Johnnie Walker has long held the distinction of being the world's top-selling whisky, but that title is about to be taken over by an Indian spirit.
Bagpiper will be the No. 1 seller by the end of the year, according to projections crediting huge sales in India, the world's biggest whisky market.
Johnnie Walker was founded in Kilmarnock, Scotland, in the 19th Century.
Bagpiper was created in 1976, and sells for about US$3.25 a bottle. It is made by the United Spirits company in Bangalore, India, and is owned by Vijay Mallya, who also owns Whyte & Mackay of Glasgow, Scotland.
In an interview with the Daily Record, a Scottish newspaper, Ian Bankier, chairman of The Whisky Shop store chain, said: "Bagpiper is not Scotch. Indian whiskies are made from sugar molasses with some bulk Scotch in there to flesh them out. They're nice, they're pleasant, they're sweet. But it is a completely different drink from Scotch. Really, we're comparing a moped with a Rolls Royce."
Last year, 147 million litres of Johnnie Walker were sold around the world, compared with 139 million litres of Bagpiper. However, sales of Johnnie Walker grew by just 3%, while Bagpiper's sales are growing in excess of 10%.
The Scotch Whisky Association says Bagpiper's rise is largely due to high import tariffs, which tripled the price of Scotch whisky. Campbell Evans of the SWA said:
"This isn't about the state of the Scotch industry, it has everything to do with the Indian government's tariff barriers. India has the biggest spirits market in the world and it is primarily Indian product that's sold there. The tariffs mean it's very difficult for Scotch to get a foothold in the market and addressing that is our No.. 1 international priority.... Right now, we have less than 1% of the Indian whisky market."
Speaking of Whyte and Mackay, the company is in the process of laying off about 100 workers in Scotland, blaming a sales slump in the whisky industry and a general decline in the economy.
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