Diageo moving back into Indian whiskey?

Diageo moving back into Indian whiskey?

Diageo has declined to comment on a report out of India that says the drinks giant will re-enter the market for domestically-produced whisk(e)y in order to boost scale in the country.

Diageo is planning to launch a premium Indian whiskey named Rowson's Reserve, according to Times of India. The move is designed to give Diageo more scale in a market where it trails international rival Pernod Ricard, the paper said, without citing sources.

When contacted by just-drinks today (7 September), a Diageo spokesperson said that the group is "unable to comment on that at this stage". In its recent full-year results, Diageo highlighted the growth of its international brands in India, including Johnnie Walker Black, VAT 69 and Smirnoff.

Despite Diageo's focus on emerging markets, India has proved tough for the group to crack. Interstate tax regulations and the dominance of local player United Spirits in the market have made it difficult for several international firms to build scale.

However, earlier this year, Diageo's chief commercial officer, Mark Barnard, told just-drinks that the group remains confident about India. "Presently, we are in 42,000 licensed retail outlets in India and are confident of our distribution capabilities," he said. India has about 60,000 licensed retail outlets for alcohol.

Following the collapse of tie-up talks with United Spirits in 2009, Diageo has concentrated on its joint-venture in the country with Radico Khaitan and on establishing its own distribution system.