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India outdrinks France to become the world’s largest Scotch whisky buyer

In a testament to the country’s long-standing taste for smoke and oak, India has overtaken France to bag the title of the world’s largest Scotch whisky market. Here’s all about it.

India’s taste for malted-barley whisky distilled in Scotland has hit an all-time high with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) noting that the country overtook France – a global leader of whisky drinking for over a decade – to become the world’s largest market for Scotch. This, despite the fact that this specific kind of amber – single malt or blended – only makes for about 2 percent of the country’s total whisky market. There was also a considerable upward trend in numbers in Taiwan, Singapore, and China. It’s important to note that while India is the largest consumer of amber by volume, the US continues to lead in terms of value. France, meanwhile, sits in second place – both in numbers and value.

Check out our complete guide to whiskies in India 

India imported over 219 million bottles of Scotch whisky in 2022

Scotch whisky

Scotch – which is produced in Scotland – is marked by sharp, distinct flavour and malty notes. Popular names in the top aisles of stores in the country include Macallan, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Monkey Shoulder, amongst others. As per a report by The Telegraph, 219 million bottles of Scotch were shipped to India in 2022 – most of which were presumed consumed. This marks a 60 percent hike in imports in 2022 as compared to the previous year. France, now second in line, imported 205 million bottles.

This is despite every bottle of Scotch being riddled with customs and other duties ranging from 150-195 percent. At the moment, India and the UK are in trade talks, which includes negotiations on the said duties. A reduction would make this amber more accessible to a wider set of whiskey enthusiasts. This, in turn, would boost sales even further. For comparison, India imported just about 131 million bottles in 2019, with the BBC noting a 200 percent increase in export volumes to the country in the last decade. India’s strong homegrown whisky industry is believed to have blocked reduced duties on Scotch in the earlier decades.

A free trade agreement would boost the Scottish industry by about 1 billion pound sterling (INR 9,991 crores approx.). Another estimate is that it would increase the market share of Scotch whisky to 6 percent, allowing consumers the chance to savour it while allowing Indian whiskies to retain the dominant share. This general shift indicates a larger overtaking of Asia from Europe for Scotch consumption – with SWA noting a “double-digit growth in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular in Taiwan, Singapore, India and China.” It’s no surprise why names like Diageo and Pernod Ricard – which house the world’s biggest names in whisky – see the country as a market with vast potential for growth.

All images: Courtesy Shutterstock

India outdrinks France to become the world’s largest Scotch whisky buyer

Eshita is a food, alcohol, travel, and entertainment writer who spends her days zeroing in on the next big trend to write about. She’s a communication graduate with bylines in Conde Nast Traveller India, GQ India, Deccan Herald, and Girls Buzz. When not at work, you’re likely to find her hunting for a good read or charting out the perfect itinerary for a solo trip across Asia.

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