A little hungover, India’s Officer’s Choice is still the world’s largest-selling whisky

Sobering down.
Sobering down.
Image: Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez
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For the fifth straight year, Officer’s Choice has held fort as the world’s largest-selling whisky.

But, due to a regulatory hangover, the three-decades-old Indian whisky has slipped a little in the rankings of the world’s 100 largest spirits brands, according to data released by market insights firm IWSR on July 03. It was overtaken by Thailand’s Ruang Kho.

Last year, sales volume of the brand owned by the Mumbai-based Allied Blenders & Distillers (ABD) dipped by 2.5% following the supreme court’s ban on the sale of liquor along India’s highways and other disruptive policy moves by the Narendra Modi government.

In all, Officer’s Choice sold 31.5 million cases (a case contains 9 litres of the drink), down from 32.3 million cases sold in the previous year, IWSR said.

The rankings covered alcohol brands sold in 157 countries.

Officer’s Choice was launched in 1988 by businessman Kishore Chhabria as a mass-market whisky brand. Its rise to the top wasn’t bereft of drama. ABD, formerly known as BDA, has a long history of fighting lawsuits, navigating corporate battles, and fighting sibling rivalry.

One more peg

India is prodigious in its consumption of whisky, accounting for close to half of the global demand. The country is also the largest producer of the spirit—of the 29 whisky brands included in IWSR’s top 100, 15 were Indian.

But 2017 wasn’t easy on India’s liquor market.

“Last year the entire spirits industry in India had a very rough time because first, the prohibition took place in Bihar in 2016, then demonetisation happened, and thereafter the SC judgement on highway ban,” Deepak Roy, executive vice-chairman and CEO of ABD, told Quartz. “These three things crippled the market.”

But things are now beginning to look better. ”The second half of the year, however, saw sales recover but not by enough to offset the disruption caused in the first half,” Alastair Smith, director of IWSR, said. “In the longer-term, the market should pick up again.”