United Spirits Limited Launches India’s First Homegrown Flavoured Whiskey For Beer Lovers

India’s largest spirits firm, United Spirits, is launching India’s first homegrown flavoured whiskey. They’re introducing this new beverage to target beer drinkers who don’t enjoy the strong and overwhelming taste of the regular whiskey.

Silk, the new brand, is a honey flavoured drink under the McDowell’s portfolio and is the first product launch after Diageo acquired USL four years ago.

Chief Marketing Officer at USL, Amrit Thomas spoke about this new launch to Economic Times and said, “A significant portion of beer drinkers actually never embrace whiskey, because they found the whisky taste to be unpalatable. These consumers like the sophistication of whiskey, but they find the taste to be either strong or harsh and never embrace whiskey as a drink for those lighter social occasions.”

The innovation portfolio for Diageo rose to £1.5 billion in global sales in 2015 from £700 million in 2010 and the Indian unit wants to mirror that. “USL aims to get about 20% of its sales from new product launches and another 30% by renovating existing brands by 2020,” Thomas added. USL hasn’t tweaked the alcohol content to make the product less potent, however, there could be consumer perception that it is a tempered down version of whiskey, say experts.

Sandeep Arora, a whiskey connoisseur, and director of Spiritual Luxury Living said, “Flavoured whiskey has met with modest to high level of success globally. In India, the challenge could be changing the mindset of youth in accepting a flavoured whiskey.”

At a 10% premium, the new brand will be in markets by early next year and is currently being test-marketed in some states around the country. Within Diageo’s portfolio, McDowell’s is the largest brand by volume with annual sales of 26.4 nine-litre cases in 2015. And with the introduction of the new flavoured variant, the company hopes to achieve 5% of the brand sales.