When the acclaimed single malt producer from India, Amrut Distilleries, decided to produce the country’s first natural rum crafted with Jaggery, they knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road ahead. In an exclusive interview Ashok Chokalingam, International Brand Ambassador and Head of Sales, Amrut Distilleries shared with us the story of Two Indies Rum.
The glory achieved overseas through a series of successful stints in the UK, the USA and many other parts of the world had injected new energy and ambitions into the company. Especially after its whisky brand Amrut Single malt, the first Indian single malt created in 2004, was rated as the third-best whisky in the world by Jim Murray in his book Whisky Bible 2010.
Amrut Distilleries, which currently produces whisky, single malt, grape brandy, rum, gin and vodka at its local distillery has been successful in creating one of the most iconic single malt brands in the world. However, the company understood that rum is a different ball game and it would take them years to build a brand in this segment.
“We decided to add a premium rum to our portfolio as a tribute to the farmers of the two rum producing cultures in the world, East Indies (India) and West Indies (the Caribbean),” says Chokalingam.
“The decision to get into rum business was on the personal interest of the current Chairman Neelakanta Rao Jagdale, son of J.N Radhakrishna Rao Jagdale,” says Chokalingam. The Chairman wanted to help the cottage industry of Jaggery making in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
So they started buying a reasonable quantity of jaggery for Rum production as this is unique both in terms of ingredient and the flavour profile derived upon distillation. “This brand is yet to take off but we are confident of the future of Two Indies Rum,” Chokalingam elaborates.
“Considering the fact that we are a small and independent producer, our approach is going to be slow and steady. At present we are primarily in Europe and USA and have plans to enter in more countries in the next three years,” he adds.
The average retail price of Two Indies rum is about US$ 30.00/ bottle in the international market. It’s also available in the southern Indian markets. So how’s the response in India? According to him, Indian Rum market will eventually move towards premium category with quality consciousness. “But I am afraid the market size for the category like Two Indies will remain small.”
The international market which is already flooded with a wide range of rums from the Caribbean, Mauritian and other well-known regions is there a chance to create a category or demand for Indian rums? Chokalingam agrees that this is a very competitive segment. However, he sees an opportunity as there’s probably no other natural rum produced in India. “We will try to leverage that position of being India’s first natural rum with no additives.”
As explained by Chokalingam, what works for the advantage of the maturation of the spirit is the geographical location. Amrut distillery is located 300 ft above sea level in Bangalore, India where the temperature during summer reaches (April –June) –Maximum 39 Degree Celsius and Minimum 20 Degree Celsius and winter (October –February) –Maximum 30 Degree Celsius and Minimum 17 Degree Celsius. And has an average difference of 6 Degree Celsius between the warehouse and ambient temperature. The region also receives South West Monsoon (June –August) –85% of rain in the evening time.
What really makes the rum special besides its name is that it is the only rum distilled from jaggery (sweetener/cane sugar made from sugarcane juice, in India and a few other parts of Asia, Africa and South America) produced un-chill filtered and has no artificial colors.
Two Indies is a blend of rums from India or the “East Indies,” and some from a collection of rums from Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana. In terms of flavour profile, the 42.8% abv rum has distinct aromas of dried cherries and oak and on the palate has dried fruit and Demerara sugar.
Speaking of the challenges Chokalingam reminds that there were a lot of negative perception about Indian spirits brands in the international market until last few years.
Especially because most of the Indian whiskies are produced from sugarcane molasses, they were considered as rum rather than whisky. However, with Amrut Single Malt they were successful in breaking that notion not just in the international market; but also in India. The brand was first launched abroad and later introduced in the domestic market only after the company saw a huge consumer demand for it.
Though we have followed a slightly different path for Two Indies Rum, the challenges still remain the same, acceptability and upgrading the consumers to a premium Indian spirit. We always call it a rummy business and opportunities and challenges are proportional both in India and abroad concludes Chokalingam.
Rojita Tiwari is an established International Beverage writer and expert with over 13 yrs. experience. She is also the founder of Drinks & Destinations, India a platform specializing in wine & spirits, travel and hospitality themed content and curated events. Connect with her on firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @DrinksandDestinations