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.
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 difcult. 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 Trufe 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