| Radiant distillery at Khatkhati in Karbi Anglong |
Guwahati, Sept. 18: Assam is finally on the map as a state manufacturing premium Indian whisky. And how!
The “rare reserve whisky” brand, Castle Hill, developed by the home-bred Radiant Manufacturers Pvt Ltd with active involvement of world renowned “master distiller” and whisky expert John McDougall from Scotland is, according to the Scotsman, “right up there… probably the best blend in its sector.”
The feat is commendable because, barring Sikkim, no other state in the Northeast has its own distillery and brand.
The company have been in the liquor business for 12 years now and have franchise rights for Old Monk in Assam. Its director, Vicky Chand, said the high quality whisky had been created specifically for Indian taste buds. “We are sure to give tough competition and there will be no compromise in quality,” he told The Telegraph. “We wanted to give the best at competitive prices and I hope we’ve got the taste right.”
All the major liquor companies are operating in Assam and competition will be tough. “We are eyeing a five per cent share in the liquor market here,” Chand added.
McDougall, the man who helped blend the brand, is regarded as one of the best overall judge of Scotch whisky in the business today. He is the only surviving expert in the industry who has been in charge of distilleries in all recognised distilling regions of Scotland. This was his first association with an Indian company.
“I believe Castle Hill is an exceptional blend of quality. It is right up there with the competition in the Indian market...probably the best blend in its sector,” McDougall told The Telegraph in Guwahati, where he launched the brand recently after visiting the company’s distillery in Karbi Anglong. “The experience of working at the distillery has been good. The relationship will continue for some time.”
The production capacity of the distillery at Khatkhati in Karbi Anglong is 50,000 litres a day. It also has its own 2MW power plant.
The company also has two bottling plants — one in Karbi Anglong and another at Amingaon on the outskirts here. Both units have three semi automatic lines and can together bottle two lakh cases a month if run for seven days a week. Currently, the company is bottling 40,000 cases of Old Monk every month.
Chand said they had released 3,000 cases of Castle Hill in the market in the last two weeks and added that the response had been overwhelming.
The director added that the company was planning to create its own Scotch brand and if all went well, this could happen by next year.
According to Assam excise department officials, the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) in the state is going up, the consumption having increased by over 250 per cent in Guwahati alone. Statistics on projected increase in consumption levels hover around 100 per cent in the next five years.
Whisky dominates 60 per cent of the IMFL market.