RAIS­ING A TOAST

Vic­tor Ku­jawski- Ex­ports Sales Man­ager at In­ter­na­tional Bev­er­age Hold­ings Ltd. gives us his take on the Indian liquor mar­ket and his pre­ferred choice of drink.

MillionaireAsia India - - In Conversation - By Rama Ahuja

While whiskey is the liquor of choice for most In­di­ans, IBHL has added to the ar­ray of op­tions avail­able and made the se­lec­tion of favourites all the more difcult. We learn more about the grow­ing mar­ket and its of­fer­ings from the horse’s mouth.

Can you please tell us a lit­tle about In­ter­na­tional Bev­er­age Hold­ings Lim­ited?

In­ter­na­tional Bev­er­age Hold­ings Lim­ited is one of the in­dus­try’s most dy­namic global drinks busi­nesses. Es­tab­lished in 2006 as the in­ter­na­tional arm of ThaiBev, the com­pany spe­cialises in de­vel­op­ing dis­tinc­tive, premium lo­cal brands for global growth. It boasts of a port­fo­lio that is led by a range of high qual­ity Scotch whiskies and in­cludes some of the fastest grow­ing and most pres­ti­gious beers, spir­its and whiskies in the mar­ket to­day. In­ter­na­tional Bev­er­age’s in­ter­na­tional oper­a­tion is head­quar­tered in Hong Kong, with two ma­jor bases in China and Scot­land and a grow­ing num­ber of re­gional hubs around the world. In In­dia, IBHL has launched four of its core brands – Old Pul­teney, Bal­blair and Spey­burn sin­gle malts and Caorunn Gin.

What’s your take on the Indian liquor mar­ket?

I saw a lot of in­ter­est­ing things in the Indian mar­ket such as great amount of in­ter­est premium spir­its with a large choice of brands. Af­ter vis­it­ing var­i­ous ho­tels, bars and restau­rants, I no­ticed a grow­ing cat­e­gory where there is space for new brands like our whiskies and gin. The con­sumers are will­ing to try new prod­ucts es­pe­cially in the sin­gle malt seg­ment. I also see a great po­ten­tial for the gin mar­ket. I vis­ited a few cock­tail bars and met bar­tenders who whipped some great cock­tails based on our brands, with of them us­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and the re­sult was ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic!

Eastern Europe, which is the area I am re­spon­si­ble for, is a mar­ket dom­i­nated by vodka since it is a lo­cal prod­uct. In In­dia, I could see it is much dif­fer­ent, as the lo­cal prod­ucts are brown spir­its, es­pe­cially whiskey.

In Novem­ber 2016, IBHL had in­tro­duced three of its nest spir­its in the duty-free stores at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi In­ter­na­tional Air­port - Old Pul­teney and Bal­blair; along with a su­per­premium hand­crafted Scot­tish gin; Caorunn. How has the re­sponse been so far given that In­di­ans love their whiskey?

The re­sponse thus far has been fan­tas­tic and we couldn’t be hap­pier with the sup­port ex­tended by Delhi Duty Free to­wards our brands in what has been an ini­tial trial pe­riod over the past six months. To be fair, we did have rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions from

our whiskey brands, in part be­cause the Indian con­sumer to­day is far more trav­elled, ex­pe­ri­enced and dis­cern­ing than ever be­fore and also due to the nu­mer­ous ac­co­lades our brands have won in the past few years. How­ever, thus far the ac­cep­tance re­ceived by our brands has been well above our ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tions. In fact, In­dia be­ing a whiskey mar­ket, it shouldn’t be that sur­pris­ing that our sin­gle malts, both Old Pul­teney and Bal­blair are do­ing well. But the real rev­e­la­tion has been the per­for­mance of our Su­per Premium gin, Caorunn. The fact that a gin brand in a rel­a­tively small seg­ment of premium gin, can re­main com­pet­i­tive in a pre­dom­i­nantly whiskey en­vi­ron­ment is heart­en­ing to us.

2016 was a special year for In­ter­na­tional Bev­er­age Hold­ings as it scooped an im­pres­sive 35 medals at two of the world’s lead­ing spirit com­pe­ti­tions. What are the plans for 2017?

2016 has been a very special year for the com­pany, not just for the in­di­vid­ual ac­co­lades that each of brands has won, in­clud­ing the World’s Best Sin­gle Malt for Old Pul­teney 1989 Vin­tage, but also be­cause the year for us ended on a high note, be­ing de­clared the Dis­tiller of the Year, a cov­eted ac­co­lade from the Icons of Whiskey.

For 2017, there are a fair num­ber of plans in the works on a global level but for In­dia our fo­cus re­mains on build­ing and en­hanc­ing the core port­fo­lio cur­rently on offer. For us, 2017 shall bring in­tro­duc­tion of the much awaited older ex­pres­sions of both Bal­blair and Old Pul­teney in­clud­ing the Bal­blair 1999, a crack­ing 17 Year dram, the Old Pul­teney 17 Year Old and of course the Old Pul­teney 21 Year Old, which was awarded the Best Whiskey in the World by Jim Mur­ray’s Whiskey Bi­ble back in 2012 and still re­mains a favourite for malt en­thu­si­asts every­where.

Can you please share some ideal food pairings with sin­gle malt?

Every sin­gle malt is unique in terms of its taste and there are a num­ber of food pair­ing choices that can com­ple­ment its avour. Our whiskies go well with so many cuisines. In fact, we saw some great food pairings at our tast­ing evening at KOKO in Mumbai, with their sig­na­ture prepa­ra­tions such as Prawn Tem­pura Roll, Spicy Salmon and Trufe dumplings. On a gen­eral note, Spey­burn goes well with creamy dishes such as Chicken Malai tikka or mushroom and broc­coli based prepa­ra­tions. Bal­blair’s rich avours are com­ple­mented with prawn or smoked salmon dishes. Old Pul­teney pairs es­pe­cially well with spicy, curry-based

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