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Published on: Dec. 8, 2023, 5:47 p.m.
Rock & Storm spreads the cheer
  • In little over a decade, Rock & Storm has moved from a turnover of Rs30 crore to Rs400 crore and has a product line of 11 brands

By Suman Tarafdar

Willem Barentsz, anglicised as William Barents, the 16th century Dutch explorer, was a pioneer who arguably did more than anyone else in opening up the Arctic Ocean. Even in his most optimistic days however – and exploration with the rose-tinted glasses removed wasn’t the easiest of professions – he perhaps did not imagine that, centuries later, in a faraway land, he would have a whisky named after him.

“Willam Barents, the explorer, is synonymous with adventure,” points out Vinay Ratan Khare, director, Rock & Storm Distilleries. “His zest for doing extraordinary inspired us.” Barents, a leading brand in states such as Punjab, Uttarakhand and Delhi, is a leading brand from the distillery which, in the little over a decade of its establishment, has moved from a turnover of Rs30 crore to Rs400 crore and has a product line of 11 brands. It expects to close 2023-24 at a net revenue of Rs175 crore.

Starting with the whisky brand Dennis, today the distillery makes whisky, rum, vodka, gin and brandy from its base in Sunam district, Punjab. The installed capacity for the distillery is 1.62 crore litres annually and the production across categories is about 2 million cases annually. “From entering new categories to different geographies, we are making steady inroads in the industry with our products,” adds Khare.

Recent data from the global agency International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR) reveals that whiskey accounts for about 70 per cent of all spirits sales in India – largely in the lower or affordable price bracket. Khare is confident that whisky will continue to dominate the Indian market. “We do keep talking about changing demographic and increasing shifts towards white spirits, but in reality, it is still miniscule. The Indian spirits market is predominantly brown spirits driven and whiskey continues to have a market share of more than 75 per cent. Yes, the white spirits market is growing but it is not going to be a predominant segment.”

Expansion mode

‘Instead of entering every market in India, we focussed our efforts in Delhi, Punjab, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand and Telangana’, elaborates Khare, on the strategy for the company. “We have become a formidable player in these markets. Delhi and Punjab are the largest markets while Telangana is the fastest growing.” In whisky, Barents and Dennis are the top sellers for the distillery, while the other top selling brands are Blue Eyes vodka and Commander N Chief rum.

“Launching a brand is probably easier than sustaining it,” points out Khare. “Our marketing communication plan was totally focussed on our target audience. From stand-out packaging to innovative names are the first things a consumer looks at. Of course, on ground promotions and events did play a pivotal role. However, what we were focussed on from day one was that the product in terms of taste and pricing must ensure returning consumers. And that is where we have succeeded.”     

The company is now on an expansion mode, with an investment of Rs100 crore over the next 3-4 years, while expanding its premium portfolio. It is looking to enter the Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan markets in 2024, with expansion to Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand slotted for the year after.

  • Khare: making steady inroads

    Khare: making steady inroads

Affordably premium

Willam Barents (1550-97) was an explorer synonymous with adventure. As Khare explains, “His zest for doing extraordinary inspired us”. Barents whisky is a full-bodied blend of eight-year malt and grain spirits. In terms of tasting notes, the top note has aroma of sweet spices with a hint of floral mellow taste, followed by a smooth rich and sooty, nutty coffee flavours in the mid note and the end note is a burst of fruity punch leaving a lasting smokey flavour. Priced at under Rs1,000, its packaging approximates that of single malts or whiskies that are often more than double the price.

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