Indian-made craft spirits have become a game-changer in the spirits segment with newer brands in the pipeline. Entering the fray is Diageo India’s Epitome Reserve, a limited-edition small-batch, artisanal craft, 100 per cent rice whisky. The company has released only 2,000 bottles of the whisky, which is made from locally sourced rice from Punjab, matured in Goa in bourbon casks over three years, and then finished in Pedro Ximenez Sherry and Cherrywood casks in a 50-year-old warehouse.
“Rice, by its genetic structure, yields a light and mellow spirit upon distillation. In our case, we have meticulously crafted the process parameters during distillation to create a spirit that is not only light, but also carries with it the right amount of body to create a wholesome mouthfeel,” explained Vikram Damodaran, Chief Innovation Officer, Diageo India of the whisky’s USP. The bourbon casks add a range of notes, from woody and vanillic, to cream and butterscotch. “The Pedro Ximenez Sherry Cask and a Cherry Wood Cask impart specific notes that add a flavour of sweet toffee, caramel, and honey with the hint of a spicy touch,” he continued.
As to why the company decided to enter the craft spirits space in India, especially when Diageo already has an extensive alcoholic beverage portfolio, Damodaran says that ‘craft’ has become a global movement that cuts across categories, from apparel and accessories to automobiles and F&B. “What differentiates craft is the value of uniqueness, the artisanal depth of the craftsperson and the intricate attention to detail – all coming together to offer an experience that is avant-garde and leaves the consumer wanting more,” he adds.
Epitome Reserve rice whisky is priced at par with other luxury scotch brands such as Johnnie Walker, Talisker and Singleton, and will be available in select retail outlets across Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Haryana. “Our retail model is exclusive, on-request-only,” Damodaran says.