American whiskey, for even fairly evolved palates, until very recently meant Jack Daniels, the Tennessee treasure. Popularly consumed as a cocktail — Jack and coke — was the ultimate slice of the Wild West, with a dash of urban slang giving it a trendy garnish.
But liquid statements and informed choices have moved beyond old-world clichés.With American whiskey enjoying a heady renaissance globally as well as in India, as the new choice for cocktails and as straight drinks, aficionados have a lot to clink glasses about. “Even though, Jack Daniels is the largest selling in the American whiskey category, Bourbon is the most popular, mainly because most of the American Whisky is actually bourbon so there is a much larger variety of products to choose from,” informs Sukhinder Singh of London’s Whisky Exchange.
Bourbon is the most popular American whiskey. (Photo: Rajwant Rawat)
Bourbon is the most recognised variant of American whiskey, outselling Rye and other types of American whiskey by a considerable margin, says Matt Magliocco, Executive Vice President, Michter’s Distillery declared the best American whiskey in the world for 2019. “A great Bourbon often has notes of vanilla, stone fruit, caramel and oak, making for a rich and luscious taste profile that people love. Rye tends to lean slightly more spice-forward, with hints of mint and butterscotch.” Rye leads the way in bars, as mixologists tend to use Rye for classic cocktails, but Bourbon reigns supreme when it comes to consumers and overall retail sales, he adds.
With the availability of luxury brands in India now, especially the explosion of craft bourbons, the average age of the bourbon connoisseur is younger and averages between 30 and 35. “Bourbon’s notes are spicy, woody, fruity and floral along with sweet aromatic tones of vanilla, caramel, corn, honey or butterscotch that resonate perfectly with Indian taste buds. In fact, new-age Bourbons are selling at a much higher price than even some Scotch whiskies,” says Sandeep Arora, consulting editor, Whisky Magazine, UK and the director of Spiritual Luxury Living, India’s premiere spirits marketing advisory firm.
Although, what you drink is a matter of individual taste, what’s fast tracking American whiskey’s popularity is that it’s easy to drink, premium positioning, mixability, positioning as one category and not as separate brands, a large and growing domestic market and above all a lot of new brands. Astute marketing using hip bartenders and education is also making a difference,” adds Arora.
In this year’s iteration of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, Scotch fell to 6th position with a Japanese single malt in first and American blends in second and third place. It may be premature or even incorrect to place one man’s assessment as an industry benchmark, but the rising sales, increasing popularity and growing demand does drive home the point that the bourbon bonhomie is here to stay.
With top brands such as Michter’s, Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve now available in India, the cup literally runneth over