Do you Know Whisky ranks as the topmost selling alcoholic drink in India and continues to lead the race with beer, which is the world’s third favourite drink.
Whisky in India is popular because it contains at least 40 percent Alcohol by Volume (ABV). Most Indian whiskies generally have a content of 42.8 percent ABV.
Surely, You too love whisky.
That’s the reason you are searching for the best whisky brands in India.
Unless you have a preference for a specific Whisky brand, the choice of whiskies available at any liquor shop in India can be quite perplexing.
Here we take a look at some of the most popular Indian whisky Brands.
Top Selling Whisky Brands
Whisky made in India is called ‘Indian Whisky’. It cannot be termed ‘Scotch Whisky’ or known by any other foreign name.
This is because the term ‘Scotch Whisky’ can be used only for whisky distilled and bottled in Scotland. In India, whiskies are broadly classified as Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL).
Here we take a look at some top selling whisky brands in the Indian market. The prices we indicate are for a 750ml flask of whisky.
List of 10 Best Whisky Brands in India With Price:
1. Peter Scot (Rs.1,200)
Peter Scot has been a favourite Whisky brand of Indians since the 1980s.
It is made by a reputed but lesser known distiller in Karnataka- Khoday India Ltd.
The brand’s popularity caused sufficient heartburn worldwide and its manufactures, KIL moved various courts in India claiming the name ‘Peter Scot’ deceived consumers into believing it was a Scottish product or had connections to Scotland.
After numerous court battles with the Scotch Whisky Association, the Supreme Court of India ruled that KIL was not deceiving anyone.
It ruled that the price of Peter Scot clearly indicates its buyers are affluent and educated and hence, the word ‘Scot’ could not deceive them.
Price for a 750ml flask of Peter Scot whisky is Rs 1200.
2. Bagpiper (Rs.400)
The bagpiper is perhaps the most widely advertised Indian whisky Brand.
It has been promoted by top Bollywood stars including Dharmendra, who was also its brand ambassador.
Other notable Bollywood personalities that appeared in Bagpiper Whisky ads include actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, Jackie Shroff, Ajay Devgn, Shahrukh Khan and Sunny Deol- the son of brand ambassador Dharmendra.
Bagpiper was launched in 1976 by Herbertsons India Ltd and was acquired by United Spirits Ltd. It is manufactured at different locations in the country.
The brand is also exported to certain Arabian Gulf countries and is popular among expatriate Indians and various foreign communities there.
It was the first whisky to be sold in PET bottles and Tetra Pack.
Price for a 750ml flask of Bagpiper whisky is Rs 400.
3. McDowell’s No-1 (Rs.600 and upwards depending on variant)
McDowell’s No-1 is the oldest surviving brand of whisky in India.
It gets the name from Scotland’s ‘distillery king’ named Angus McDowell who established a distillery, McDowell & Co in 1898 and launched the eponymous whisky brand.
McDowell’s No-1 is now the flagship brand of United Spirits Ltd.
The world’s first ‘diet’ whisky that speeds metabolism, McDowell’s No-1 Diet Mate was launched under this brand. McDowell’s No-1 whisky is available in different variants, Premium, Diet Mate, Platinum, and McDowell No-1 Single Malt. Another whisky, McDowell’s No-1 Reserve is also available at select stores in India.
The entire McDowell No-1 line of whisky is also exported from India.
Price for a 750ml flask of Mcdowell’s No-1 whisky is Rs 600 and above depending upon the variant you buy.
4 Royal Challenge (Rs.1,000)
Royal Challenge is one of the largest selling whiskies of India since its launch in 1980 by Shaw Wallace & C0.
It is a medium price whisky that contains a blend of malts from Scotland and India and molasses alcohol.
The brand is now manufactured by United Spirits Ltd at various distilleries in India. Royal Challenge, commonly called RC by its fans, is also exported to several countries and is available in the UK and US markets.
A cricket team of Indian Premier League, Royal Challengers Bangalore is sponsored by the brand.
Price for a 750ml flask of Royal Challenge whisky is Rs 1000.
5. Royal Stag (Rs.900 to Rs 1,250 depending on variant)
Royal Stag is a very popular brand of Indian malt whisky launched in 1995 by multinational company and distiller, Pernod Ricard, under the ‘Seagram’ label.
Royal Stag is available in two variants- regular and Barrel Select. This whisky has a distinct grainy flavour which makes it the favourite of many drinkers.
The brand targets the middle and upper-middle-income group of whisky aficionados of India.
It is manufactured by Pernod Ricard at various distilleries in India and exported to select markets abroad.
Price for a 750ml flask of Royal Stag whisky is Rs 900 to Rs 1250 depending upon the variant.
6. Blenders Pride (Rs.700 to Rs.1,400 depending upon variant)
Blenders Pride is another famous Indian whisky introduced into the market by Pernod Ricard.
It was launched under the Seagram label in 1995 and competes with some of the topmost whisky brands of the country.
Blenders Pride is available in two variants: Blenders Pride Reserve Collection and the premium Blenders Pride Rare Premium. This whisky is a blend of malts from India and Scotland and some percentage of molasses alcohol.
Price for a 750ml flask of Blenders pride whisky is Rs 700 to Rs 1400 Depending upon the variant.
7. Antiquity (Rs.1,100 to Rs.1,600 depending upon variant)
Antiquity made its maiden appearance in Indian liquor market in 1992 as a premium whisky Brand.
It is a brand manufactured by the country’s IMFL major United Spirits Ltd. Antiquity took the market by storm since its launch, since it catered to the upper and upper-middle income groups of the Indian society and at a time when foreign manufacturers were to make a mark in this country.
This whisky is available in two variants: Antiquity Rare Premium and the upscale Antiquity Blue Ultra Premium. The latter is presented in a unique blue flask to signify its quality.
Price for a 750ml flask of Antiquity whisky is Rs 1,100 to Rs 1600 Depending upon the variant.
8. Imperial Blue (Rs.700)
Imperial Blue is a premier brand of Indian whisky.
It was launched by Pernod Ricard in 1997 under the Seagram label. Pernod Ricard had acquired Seagram’s Indian operations and its local brands, including Imperial Blue.
The company faced a few initial hurdles in marketing Imperial Blue due to the acquisition process. However, Pernod Ricard reintroduced the brand in 2002.
Imperial Blue was promoted under the catchphrase ‘Men will be Men’.
However, strictures on liquor advertising enforced by the Indian government forced Pernod Ricard to promote the brand using alternative methods.
The company sponsored an Rs. 10 million Bollywood movie named ‘Men will be Men’ to drive home the Imperial Brand.
Price for a 750ml flask of Imperial Blue whisky is Rs 700.
9. Signature (Rs.1,150 to Rs. 1,500 depending on variant)
Signature whisky was launched in 1992 by United Spirits Ltd.
Initially, it was marketed under the McDowell’s line but later as a stand-alone premium product.
It is the only whisky in the world to be sold in an octagonal flask.
The special flask was designed by London-based design firm Claessens International. Signature is a blend of Scottish and Indian malts.
It is available in two variants: Signature Premium Grain Whisky and Signature Rare Aged Whisky.
The two variants are also available in one-litre flasks, which is uncommon in India.
Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar and Abhay Deol have been brand ambassadors for Signature whisky.
Price for a 750ml flask of Blenders pride whisky is Rs 1100 to Rs 1500 Depending upon the variant.
10. Officer’s Choice (Rs.300 to Rs. 1,200 depending upon variant)
Officer’s Choice, launched in 1988 is the world’s highest selling whisky Brand.
It overtook Johnny Walker brand as the topmost selling whisky in 2013 and has consistently held its position since then.
It also overtook Smirnoff as the world’s largest selling liquor brand in 2014.
It is the most famous whiskies of India and widely popular among the entire spectrum of whisky drinkers.
Officer’s Choice is made by Allied Blenders & Distillers. Officer’s Choice is Indian malt whisky blended with molasses alcohol.
Officer’s Choice is targeted at lower-middle income segment of the Indian society.
It is available in two premium variants, Officer’s Choice Blue and Officer’s Choice Black and Officer’s Choice Prestige aimed at higher income groups.
Other Popular Brands
In addition to these top selling brands, there are several other Indian Whisky brands that are popular in the country.
- Hayward’s Fine
- After Dark
- Old Tavern
- Directors Special
- Green Label
- DSP Black
- Mansion House
- Original Choice
- Red Knight
- Rowson’s Reserve Rare
Some of these whiskies may not be available in select markets.
The whiskies we have listed among top 10 can generally be found across India. However, they will be manufactured by a distillery in that state or a nearby one.
There are two whiskies in India that deserve special mention in this article.
Real’s Whisky is made by one of oldest business houses of Goa, Real Group of Industries. Their brand, Real’s Whisky is by far the cheapest one available in India and possibly the world.
A bottle of 750ml Real’s Whisky sells in Goa for Rs.70 only. The brand was also sold in 90ml sachets earlier.
However, these sachets were discontinued after governments of adjoining Karnataka and Maharashtra complained that bootleggers were smuggling these sachets for illegal sales in these states, where liquor prices are much higher.
Amrut is a range of whiskies launched in 2004 by an Indian company, Amrut Distilleries.
This whisky has found aficionados around the world and may become a global brand.
Amrut Fusion Malt, one of its variants, has been named as the third best whisky in the world by Murray, a publication that reviews different alcoholic drinks.
Amrut manufactures seven variants of its whiskies, which are in the premium segment.
Popular Foreign Whisky Brands in India
Nowadays, Indian whiskies are competing increasingly with major foreign brands in the market. Most popular foreign brands in India are from Scotland, though a couple of American brands are also popular.
- Johnny Walker: Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue Label.
- Chivas Regal
- Black Dog
- Vat 69
- Black & White
- Jameson (Ireland)
- Jack Daniels (US)
- Southern Comfort (US)
- Teacher’s Special
- J & B Rare
Whisky Facts in India
India consumes about 1.7 billion litres of whisky every year- which is almost half the total amount of whiskies produced in the world.
Whisky ranks as the most famous alcoholic drinks of India. While India’s whisky production has almost doubled over the decade, the market is now also dominated by foreign companies who are manufacturing some brands locally for this country.
In India, whisky is predominantly made of wheat malts, since the country has a large production of this food grain.
However, in recent years, whisky distilled from barley is also becoming popular.
A lot of whiskies in the lower price range in India contain very limited or no grain malts.
Instead, they are made purely from molasses alcohol. Since molasses alcohol is colourless, distillers add food colours such as caramel and artificial flavours to impact a whisky-like taste and flavour to the drink.
History of Indian Whisky
India’s whisky also traces its history to the ancient times.
The first recorded mention of intoxicating drinks made by fermenting wheat in India dates back to about 2000BC.
It is likely that ancient Indians had mastered the art of fermenting various grains and fruits and distilling alcohol using methods that are prevalent till date for making hooch or illegal spirits.
Modern-day whisky arrived on the Indian subcontinent in 18th Century and was brought by officers of the British East India Company.
However, as British grip over the Indian subcontinent increased, it became impossible to ship thousands of cartons of the whisky from Scotland to India.
Sensing the need for a local distillery, Edward Abraham Dyer set up a brewery and distillery in Kasauli in modern-day Himachal Pradesh.
With wheat supplies from Punjab, this brewery and distillery began manufacturing the first beer and whisky on the Indian subcontinent.
Around the same time, other British entrepreneurs opened breweries and distilleries in Murree in modern-day Pakistan to make beer and whisky from wheat grown in Punjab.
As mentioned earlier, McDowell’s No-1 is the oldest surviving brand of whisky in India.
Following the success of Amrut Single Malt in the UK and US markets, Indian distillers are hopeful of making a big splash on the international whisky scene.
Already, major Indian brands such as McDowell’s No-1, Bagpiper and Royal Challenge, among others are being exported to markets in the Middle East. Indian distillers are now eyeing lucrative markets of Australia, US and Canada as well as the Far East.
However, it may be some time before Indian whiskies find some popularity since Scotch whisky has dominated the market for centuries.
American and Japanese distillers are also finding it tough to dislodge traditional favourites from Scotland.
Since India is a huge market for whisky, there is a flourishing business of producing counterfeits too. Hence, you need to be extra cautious while buying whisky in India.
It is advisable to buy whisky only from reputed liquor stores. Counterfeiters generally use cheap quality food-grade molasses alcohol, add some colourants and flavours and pack them in bottles labelled like original whiskies.
The problem is more with foreign brands since they are not available easily.
Fakes of Indian brands do exist but are relatively lower and restricted to the higher segment ones only.
Also, one has to be extra cautious while ordering whisky by the peg at bars and permit rooms.
There are instances where unscrupulous bar owners have served the ordered brand once or twice but switched the drink to cheaper variants when they find a customer slightly inebriated.
If you wish to truly enjoy an Indian whisky, the best way is to buy a bottle from a reputed store and enjoy at home.