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The Dram Club: Appealing to India’s Voluminous Scotch Lovers

With new initiatives and geographies to explore, The Dram Club is looking to draw whisky lovers in India to their exciting platform

Given the storied legacy of fine malts, festivals celebrating them, though of more recent vintage, are gaining ground rapidly. None more so than the Spirit of Speyside, held annually in April or May all over Speyside, home to some of the most legendary names in Scotch whisky. It was no surprise then that when a precursor to the festival was hosted in Mumbai last year – a first for Asia in the festival’s 20-year history, courtesy The Dram Club, it drew Indian whisky enthusiasts from far and wide.

Whiskey bourbon glass

The Dram Club, a platform that brings whisky enthusiasts together, is creating a community for people to appreciate their whiskies. Started a couple of years ago by whisky lovers Vinayak Singh, an investment manager at a wealth management firm and Swati Sharma, a marketing lead at an MNC, in Mumbai, it is now expanding geographically and has launched an app as it seeks to draw in new aficionados.  

“During our first trip to Scotland in 2018, we visited some of the biggest distilleries like The Macallan, Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet etc,” says Mr. Singh. “We discovered that there is so much history, craft and science behind the whisky that we know today. So, our initial idea to start The Dram Club was to take these experiences and anecdotes back to whisky consumers in India.”

During our social interactions with friends, colleagues and acquaintances, most of them would profess their love for whiskies, but would also admit that they wouldn’t have tasted or tried whiskies beyond the select two or three well-known brands, explains Mr. Singh as a motivation to start the club.

Vinayak Singh The Dram Club

While sales figures indicate fine Scotch whisky is a niche, though a fast-growing market in India, Mr. Singh says “from our experience it isn’t as exclusive anymore. A much wider and demographically diverse audience has access to them and also appreciates them. At The Dram Club, our endeavour has been to help our audience understand and appreciate whiskies and similar fine spirits by urging to look beyond the label on the bottle and focus on the liquid inside and the heritage, science and craft that goes into creating a whisky.”

The club is actively engaged in creating awareness. “Through our various tastings and newsletters, we have tried to bust a lot of myths and cliches around whiskies,” explains Mr. Singh. “Blind tastings have gone a long way in helping consumers/members appreciate a whisky for what it is. For example, at one blind hosting we had four whiskies – three classic single malt scotch whiskies and one Indian single – the Indian single malt along with an iconic Islay single malt turned out to be the crowd favourites.”

While the club held a number of tasting events, including the aforementioned Spirit of Speyside event, even during the lockdown, The Dram Club did various online masterclasses/tastings and certifications in the space to keep their followers engaged. Recently, it had its first event in Delhi. The Club, in collaboration with Kyndal, held a tasting session in Whisky Samba. Jodie Mariott, The Macallan’s Regional Brand Ambassador walked the attendees through the heritage and history of The Macallan, the only Scotch distillery that has its own Master of Wood, and is one of the most sought-after labels for whisky enthusiasts. In a sign of the times, Ms. Mariott herself could attend the event virtually from Dubai, but for the actual attendees, the three Macallan samplings were very much real, and much appreciated.

Macallan Triple Cask range
The Macallan Triple Cask Matured range, a series of single malt whiskies crafted in a triple cask combination of European and American sherry seasoned oak casks and American ex-bourbon oak casks, was served at The Dram Club's first event in Delhi NCR  

The Club is now introducing an app, “where we are available to all our members 24 / 7 helping them with instant whisky recommendations and reviews based on their mood / palate,” says Ms. Sharma. “With the app, we have aggregated all the information relevant to whiskies and their availability in once place, available to the consumer at the click of a button. Right from what expressions of a brand to what price in what city, all the information has been customised for the consumers in a very structured manner at one place as opposed to a very cumbersome and scattered way in which this information may or may be not be readily available. This helps in simplifying the consumer purchase journey.”

Ms. Sharma says that the Club is also looking to aggregate retailers and provide a delivery service in cities where it’s possible in keeping with the government guidelines. “We intend to make the app a one stop information and buying guide for all the spirits enthusiasts. Secondly, the endeavour of being a community that provides people with a platform to share their drinks, stories and experiences comes to life in the fullest sense with the social media feature on the app. Now we can expect consumers to share a dram that they are enjoying right then with other members/ guests on the app and share what they feel giving the whole community building a real-time process.”

The Club plans to add tours and travels once COVID-19 norms are relaxed. “We are looking to integrate the delivery service through our app, which will become a source of revenue for The Dram Club,” says Ms. Sharma. “Through the app we are also looking to sell whisky and spirits relevant accessories like glassware, mixers, and other adjacent categories. With the app in place, our entire focus will be to promoting the app and other activities. As The Dram Club, our focus for the next two years is expansion to new cities and geographies, where we have not been able to reach yet. Bangalore, Pune, Goa, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Jaipur are some of the key focus areas. We have been able to establish a successful model and now we are looking to replicate the same across the new cities we are looking to cover.”

Swati Sharma The Dram Club

“Our USP lies in the fact that we are a democratic platform with the aim being to get as many people to taste and appreciate as many styles of whiskies as possible,” says Mr. Singh. In a country where brown spirits rule, that could be a dream realised sooner than later!