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The 12 Best Indian Whiskies

indian whisky lineup
indian whisky lineup - Static Media / Getty

India's appetite for whisky is insatiable, resulting in an explosion of producers creating unique Indian whiskies. Market analysis by Statista forecasts that in 2024, Indian whisky lovers will purchase nearly 900 million gallons of whisky. The grand majority of all whisky sold in India populates the value segment (in other words, cheap and cheerful), but there are plenty of Indian producers leading Indian whisky to stand alongside the world's best single malt Scotches.

India is far hotter and drier than Scotland (although the two share the difference of spelling it whisky instead of whiskey). This effectively hits fast-forward to the years whisky takes to mellow and age in oak casks. Indian whisky evaporates faster, losing its angel share in a shorter timeframe, resulting in high-ABV spirits. It also makes it faster and cheaper to turn over fully-matured whisky that's bold and rich while retaining youthful, fruity notes.

Many Indian-made whiskies blend grain spirit and distillate from fermented molasses, a base spirit usually designated for rum. These products can't technically be categorized and sold as "whisky" in the EU. However, the Indian-made single malt category is swiftly gaining renown with a cast of key players, many of whom are on this list.

After years of working in the spirits industry, I get to hunt for the world's best whiskies from regions that aren't always obvious. This is a list of the best Indian whiskies that truly represent what this oft-underestimated region can produce.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

Longitude77

bottle longitude77 whisky and cocktail
bottle longitude77 whisky and cocktail - kush_kare_khush/Instagram

We're kicking off this list of the best Indian whiskies with one of its newer single malt offerings. Longitude77 is a release from the Indian branch of liquor giant Pernod Ricard under its Seagram's label. After 30 years of business in India, Pernod Ricard has released this dram with a commitment to keep producing in India and serving its thriving luxury spirits segment. Pernod has been able to tap into the expertise of its master distillers while using Indian grain to represent the land to which its name refers. That's 77 degrees east, the longitudinal point that runs from India's southernmost point to its most northern.

Ex-bourbon barrels from the U.S., as well as a period in ex-wine casks, give it a rich finish after double maturation. The aroma promises a sweet caramel richness with a fruity lift and a whisper of peat smoke. Pernod doesn't disclose the origins of this peaty touch, but it likely imports the peat from somewhere like Scotland as a non-Indian ingredient. The flavor profile of this whisky echoes the fruit on the nose, with some extra spicy richness and woody vanilla before the peat smoke repeats its soft suggestion. This is a smooth and mellow dram and a great introduction to India's more delectable whiskies.

Crazy Cock Rare Single Malt

bottle of crazy cock whisky
bottle of crazy cock whisky - crazycocksinglemal/Instagram

In the world of whisky production, barrel aging is all important. In fact, whisky casks are even more valuable than bottles in the economy of the dram. Crazy Cock Rare Single Malt doubles up its barrel aging process, using both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks to deliver a smoother, enriched palate. This expression picked up a silver medal at the 2022 Bartender Spirits Awards with an 85-point score. Does this mean that this is an exceptional whisky? Not really, but it does place it as a product with its eyes on craft and a focus on quality.

There's plenty of sweetness on offer with Crazy Cock's bourbon-borne vanilla and maple syrup, as well as the levity it gets from fruity notes like pear. Crazy Cock Rare also exhibits complexity with deep chocolate, toasted nuts, dried fruit, and cooking spice, which rounds out its other brighter notes. This is a full-bodied whisky that can be enjoyed either neat or with ice.

This whisky is distilled from Indian barley by South Seas Distilleries and Breweries. In copper pot stills, this whisky is created as traditional single malts are, aspiring to match the prestige of its international counterparts. In 2005, this distiller installed India's largest copper pot stills, showing dedication to the craft, even at scale.

Godawan Rich And Rounded Single Malt Whisky

bottle and glass godawan whisky
bottle and glass godawan whisky - godawansinglemalt/Instagram

Godawan is an Indian distillery owned by another liquor giant, Diageo. The brand proudly flaunts the word "artisan", describing its approach to creating exceptional single-malt Indian whisky. The titular bird, the godawan (or Great Indian Bustard), is a native of Rajasthan, where the distillery is located.

Made from Indian six-row barley and left to mature in the country's sweltering heat of up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Godawan is a true expression of what the region can offer the world of whisky. The Rich and Rounded expression from this distillery is one of its two core offerings and has picked up a few notable accolades in its short life starting in 2022. Rich and Rounded collected a Superior Taste Award from the International Taste Institute in 2023 and a Gold Award from the Monde Selection that same year.

As the name suggests, Rich and Rounded delivers dense dried fruit flavors like raisin, while aromatic fruits such as figs and stonefruit pop out as well. With two rounds of barrel aging, one in bourbon and the other in used Pedro Ximinez casks, further richness is added to the spirit. One unique process that this distillery employs is seasoning its barrels with a solution of water, and two Indian botanicals called Jatamansi and Rasna, which contribute to the whisky's texture.

Royal Tiger Single Malt Whisky

royal tiger indian single malt
royal tiger indian single malt - Royal TIger

Another Indian single malt that offers something like a terroir is Royal Tiger Single Malt Whisky. Not only is Indian six-row barley used in the production of this spirit, but the water is derived from a natural spring on the distillery's property, the grounds of Antonio Jose Henriques. This individual had a notable influence on India's distilling culture and industry, pioneering the commercial production of Goa's regional spirit, feni. Henriques' love of single malt whisky led him to distill his own, and the ripples of his efforts are products that are still being sipped to this day, perhaps more than ever.

The whisky itself is balanced but bold, with a peated essence that lingers on the palate. Roasted nuts, vanilla, and woody notes all add depth and complexity, while the spirit fills out the drinking experience with a light sprinkling of sweetness. Vegetal notes of pine and forest floor add a perception of maturity to the spirit. Royal Tiger Single Malt Whisky goes through two stages of barrel aging, the second of which involves charred American white oak barrels. This single malt achieved Gold at the 2020 John Barleycorn Awards and was named Indian Whisky of the Year in the 2020 New York International Spirits Competition.

Woodburns Contemporary Indian Whisky

woodburns whisky and glass
woodburns whisky and glass - woodburnswhisky/Instagram

If the name of Woodburns Contemporary Indian Whisky gives us any hot hints about how it tastes, it's the smoke that drives its flavor profile. Produced by Fullarton Distilleries, another Goa-based institution, the very barrels that age the whisky are even crafted in India. Rather than gain its rich smoke from imported peat-smoked barley, Woodburns uses charred barrels and Indian grain without blending Scottish grains or distillate.

There is a distinct peatiness to the whisky, although the distillery doesn't openly disclose the origins of its (probably Scottish) peat. Its dense amber color is also a clue to its full-bodied weight on the palate. Supporting its smoke flavor are foundational notes of oak, cocoa, nuts, and a tropical flare of banana that balance these richer notes.

Woodburns is no stranger to accolades, scooping up silvers in the 2019 Singapore World Spirits Competition, 2020 New York International Spirits Competition, and 2019 International Spirits Challenge. If subtlety in whisky is something you value, this is not a dram for you. If you favor the bold, then there's a fortune for you in a bottle of Woodburns.

Kamet Indian Single Malt Whisky

kamet whisky on grain
kamet whisky on grain - kametwhisky/Instagram

Where some other distilleries are content to involve one or two types of cask in their barrel maturation process, Kamet Indian Single Malt Whisky goes for the hat trick. Using barrels that once held French Bordeaux wine, American bourbon, and Spanish sherry, Kamet adds tremendous depth to the spirit's perceptible flavors. Fruit, toast, vanilla, and spice, all unite in this whisky that doesn't pull any punches. Dried fruit characters underlay brighter, fresher stonefruit notes, while richness is established by tobacco, cocoa, and leather. Not to be forgotten, the influence of bourbon casks echoes a distinct caramel note.

The brand's name derives from Mount Kamet, a feature of the Indian Himalayan mountains. Plains that meet Mount Kamet's foothills are where much of India sources its grain, no less the barley used in this genuinely Indian single malt. This is also a significant source of fresh water, another essential component of quality whisky. Kamet has garnered some recognition with a bronze medal from the IWSC in 2021 and an impressive score of 92 from Whisky Advocate. That's the same score the platform gives Laphroaig 10-Year-Old and Glenlivet's Founder's Reserve, for context.

Rampur Double Cask

rampur double cask with glass
rampur double cask with glass - rampursinglemalt/Instagram

Rampur Double Cask is another single malt Indian Whisky that routinely earns itself a place among discussions of the top single malt expressions of the world. With a Gold medal from the 2021 International Spirits Challenge and 93 points from Whisky Advocate, this whisky has been gathering fans for a few years. This is also a spirit made near the source, close to the base of the Indian Himalayan mountains, where the country's best barley and water for whisky originates.

The two oak casks to which its name refers are ex-bourbon barrels from America and ex-sherry casks from Europe. These two very differently influenced oak barrels lend complementary yet distinct characteristics to the whisky. On the palate, vinified vanilla and toffee notes intertwine, while rich fruit shines through with a vein of spice running through it. The malt itself delivers aromatic banana esters and barley-derived sweetness, making for a delectable and multi-level sipper of a spirit. Another whisky that holds a 93-point score from Whisky Advocate, Rampur Double Cask also flaunts a Gold medal from the 2021 International Spirits Challenge.

Indri Trini The Three Wood

indri trini bottle glass hand
indri trini bottle glass hand - indrisinglemalt / Instagram

A product of Piccadily Distilleries, the Indri Trini, defined on the label as The Three Wood, is so called because it's another Indian single malt that uses three varieties of casks. Barrels that once held bourbon, sherry, and wine now share the essence of their previous contents with this exceptional liquid. That's a significant influence of vinous, tannic, caramelized, and toasted flavors that accent the malt's own elegance. For a single malt, that's pretty important, as there can be a noticeable quality difference between single malt and blended whisky, and Indri lets the high quality of its barley malt shine.

The barley in this spirit manifests as sweetly tropical, with notes of pineapple, lychee, and stonefruit. This is broadened out with a nutty touch of almond and a breath of cooking spice. This is a whisky with levity, balance, and, dare we say it, a sense of joy. It's also a whisky with a gratuitous collection of accolades. Scanning the extensive list of awards this whisky has picked up over the years, there are a few standout wins. Most eye-catching are possibly the 2022 Gold at the International Whisky Competition, 2022 Gold at the International Spirits Challenge, and Platinum in the 2022 Las Vegas Global Spirits Awards with a whopping 96-point score.

Indri Diwali Collector's Edition 2023

indri diwali collectors edition bottle
indri diwali collectors edition bottle - indrisinglemalt/Instagram

This list would be remiss without another one of the Indri brand's whiskies, a special edition expression that has caught a lot of attention and appreciation since its recent release. If Diwali Collector's Edition 2023's artful label is anything to go by (and it is), the whisky within the bottle is as striking as it is memorable.

Competing with some of the best Scotches on the market, this spirit offers a robust peat smoke overlaid onto its Indian barley that outshines many Islay exports. The aging process for Diwali Collector's Edition is focused and refined, using only one type of cask instead of two or three. Ex-Pedro Ximenez Spanish sherry casks give the spirit rich, dry, concentrated fruit flavors alongside baked nuts and spice. The peatiness and cask influence remain in harmony, allowing the earthiness and fruitiness to form a cohesive double act. Further complexity comes from the spirit's silky texture and a light citrus zest levity. Diwali Collectors Edition 2023 has caught some strong recognition since its release, earning Double Gold Best in Show at the 2023 Best Whiskies of the World.

Amrut Fusion Single Malt Whisky

amrut fusion whisky and glass
amrut fusion whisky and glass - amrutmalt/Instagram

Amrut swept up first place in our ranked roundup of the 12 best Indian whisky brands, and its incredibly popular Fusion Single Malt Whisky routinely acts as the spokesperson for the distillery. Using a blend of Scottish peated malt and Northern India's six-row barley, Fusion hints at this marriage of two now legendary whisky regions. The Indian barley lends its typical interplay of subtly spicey notes with notable fruity character, and the fast-tracked cask maturation the whisky undergoes in Bengaluru's (Bangalore's) intense heat focuses its power.

The casks in question are a two-pronged American oak approach, using both new and used barrels to enjoy the benefits of each. New American oak imparts a heftier tannic oak bite and a more intense vanilla essence, while the used American oak can have a more subtle influence. On the palate, Fusion doesn't hold back. Peaty smoke comes out front-and-center, while the oak's vanilla rolls out a dancefloor on which notes of chocolate, spice, and bright tropical fruit dance. Mango, stewed orange, tobacco, and chocolate fudge all take turns in a smokey spotlight. The spices hold strong throughout the experience as this whisky's finish draws long.

Recognition for Amrut's Fusion is as strong as its flavors. In 2023, it picked up a Double Gold in the Whiskies of the World Awards. As far back as 2011, Fusion was named the Grand Master of World Whisky in The Spirits Business Awards in London.

Paul John Nirvana

bottle paul john nirvana hand
bottle paul john nirvana hand - pauljohnnirvana/Instagram

Paul John has been gaining increasing recognition in the world of whisky over the years, producing exceptional expressions that helped galvanize India's place in the international whisky market. One of Paul John's most awarded single malt whiskies is Nirvana, an unpeated expression produced on India's tropical western coast in Goa.

Honey is the key player in this whisky, which manifests in the nose, into the palate, and through to the finish. Nirvana's bourbon cask aging introduces a whisper of this essence that is expressed subtly with hints of caramel and vanilla. There's an interplay between the ripeness of its crisp apple fruitiness and its candied fruitcake richness. Nirvana is decadent yet structured, with a dessert-like finish. This spirit is an excellent way to introduce a newcomer to Indian whisky, or indeed, anyone first dipping their toes in the ocean of single malts.

Sweeping up many awards over the years, there are certainly some standouts for this popular dram. With a score of 95 in the New York International Spirits Competition, it picked up Gold in 2021, and in 2020, Nirvana earned gold in both the John Barleycorn Awards and The Spirits Business' World Whisky Masters. In 2022, this streak continued with a Gold at the International Spirits Competition.

Mithuna By Paul John

paul john mithuna whiskey bottle
paul john mithuna whiskey bottle - pauljohnwhisky/Instagram

Another Paul John whisky that has gained recognition for its excellence, not just as an Indian whisky but as a world-class single malt, is Paul John's Mithuna. This whisky is opulent and generous yet expertly balanced from first to last sip.

Mithuna undergoes a two-stage barrel aging process that gives the spirit time in brand-new American oak casks and finishes it in used bourbon barrels. This layers in a structural tannic aspect that plays off bourbon's softer vanilla. At once delivering elevated citrus notes and robust chocolate and coffee to weigh it down, Mithuna also folds in layers of complexity with hints of spice. Without peat, just like Pual John's Nirvana, Mithuna gets its silky body and moreish quality from the delectable honey that softens its sharper notes to establish a delicate equilibrium. This counteraction is where the whisky gets its name, as Mithuna references the Indian version of Gemini, the zodiac sign of duality.

As is common for Paul John's best whiskies, Mithuna holds a wealth of awards that sing its praises. Some of the most notable among these include a 2022 Gold Medal in the IWSC awards, Double Gold in the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and the title of Best Indian Whisky in the 2021 International Whisky Competition.

Methodology

hands pouring whisky
hands pouring whisky - Aekachai Lungmin/Getty Images

Indian-made whiskies have been selected for this list that exhibit exceptional quality, especially those that have won awards or special recognition. This is a list of individual whisky expressions, rather than a wrapup of brands. Where necessary, more than one whisky from a single brand finds a place. Some distilleries are just that good.

The order in which whiskies appear on this list does not attempt to rank them but roughly orders them from least to most recognized expressions. I've tried a selection of these whiskies myself. Where I haven't, I've used online expert and consumer opinions, as well as trade resources to seek and include those that have made waves in both Indian and international marketplaces. I believe that all the whiskies on this list represent the excellent standards, heritage, and execution that Indian whisky distilleries can achieve.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.