A senior executive at Whyte & Mackay has called for the spirits industry to "pull the dogs off" in its pursuit of reduced tariff levels in India.

Speaking exclusively to just-drinks today (24 May), James Espey, a board member at the recently-acquired company, said the industry needed to stop "getting involved in having a go (at India) in the press". Espey described the arrival of India's UB Spirits to the Scotch whisky industry as "an opportunity for the industry to work constructively with (UB Spirits' owner) Vijay Mallya over duties and access in India."

Dr Mallya completed the acquisition of Whyte & Mackay last week for GBP595m (US$1.18bn).

"If we fight our battle with him in the press, we will have a problem," Espey warned. "My message is, we must now stop fighting the Indians in the press and use constructive dialogue and diplomacy.

"If we continue to use the media to have a go at him, then we won't harness the strength we have."

Espey also said that it was "in Mallya's interest now" to work with the spirits industry to push for reduced tariffs in the country. The Indian government has consistently refused to back down in the row over its duties on imported spirits. A bottle of imported Scotch, for example, can be hit with a tax of up to 550% under the Indian tax regime.

Espey also said that Dr Mallya is looking to join the Scotch Whisky Association trade body.