“Wines and beers have been overdone in Mumbai. There are people who would like to appreciate other liquors as well, but tend not to change preferences owing to lack of insight and availability of other liquor brands! At most times there are genuine buyers who state that the cost of the liquor is a lot higher in India owing to the taxes. Also, taxation system for liquor is determined by the state. Hence cost of the bottle varies from state to state or market to market,” states Vinayak Singh, an investment banker and founder of the Dram Club.
Need for education
The Dram Club came into being from the sheer need to cater to a common interest around whiskey and single malts. “There have been many whiskey enthusiasts, who have yearned to discuss and share good spirits. But the erratic city life compels them to take a back seat. Yet this was precisely the reason why the Dram Club came into being,” shares Vinayak Singh. It started with friends, and friends’ friends who would come and share their insights on whiskey, nose the drink, enjoy what it feels like on the palate, and even cherish every note of the alco-bev. Some casual banter and witticism around whiskey make the experience more fun.
Elixir of Life
Typically what seems to fascinate Vinayak and members of the Dram Club over the years is not just the whiskey, but the process that is involved in making what the enthusiasts would call the ‘elixir of life’.
Becoming an enthusiast
Vinayak has always been a diehard Al Pacino fan. “Al Pacino would sip on Jack Daniel’s, and I would assume that this was the best bourbon one could ever have,” states Vinayak. However, one fine day his landlord came over and introduced Vinayak to the charms of other single malts, that simply left him awestruck. “From then on there was no stopping. I started an extensive research on bourbons and single malts. My travels took me places and I was taken on private tours with eminent whiskey producers, where we could comprehend the nuances of whiskey.”
India is the third largest whiskey importer according to the Scottish Whiskey Association Reports. However, there is a genuine problem. People here pick only the more established brands. In spite of the frequent travels, people are afraid to experiment, and tend to follow the bandwagon. “But times are changing, and gradually as the other whiskey brands begin to push themselves in the market, buyers are becoming more aware and are now ready to forego the available freebies in lieu of a better whiskey.”
Today there are many individuals (Indians included) who would invest whopping sums on collecting some rare whiskeys. Some of these are brought out at auctions. The bottle is either used over a period of time or sold as an asset. Unlike wine, whiskey doesn’t age in the bottle. Hence the investment dynamics of the same change as compared to that of wine. It is gradually being considered as an investment option by investors too.
The more interesting fact is women are fast emerging as appreciators of hard liquor. It is interesting to learn from Vinayak, that there are more women who turn up at the Dram Club event every month. “I have never always been a whiskey enthusiast. The drink simply grew on me with time. However, what I really appreciate about whiskey is the complex flavours. Wine is indeed complex, but is not conducive to Indian weather, and pretty much sits in your stomach. Beer is great during the summer, and whiskey is calmer, and pretty much hugs your stomach during the winter months,” adds Neha Bedi Swarup, a city based graphic designer, and Dram Club enthusiast.
What India really needs is a little education on the trends in libation. Not with the motive of promoting drinking, but simply to educate people on drinking more suitably and wisely, while encouraging them to try some interesting spirit options.