The Bespoke Bottling of Indian Single Malt Takes Off
The Bespoke Bottling of Indian Single Malt Takes Off

With five releases in the last few years, Bengaluru-based Single Malt
Amateur Club is at the forefront of bespoke bottling for Indian Single Malts. One of the founders
of SMAC writes about the experience

Milroy’s of Soho, Cadenhead, Signatory, and Gordon & McPhail are some of the notable names
who have been in the business of buying whisky from renowned distilleries and curating their
own specially bottled limited edition single malts for the market. It is a concept that is
increasingly finding favour in India, and we at Single Malt Amateur Club (SMAC) are proud to be
among the earliest to introduce bespoke bottling in this country.
Recently, we in collaboration with Paul John Distilleries, makers of the Paul John range of single
malts, jointly released the first of a duo offering of limited edition bespoke bottled single malts
named Alter and Ego. The name comes from the fact that they were conceptualised to reveal
the drastically diverse flavours of a whisky from the same distillery. Alter is a rich, amber, and
peated single malt, matured for six years and complemented with a finish in an ex-Madeira cask.
The edition is limited to 276 bottles and is priced at Rs 10,000 a bottle.

 

Alter is the fifth limited edition bespoke Indian single malt that we have released in the last five
years. It is the culmination of our determined effort over the last five years to create a regular
pipeline of these special single-malt whiskies for our members and other whisky lovers.
When we thought of the concept six years ago, we were hard-pressed to find more than a
handful of single malts retailed in the country, Indian or international. Our erudite members
were looking for something exquisite and on par with the global expressions.
Given the legal construct of the industry, independent bottling, we knew, was not going to be
easy. But keeping the enthusiasm of the members in mind, SMAC decided to plough on, donning
the role of an independent bottler. We began talking to multiple Indian single malt makers
about possible collaborations. They were more than happy to work with us to create India’s first
club-exclusive limited whisky.
Amrut Amaze was our first attempt. The whisky was bottled at an abv (alcohol by volume)
strength focused on the profile balance and palate. It was presented as a trilogy, with one
expression being released every year. While the outcome was well received and lauded by the
growing whisky community, the journey of getting this product to market was not easy.
Although the idea was conceived in June 2016, it took about a year to finalise the deal with
Amrut, and another year for the compliances, label registration, and approvals. The project saw
fruition in November 2018, when Amaze was finally released to members through retail

 

partners. The many statutes that govern the alco-bev space in India, and the obstinacy of the
regulatory authorities make a project like this so challenging that it becomes commercially
unviable. But we decided to persist.
Being relatively inexperienced in this field, we were cautious, and limited the supply to 120
bottles. But when the pre-booking opened, we sold all 120 bottles in a 45-minute window,
despite being priced at Rs 3,800 a bottle. Samples that were sent to whisky judges overseas
came back with 90-plus scores, which is nothing short of stellar. Auction houses are now selling
the bottle for upwards of £300 pounds each.
We followed it up with Amrut Amaze 2 in December 2019. This whisky was aged for 12
additional months and was far more complex, a perfect blend of peat and sherry. The effort was
another success with the members of the club. The 240 bottles were sold out in three days
despite the higher price of Rs 5,000 a bottle. This whisky also started the trend of Indian
collectors wanting to grab as many bottles as possible that they could lay their hands on.
The release of the final Amrut Amaze series came after the pandemic when SMAC co-founder
Hemanth Rao and the team from Amrut collectively launched the special release at a ceremony
where the whisky was paired a gourmet meal befitting the occasion. The 360 bottles, priced at
Rs 7,000 each, were an instant sell-out. Even Amrut executives found it challenging to get a hold
of one.
The Paul John Single Cask, which came last year, was yet another first by the club when we
released India’s first-ever single cask bespoke bottled whisky. Unlike the regular single malts
where the whisky is sourced from variously aged casks, the whisky in a Single Cask, as the name
reveals, is sourced from one cask. It is a whisky with the central theme of individuality and
uniqueness.
The single cask edition, which was limited to 224 bottles, was launched in Goa at the Paul John
visitors centre where 40 members of the club gathered from across the nation to celebrate the
unique taste offered by this exclusive dram. What’s better than getting your numbered bottle
from the source signed by the master distiller himself? The bottles were priced at Rs 5,000 each
and were once again a sell-out.
This experience also paved the way for curated whisky trails in the country, with more and more
people wanting to visit the distilleries which the whiskies are sourced from.
The club will continue to explore exclusive bespoke whiskies for its ever-growing membership
base and maturing palates. Having set the bar high, it is going to be a challenging proposition to
replicate the exploits of the past. Come the next round of tailored releases members can look
forward to a few firsts again, with unique finishes and a feisty doppelganger pack on the cards.
Images: Single Malt Amateur Club

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