In conversation with the President – International Business , Radico Khaitan
With the global launch at the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America convention in Las Vegas, Rampur Single Malt from the Rampur Distillery or Radico Khaitan has ringed in days of the Raj, and brought with it a touch of taste, tradition and royalty. Its President – International Business, Sanjeev Banga, in a free wheeling conversation, talks about this ‘Made in India’ brand, the changing perception of Indian spirits market, experimental globetrotting consumer, and being in the distilling business for good 75 years
Q. Tell us a bit about the journey towards the making of Rampur Single Malt.
Well, for starters, we were never in a hurry to come up with our own single malt. The distillery was set up way back in 1943 a saga which is 70 plus years old. We had ventured into the blended bottle business when we introduced 8PM in 1998, and hit the million mark in the first year itself, a milestone which made us enter the Guinness Book of Records with it. The idea to come up with a single malt was endorsed by our Master Blender Anup Barik who comes from a family of blenders. We had been talking for a while and he was confident about this particular batch and we said, let’s bottle it then. Within six months, we were ready with the Rampur Single Malt and we just showcased it in Las Vegas followed by UK.
Q. You say it’s the Kohinoor of Single Malts – what sets this malt apart ?
Rampur as an estate was accorded a 15 Gun salute by the British, and hence it finds a place on the bottle, for it comes from this very estate soaked in rich history and heritage. It is known for a number of things, including the famous Rampuri Chaaku (knife), and is as Indian as it can get. Even Radico comes from Rampur – the Ra in Radico stands for Rampur, di is Distillery, and Co, Company, Khaitan, of course are the promoters. You will notice the watermark on the bottle is in Devnagri script and reads 1943, our year of establishment. The calligraphic font, the bottle sitting neatly in a silk pouch with embroidery…every detail, every element spells Indian and carries within it the Indian heritage. This is a product of India, and we are proud of it.
Kohinoor, because it is an Indian diamond, the finest and we believe we have created the finest in Rampur. If you notice, our bottles carry in print, ‘Decades of Perfection’, and we’ve perfected the art of producing alcohol, and bottled it in this single malt.
Q. What sets it apart in terms of tasting notes, cask, maturation?
It is malted barley, aged for a fairly long time, and non-chilled filtered. But yes, there is a no age claim. What is important is the liquid and how the consumer appreciates it. Rampur is a distillery at the foothills of the Himalayas, so it creates temperature extremities that affect the maturation process. Indian weather conditions are harsh compared to Scotland. As a result of extreme summers and winters, faster evaporation, leads to a faster ageing and maturation process. We’ve been very selective about the cask that we picked up and we are quite happy with the end result. The aim is how does the consumer feels it on the palate. It’s taste essentially grows on you.
Q. Did the launch require an internal mindset change, of moving towards a premium segment ?
Everyone was ready for a single malt, because why have a scotch malt when we can have a single malt? So the mindset was there, the path towards increasing our repertoire with premium choices had already started long ago. If you look at Magic Moments, its a premium vodka offering in the Indian Vodka category. It is almost head on with Smirnoff in pricing. Then came Morpheus, our most expensive brandy and largest in the IMFL Super Premium brandy category. We’ve recently launched Electra our vodka based RTDs, priced in the market at a premium to Bacardi Breezer.
Now we’ve brought Rampur. As a company we have always consciously decided to move towards the premium segment.
Q. How do you see yourself against other players?
Honestly, each brand and their malt is distinct from the other, within the same brand the variants are differentiated from one another. So basically one is competing with one self. It is not as much about comparison as it is about the right product, packaging and positioning.
You know, there was a time when India was known for rum or molasses based whiskies, and the international market couldn’t believe India could produce anything beyond it. But we came out with Vodka, and now even the Russians love it. Our brands are available in 66 countries. We are producing 13 million litres a month making Rampur and Aurangabad the largest distillery business in Asia. At 20 million cases annually, we are the largest Indian liquor company. What I am getting at is that the perception of India has changed over the years. Thanks to Amrut, they set the ball rolling. The scope is tremendous for it’s a virgin territory that has untapped potential and word of mouth works wonders.
Q. What part of the market you plan to capture in the future?
We have been a bit conservative about the numbers and production of Rampur and are not chasing volumes or rushing in. It’s a limited and controlled release and not for mass distribution. We are focusing at a global presence and appreciation initially. It is just the beginning, the first one off the block. The idea is to work on a premium strategy and build a desire in the mind of the consumer since everyone is producing a brilliant alcohol. The drams are doing exceedingly well in India, and one has to create a premium position and appreciation for these whiskies.
Q. So, what would the global footprint look like ?
We just showcased the brand in Las Vegas, followed by UK. We start our commercial production by the end of this month and plan to spread across Global Travel Retail, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Japan, Far East, Americas. We are currently present in 66 countries through our International operations of our current brands. Expansion is an easy task.
Q. Do you feel targeting the global consumer first makes the India chapter easy ?
I feel the Indian consumer is a very well educated, aware individual who knows what is happening globally. Yes, to some extent, getting the endorsement from a global audience helps, but the Indian consumer is up to speed. Today, a large segment of the Indian population is mobile, a globetrotter, and we are targeting this consumer, who is also well versed with the single malts. That is why the royal packaging and placing of the product.
Q. That brings us to the quintessential question – what are the plans for India?
There are no concrete plans yet in the first phase, but surely later on there will be more activity. It all boils down to logistics and timing – we also want it here, and we will get it, but in time.
And yes of course he does end with a happy smile, saying that once it is in India he’d love to have all malt drinkers as Rampur converts !
We wish Rampur good luck in their endeavours !
TASTING RAMPUR SINGLE MALT
NOSE – Floral, fruity, honeyed sweetness, hints of toffee, caramel and traces of spice
PALATE – Sweet creamy vanilla, mild toffee, addition of water reveals fruits like apples, apricots leaving you with a malty aftertaste which is well balanced, rich and rounded.