gold Medal in the International Spirits Challenge 2022 and Platinum in the Las Vegas Global Spirits Award.
Solan Gold Indian Single Malt Whisky
Located in the Himalayan Highlands, the Kasauli distillery was placed in an elevation of over 6000 feet and it collects water directly from those mountains.
Although this whisky is not so well-known as the ones presented previously in this article, Solan Gold is a premium whisky created for true connoisseurs. Made with a basic recipe 6-row barley, fresh spring water from the Himalayas and matured in Virgin American Oak casks, it delivers complexity one would not expect.
Its character is fruity and sweet, with wood spices popping up. Its finish is smooth, warm and long.
Godawan Indian Single Malt Whisky, by Diageo
The second biggest alcohol company entered the Indian Single Malt Whisky Game with a heated dram.
Diageo was inspired by the desert state of Rajasthan and one of the production differences is matured at a temperature around 100ºF. This change enables the whisky to become more complex in flavour. The other factor that makes this Indian Single Malt distinct from others is the maturation finish in casks that were previously merged in Indian botanicals – Rasna and Jatamansi.
With this two different finishings, two expressions were created with only numbers to differentiate them.
- Godawan 01 – Matured in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks, it has a rich and round character.
- Godawan 02 – Matured in Sherry casks, it’s a fruity and spicy single malt whisky.
Solan Gold, Rampur and Kamet aren’t available in Kolkata. How can I get one bottle each?