'Every cask is different': Meet the 'Malt Master' of single-malt Glenfiddich whiskey

'Every cask is different': Meet the 'Malt Master' of single-malt Glenfiddich whiskey

Kinsman, Malt Master, William Grant & Sons Distillers, the makers of the iconic Glenfiddich, talking to BT, added that Indian market is exciting because it is still young. Europe, on the other hand, has matured.

India has a huge appetite for whiskey, European market saturating, says Glenfiddich maker Brian Kinsman India has a huge appetite for whiskey, European market saturating, says Glenfiddich maker Brian Kinsman

Scotland-based William Grant & Sons Distillers, the makers of The Glenfiddich whiskey, recently launched their 21-year-old expression in India, called the The Glenfiddich Gran Reserva. “India is very important for us. We can see the potential. India is in the growth phase whereas the European markets have matured,” said Brian Kinsman, Malt Master, William Grant & Sons Distillers Limited.       

“The 21-year-old, in terms of the flavour profile, is one of the sweetest and softest on the palate. It’s mostly kept in American oak barrels, then we add 10 per cent Spanish oak. The crucial part is a four-month, rum-cask finish in the end. What makes it unique to us is that we make our own rum casks,” explained Kinsman. Instead of acquiring rum casks from the Caribbean which could lead to delays and quality issues, Kinsman explained that they fill casks at the distillery in Scotland with Caribbean rum for around six months. “We make sure the cask is really infused and then we use those casks for the whiskey to give it a rum-cask finish,” he said. 

Besides the 21-year-old, there are also the 23-year-old and the 26-year-old which have been launched in the European market. Kinsman points out that they will be launched in India once the 21-year-old is established.   

“The Indian market for whiskey is absolutely phenomenal. The natural affinity to whiskey, the understanding of the whole process across the population is huge. The 21 is at a higher price point so it is a bit more indulgent, it is a special occasion whiskey. It is appreciated for its quality. It’s not something that you just buy because it is cool.  We think there is a huge potential in the Indian market but time will tell. We need to do our job. We need to create more awareness,” said Kinsman.  

Kinsman is a chemist by education and worked in a dental company before joining William Grant and Sons. “I wanted to continue working in Scotland and the choice was to join either the oil and gas sector or the whiskey industry,” he added.

So how does Kinsman know when a cask is ready to be bottled? “You just know,” he remarked. “Every cask is different. You just have to go with your gut feeling whether a cask is ready or it can be matured for longer,” he adds. When a cask is filled, it is not allocated for a specific product. So, every time a cask reaches an age horizon – say, 12 years – the malt master needs to decide whether to use it or mature it further. “You are always thinking of the future. So, the person who is doing this job 30 years down the line has a good selection of stock,” said Kinsman. 

Currently, the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland has just over one million casks. Each cask holds 120 litres of alcohol. “That will cover everything for the next 50 years,” said Kinsman. The oldest bottles are 50-year-old and there are only 220 of them.  

According to the research report, India Whisky Market Outlook, 2027-28, the consumption of whiskey is to reach 289.49 million cases by 2027-28, which would generate revenue of over Rs 287,000 crore. India consumed 237.22 million cases of whiskey in 2021. North India and East India together constitute roughly 27 per cent of the consumption of whiskey in India.  

Single malt whiskey is expected to grow rapidly at a CAGR of 22.92 per cent over the forecast period as people demand more flavours that are available in this type of liquor. Single malt whiskey has grown a reputation for being a higher quality spirit than blends. Scotch whiskey is the second most demanded whiskey type in India with a 19.88 per cent market share in 2021-22 and is expected to be in demand over the forecast period. 

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Published on: Jan 13, 2023, 4:22 PM IST
Posted by: Tarab Zaidi, Jan 13, 2023, 4:05 PM IST