Inspired by Jack Daniel’s, this Delhi entrepreneur is distilling India’s first Himalayan whiskey

Situated in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan, Ginglani Distillers procures two-thirds of its raw materials, including water and malt, locally. Over 60 percent of the employees on the company’s bottling line are women.
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Whether you like it on the rocks or in your cocktail, whiskey is one of the most versatile drinks out there and has a fan base of its own. While Scotland might boast of its single-malts, India’s alcobev industry is not far behind either.

After players like Amrut and Paul John impressed the young and old, likewise, Ginglani Distillers’ Black Bow Himalayan Whiskey is targeting the “experimental, aspirational, and value-seeking” consumers. 

In an interview with YS Weekender, Shivam Ginglani says the company is targeting the millennial and new-age whiskey drinkers of India. As the name suggests, Black Bow is made with fresh Himalayan water, and its malts are matured at 5,906 feet above sea-level. 

Shivam Ginglani, Founder of Black Bow Himalayan Whiskey

Quest for more

After graduating from Delhi University, Shivam went on to pursue a Masters in Finance and Business Economics from the Manchester Business School, UK. During his outings with friends, US whiskey brand Jack Daniels was Shivam’s go-to drink. “It was very palatable for a young whiskey drinker apart from having a cool legacy,'' Shivam tells YS Weekender.

Upon returning to India after his Masters, Shivam was unable to find a young and modern whiskey brand at an accessible price. “From 2015, the market had started seeing an influx of homegrown beer brands adapting to the evolving preferences, but the premium homegrown whiskey space was largely untouched,” he adds. 

“After witnessing the largest category of the spirits industry (75 percent value share) being relatively stagnant, I set sail to kickstart the homegrown whiskey revolution,” Shivam says.

“Currently, MNC’s Pernod Ricard and Diageo with their national brands Blenders Pride, Signature, and Antiquity, occupy over 80 percent market share in the premium segment. Considering these brands were launched pre-1995, we feel the industry needs a fresh approach for the next generation of consumers, and a lot of agility for quicker turnarounds,” he explains.  

With no family legacy in the business domain, the 29-year-old founded Ginglani Distillers in January 2016. Shivam travelled across India to understand the ins and outs of the alcobev industry. Research and trials for the blend took two years to perfect, and post the trials in test markets, Black Bow was launched in Delhi in November 2018.

Shivam is working on another whiskey brand in the semi-premium category — Woodsmen — that he plans to launch in the next couple of weeks. 

Himalayan whiskey 

The Ginglani Distillers are situated in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan. Mindful about the carbon footprint it produces, the company procures about two-thirds of the raw materials, including the two main ingredients — water and malt, locally. 

“Almost 60 percent of whiskey is water, and there is no better place in the country that matches the water quality and environment conditions that the Himalayas have to offer,” Shivam says. 

Black Bow is made from Himalayan water and five-year-old malts. The natural, toasted oak lends the whiskey its sweet and nutty notes. The blend undergoes a final journey, where it is charcoal mellowed, drop-by-drop, to achieve the desired smoothness. 

Black Bow Himalayan Whiskey

Woodsmen, on the other hand, is a blend of whiskies aged in fresh American oak and ex-Bourbon casks. It is an extra-smooth whiskey, “with a segment-first flavour profile,” Shivam says. With Woodsmen, the entrepreneur wants to cater to the everyday consumer who wants to premiumise, but cannot jump to the premium segment as frequently. 

The designing of both the brands — Black Bow and Woodsmen — are outsourced from Freddy and Naved. Ginglani Distillers works closely with the local Himachali community. Over 60 percent of the employees on the bottling line are women. 

Upping the number game 

Initially bootstrapped with half a million dollar, with additional help from friends and family, Ginglani Distillers, so far, has sold 2.5 lakh bottles of Black Bow whiskey. In fact, the company is now raising its first external round of investment. However, the founder declined to disclose the funding details.

Earlier, the company focussed only on word-of-mouth marketing. However, with COVID-19 led lockdowns dipping sales, it took the downtime during to reassess its strengths and weaknesses.

“We are now relaunching our whiskey in a refreshed and upgraded identity,” he says. The company is changing its whiskey’s packaging and revamping the website. 

Black Bow Himalayan Whiskey is priced at Rs 900, while Woodsmen will be available at Rs 600. The brands will be available in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.

Black Bow Himalayan Whiskey

Going ahead, Ginglani Distillers plans to focus on digital marketing through Facebook and Instagram, where its target audience is most active. “With the burgeoning set of younger consumers we are focussing on the present, but more importantly, building the company for the future,” he adds. He also plans to drive tasting and samplings through events, activations, and social media influencers. 

For FY2020, the company crossed the $1 million mark in gross sales. “Black Bow Himalayan whiskey achieved one percent market share in both Delhi and Himachal markets,” Shivam says.

“Although the COVID-19 situation was a dampener, we are looking at a great run in 2021 with the expansion of our portfolio, aiming to double the sales revenue,” he adds. In the long run, it aims to take Indian whiskies global.  

Cocktail recipe:

Black Bow Himalayan Old Fashioned - A classic whiskey cocktail with a Himalayan twist

Ingredients:

  • Angostura Bitters: 3/4 dashes
  • 5-7 ml Apple Glaze or 1 Sugar Cube
  • Water
  • Black Bow Himalayan Whiskey: 45ml
  • Ice Cubes: Clean and big
  • Garnish: Dried Apples and a stick of Cinnamon

Process:

  • Take a wide mouth glass container, and add the Sugar Cube/Apple Glaze
  • 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Add a dash of water
  • Muddle the contents properly in the container
  • Add 45ml Black Bow Himalayan Whiskey
  • Add boatloads of ice in the container and stir it with a big spoon for at least 45-50 seconds
  • Get a clean whiskey glass and throw in a big ice cube
  • Strain the concoction from the container into the whiskey glass
  • Garnish with dried apples and a stick of cinnamon.

Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the Black Bow Himalayan Old Fashioned!

Edited by Suman Singh