Set up a decade ago, Rock & Storm Distilleries began operations with its first manufacturing plant in Punjab. Today, equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, its plants generate approximately 40,000 litres of spirits that include some of the finest whiskies, rums and triple-distilled vodkas, all specifically crafted to suit the Indian palate.
Answering a wide-range of questions posed by Brews&Spirits, Mr Ashu Ratan Khare, Director of Rock & Storm Distilleries, talks about the journey thus far, the brands in the distillery’s portfolio, plans for the future, and how it has used the digital platform to navigate the pandemic.
What segments of the whiskey market does Rock & Storm have a presence in? What are the brands?
With the vision to satisfy the consumer palate, we take pride in making ourselves available in all categories, starting from regular and going onto premium. Our vast brand portfolio comprises blends such as Dennis Special whiskey, Barents Premium Luxury blended whiskey, Garrison Reserve Ultra-Premium whiskey, Royal Ace Premium blended whiskey, Blue Eyes pure grain/green apple Vodka, Revolution vodka and gin, Commander-in-Chief rum, Big Boss brandy and ATM brandy.
What steps have been taken in the past 2 years to premiumise your whiskey portfolio?
With increasing purchasing power and consumers wanting to experience new offerings, in 2019 we introduced our most premium brands (yet) in the form of Barents Premium, which was followed by the launch of Garrison Reserve (semi-premium). Both the products have been planned keeping in mind growing consumer needs and premium experience, while at the same time taking market and industry inputs.
Who are the primary competitors to Barents Reserve?
We strategised to give our consumers an unforgettable experience through value-for-money premium offerings. We bottled and packaged it so well that it can go on to compete with the BII/entry-level BIO products. We priced it amongst the premium segment that may include Blenders Pride, Rockford and Signature whiskies, to name a few.
What is the communication platform/ brand property that you have in mind for Barents Reserve?
With the on-going pandemic situation it is mostly digital platforms that have consumers’ and our attention. Keeping that and other norms in mind, most of our current communications have been through digital platforms (own social platforms, collaborations, etc.) and some through print media like Brews&Spirits. Although our planned brand property had to take a back seat due to the pandemic, we sure will work on them again once social norms are back to normal.
What is the current geographic penetration of your whiskey brands? What is the planned expansion of the same?
Currently our brands are available in the states of Delhi, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, etc. We are also available in the Canteen Store Depots (CSD) and para-military canteens. We are also exporting to countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Australia.
We are on the verge of starting our operations in the Telangana market in the coming month and, thereafter, expand in other states of the south Indian market. We plan to export to certain other countries like Eastern Africa and Ukraine.
What is the USP for Barents Reserve?
With planning to make the best offering in the segment for a premium experience to the consumer, our USP has been a product with an experiential blend and premium packaging that has also a ‘value for money’ proposition for the segment consumer and above.
How have customer palate and preferences changed over the last 2-3 years?
Consumers in the past years have been quite open to exploring new expressions. At the same time, they possess more purchasing power to experiment and experience premiumness than before, resulting in the opening up of gaps in the market.
This, in turn, has led to an expansion of premium offerings, allowing the manufacturers to innovate, experiment with offerings to meet the desired experience.
Any plans to enter the BII Scotch portfolio?
After giving consumers a taste of premiumness through Barents Premium and Garrison Reserve, we are in the early stages of developing a super-premium offering. What really helped us is feedback from consumer and market insights, which have, in turn, gone into the development from the very start.
How do you recommend that consumers drink Barents Reserve?
With Barents being our most premium offering yet, we recommend consumers have it with normal water at ambient room temperature to feel the actual floral, bourbon chocolate flavours with the woody, matured, smooth-silky grain aromas, which give the unique complexity of the blend.
But again, drinking is a personal preference and this premium blend can be enjoyed in most ways as desired.