Where others saw fine spirits as a drink to be poured into a glass and sipped, Keshav Prakash could hear the murmurs of long forgotten tales that hung in wisps around every single bottle of fine spirit. The stories of its land, its culture, the artisans who had slipped in a little bit of themselves into the spirits they had crafted.This fascination of his for the untold and unsung histories led him on a journey to far off lands (Guyana, Guadalajara, Haiti, Kentucky, France, England and of course Scotland) in search of these fine spirits and their distillers.
During his travels, he also met the ‘maestros of fine spirits’. Charles MacLean. Dave Broom. Tomas Estes. Considered as legends in their respective fields, they further fuelled Keshav’s passion by sharing with him their knowledge of the most boutique and rare spirits sourced from the remotest corners of the world.
Back home Keshav decided to share these experiences with other like minded people.
And thus The Vault was born!
> Hi Keshav, first of all, could you please tell us a bit more about yourself, where do you come from and why did you decide to set up a spirits importation/distribution business in India ?
I am based in Mumbai where I started an underground Whisky Fellowship, called The Oak League, a few years ago. Subsequently I was in search of quality ‘non mass’ Whisky and the choice in India was very limited, this led to the need of a boutique importer and I slipped into that role with pleasure. Of course, I did my due diligence that involved over two years of research, helped by many lovely people in the Industry such as Charlie MacLean, Dave Broom and Tomas Estes. This period of setting up, that involved travel to Scotland, Cognac and many other countries, meeting several passionate distillers, remains the most cherished experiences in the start of The Vault.
> Do you have a personal favourite when it comes to whisky?
I like delicate yet complex whiskies as much as I love full bodied, Sherry Cask Matured Single Malts. I continue to be a learner with no fixed favourites, be it Scottish, American or World Whiskies.
> How would you currently describe the Indian market for spirits ? Do you see any upcoming new trend for the category ?
India is a complex market, it’s too large to be generalised. The market for Ultra Premium spirits is however concentrated in Delhi, Mumbai and a few other large cities. 50% of India’s population (1.25 Billion) is under the age of 30 years, setting a future that’s likely to be energised and vibrant. The numbers of young, well traveled, affluent, micro families, who live life like any other global citizen, is growing and their choice is as good as their peers abroad. Whisky remains the most sought after spirits category in india but there are a small eclectic bunch of discerning consumers who appreciate spirits across categories.
> As far as whisky is concerned, how do you source your products for The Vault Collection and what are the key criteria you base your choice on when adding a reference to your portfolio ?
There is a long courtship before the brand owner and we shake hands, from our side there is extensive sampling and tasting before our team finalises a new brand. I ensure that I personally visit the distillery before including the brand in our portfolio. The criteria is heavily weighed on the choice of our in-house team and blind samplings we conduct among friends and established clientele. Of course, as much as we would like to surprise the market with top quality spirits they have not heard of or tasted, we do apply an overall ‘filter’ based on our learnings before introducing new products. Above everything else, I look for interesting stories, to me craft distillers whisper their story into each bottle before sealing it and we narrate this to the buyers, we will remain boutique so we can enjoy the pleasure of storytelling.
> Have you noticed any difference in the way whisky is consumed in India compared to Western countries drinking habits ?
While there is reasonable brand knowledge, Whisky appreciation is a nascent stage in India where blended whisky, predominantly consumed with soda and ice, continues to dominate 95% of our whisky imports. The Vault is committed to Whisky Education and offers high end experiences in Mumbai & Chennai, the two markets we are currently active in. We have curated several tasting events from quick sessions to elaborate multi course paired dinners with our partner hotels- Oberoi and Taj Groups.
>Indian whisky (Amrut, Paul John…) is becoming more and more popular here in Europe, how would you explain this trend and what is your personal opinion about Indian whisky ?
Both Indian Single Malts occupy apt spots in the burgeoning World Whiskies segment, the seekers of fine life amongst world consumers want unique experiences and are willing to pay a fair price for that, as mentioned earlier, the Indian exotic ‘story’ will always have a certain global appreciation. Consistent and growing quality will determine the longevity of any world whisky, I wish both the brands a very long innings!
> Any upcoming project for The Vault Collection ? A crazy dream you’d like to achieve as a spirits importer/distributor ?
I have a crazy dream every day and I have a petit team that’s sensible enough to only vote for the best ones. We launch our first Travel Retail Experience under The Vault Collection
brand in a few weeks time at Bengaluru airport. As a company we see ourselves as extension of the brand owners office in India, we are in it together and shortly there will be an announcement of a project that is very dear to all of us.
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