Diageo’s limited edition Epitome Reserve is targeting the craft-conscious, curious Indian consumer
When it comes to alcoholic beverage brands in India, the terms craft and artisans are quite prevalent nowadays. So, I’m curious to know how Diageo interprets them. They have just launched their second edition Epitome Reserve, it is a peaty single malt, with only 3,600 number of bottles (signed by master blender Mahesh Patil). This comes on the heels of their first edition, the Single Grain Rice Whiskey launched six months ago.
I am in conversation with Diageo’s Chief Innovation Officer Vikram Damodaran, who along with Patil is responsible for both products. For them, the budding Indian consumer is seeking product authenticity (in the craft), and a narrative with roots that runs deep – just like the banyan embossed on an Epitome bottle.
when whiskey met wine
Single malt is distilled by the Mandovi River at their facility in Ponda, Goa. Select Indian six-row barley from the Himalayan foothills, more than 2,000 kilometers away, goes into its manufacture and the whiskey – matured in pre-Bourbon casks – is finished in the casks that previously held Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Keshav Prakash, founder of The Vault, an importer of boutique spirits, recently had the opportunity to taste it, and told me that the ripeness was brilliantly managed, with the whiskey balanced but interesting, making it a great pairing to pair. It turned out to be a great drama. tandoor Or BBQ. “Overall, an impressive world whiskey,” he said.
Although Damodaran does not want to mention the length of maturity, it would be safe to say (given that the part of the angel, or whiskey that evaporates during maturity, is 2 to 2.5 times that of ours in Scotland due to higher temperatures in India). The limited edition would be the equivalent of an 18-year-old from the Scottish Isles.
The Epitome 2.0, like its predecessor, is also non-chill filtered, which helps whiskey purists retain some of the original integrity of the liquid. However, what they do do – and this is where Damodaran goes into geek mode – is ultimately use a specialized filtration process that “brings a touch of brilliance that gives it a color unlike normal cold filtered liquid”. . The geek then becomes the poet: “It’s a very evocative look, a golden yellow of whiskey with a wine red.” Pied whiskey is generally more challenging to a consumer’s tastes, and he or she may find that the “winy” finish helps to add a rounded touch, making it more accessible.
Given the progress Indian single malt brands have made over the past 10 years, I ask how Diageo will compare India’s flavor profile with that of its Scottish contemporaries. Damodaran feels that our ingredients are quite distinctive, “woody, malty and heavy bodied”, because of the ingredients used, specifically six-row barley.
drama for the curious
Although the epitome is a luxury feeling, the broader definition is experience. And that’s how it will be presented to the customer – start with curated testing sessions in markets where it’s available (like Goa and Bengaluru) and, in the full time, distillery tours and more.
I have noticed, as Indian craft brands emerge, that heritage is no longer the primary driving factor for the budding consumer. But they do love a good narrative (such as Cabernet Sauvignon finishing in wine casks). Another highlight: his connoisseur and curiosity to try new expressions. It’s this curiosity that Diageo is bargaining for to set out on its craft trip to India.