At an Ardmore Legacy Single Malt Tasting, in New Delhi last week, Women outnumbered Men, when it came to comparing Tasting Notes. In Bengaluru, down South of India, a Tasting & Food Pairing was hosted for 48 Ladies. Whiskies on offer included Laphroaig 10 YO, Lagavulin 16 YO and The Glenlivet 18 YO. In Mumbai, at a private dinner, Whisky was the most consumed Spirit, all guests were Women. I can recollect a few more such delightful evenings, where Women & Whisky walked well together.
A new category of Whisky Drinkers is emerging in India …the rise & rise of Women who are partaking the pleasures of the amber nectar & global Brands are rejoicing on the onset of this new Consumer Category.
Whisky has always been India`s Preferred Pour. As Indians, we are well… A Whisky Nation and enjoy over a 100 million cases of Whisky every year – both Indian & international labels. We are definitely high on spirits!
Though for a long time, Whisky conjured up images of masculinity, a drink which was enjoyed by the previous generation. Over the last few years, there has been a generic shift towards whisky becoming a lifestyle trend. Men and an increasing number of women are partaking the pleasure of a Dream Dram. Whether the new generation of tipplers are enjoying stylish malts or premium blends, Scotch Whisky or American Whiskey, a robust 18 YO or an elegant 40 YO, they are all embarking on a Whisky Voyage of Discovery.
From my own experience of hosting numerous Whisky Appreciations across the country, I am quite delighted by the number of women who attend. Most of these attendees are not coming to the tasting because their partner enjoys whisky, but because they themselves enjoy whisky. I feel that the number of women enjoying whisky has greatly increased. The first impressions that you deny the drink, without as much as tasting it, is slowly giving away. It is quite common, at dinners and at Whisky Appreciations that you witness women nosing and enjoying their favourite dram.
For new comers, it is also a sense of curiosity and a desire to learn more!! Accordingly to Kamal Mohandas, who heads Rosse, A Women`s Hub in Bengaluru, “The new generation of young, professional female whisky drinkers are also introducing their friends, colleagues and clients to the spirit. Women like to try new things, like to sit down and nose whisky and taste it, and they are not afraid of saying whether they like it or not.” Kamal herself enjoys a generous dram of Royal Salute 21 YO.
Experts say the rise has been prompted by a new generation of female drinkers, prepared to experiment with new spirits and different flavors. They engage at various tasting events and take to single malts like Glenfiddich Glenmorangie, Talisker, The Glenlivet, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain or Coal ILA.
Sushma Puri, MD of a Leading Modeling Agency in India had remarked to me a few years back, “Interestingly it never occurred to me that Whisky is a man’s drink. I have been enjoying Single Malts for a long time and find myself hunting for newer impressions and variants, whilst travelling abroad.”
In Delhi & Mumbai Duty Free, more and more women are shopping for distinctive flavours in Whiskies. A brief dipstick with the Staff at these Duty Free Shops, suggested women leaning towards smoky & bold flavours. Priya Madan, an avid entrepreneur finds the mighty Laphroaig smooth and her preferred pour over almost anything else, unless it is another aged Laphroaig. Not the soft Lowlanders for her!
Trends also indicate that one need not patronize women with “softer” whiskies; in fact I have seen most women enjoy the Big Taste of a Smoky Lagavulin or a lush Ardbeg, all with “wee drops of Water”.
Priya Sahni, a Whisky Expert, only drinks Single Malts and is keen to visit Talisker Distillery, next time she is in UK. She avers,” I have been part of discussions, where women are planning Scotch Whisky Trails, Distillery Tours and talking about a new Japanese whisky discovered at a friend’s house”.
According to a Alpana Ajmera, a leading florist from Mumbai, “I’ve never drank whisky before, in fact I actively avoid it. Then, I was given the gift of a Glenfiddich 18 YO for my birthday and I went along. To my surprise it was a comfortable drink, I enjoyed and watched it grow on me & well I’m now a convert!” Someday I want to fill my own cask of Glenfiddich!
I tracked some trends, where we mapped the “evolution” of whisky over the last few generations.
I realized that a small number women in their 50`s have been drinking, whisky since almost 20 years! Enjoying the spirits, mostly blended whiskies and with a fairly regular frequency of consumption. They are generally soft spoken and enjoy hospitality at well kept homes. Not very brand conscious, but will not drink just about anything. They also enjoy whisky at parties, bars and at social engagements.
The Generation born in 80`s, enjoyed whisky a bit less in their relatively younger days, though are now really grabbing Single Malts, even comparing notes with friends at parties and drinking at home with spouses or partners. They are balancing traditions & modern lifestyles, well educated and are what I call “Generation in Transition”. Carrying good Single malt is a must on all holidays. Offering a selection of whisky and sharing some new malt with guests, including showcasing tasting notes is a natural trend!
Leading Interior Designer, Priya Kapur, has her favourite`s in Oban 14 YO and Dalwhinnie 15 YO. She got converted to malts long back and has not looked back since then! Enjoys her malts with some water, with the German Shepherd next to her, and planning on a fireplace to enjoy the total setting!!
The Generation born in 90`s is the one to watch out for. Independent, stylish and bent on enjoying life – not just wanting to earn well, but also spend well. These are women who enjoy a drink, for the pleasure of it, not just based on its tag or positioning. More over, the drink needs to be a statement in itself and also “communicate” with them. Wine is fine, Vodka at times, Whisky of course ………….a Good Single Malt is a Great Drink.
These whisky drinkers also like to go for the Big taste and are not climbing the taste ladder as has been the practice traditionally. It’s not necessary to move from blends to soft Speysiders to big Islays. A good Glenfiddich or a Ardmore or a Jim Beam, perhaps a Royal Salute 21 YO is a matter of choice and taste, not rules.
For global Whisky brands, traditional myths are being broken, in South Asia. Women are not a niche market, but a growing market. There is no sexist bias or feelings that focussing on women will move men away. Excellent marketing by the industry is also positioning Whisky as a very sophisticated, intelligent, premium and complex spirit.
Companies are also building an environment, where women and whisky are matching well. Food pairing, Nosing sessions and Whisky Appreciations are all being worked out by whisky brands, to facilitate a better understanding and higher appreciation for the product.
“There is no defined way to enjoy a glass of single malt scotch, it is a personal preference. I personally love the peaty single malts with delicate complexity and balance of the sweet, savoury and peaty notes that are ever present in good Islay whiskies.” avers, Meenu Handa, Head of Communications for a leading MNC in Singapore.
One of the finest areas of this gradual shift is that Women are enjoying Whisky Responsibly! It has also led to the perception of the industry changing towards a better positioning.