Smooth. Strong. Radiant. As the cork flips open, you’re quickly greeted by its appealing aroma that takes you to your happy place. Happy hour now has a new face. Whether it is at your favourite bar or home, enjoying one or two glasses of liquor can be a truly satisfying moment. In Assam, this often means treating oneself to a bottle of Dark Knight Small Batch Whiskey. After all, who does not love a great time with friends and colleagues and an opportunity to kick back after a tough day at work? So, you can open up to a truly relaxing time, the thick, black goodness in the bottle is nothing like you’ve seen before. Just a substantial amount in your glass is enough to properly appreciate the quality and the kick that comes with it, but nobody wants a bad hangover the next day, so you’ll need to take it easy.
From the taste to the texture and the after taste, no part of the Dark Knight whiskey won’t deliver the good feeling you crave. We can thank the good people at Radiant Northeast India Co. for this flagship product.
Run by liquor entrepreneur Vicky Chand, Radiant Northeast India Co has been in the business of serving customers with rich, quality whiskey – distilled, aged and bottled in Northeast India – for almost two decades. The Dark Knight was created by whiskey expert John McDougall, a master blender and master distiller. With this product, they have dared to embark on a journey centred on the constant desire to push themselves to break new grounds and discover even more unique ways of satisfying their loyal customers.
Made from locally procured corn and distilled with water from Dhansiri, one of the tributaries of the mighty Brahmaputra, and filtered using indigenous bamboo charcoal, the whiskey is filled in batches into imported charred New American Oakwood Cask and allowed to mature for a few years. The result truly embodies Northeast India in spirit and culture. The company has two bottling plants in Amingaon, Guwahati and Khatkhati village, Karbi Anglong. Their distillery, set up at an investment of Rs 100 crore, is located at Khatkhati village.
Like a diamond among mere rocks, this product stands out from the rest, especially because its ingredients are locally sourced, fermented, distilled, aged, and bottled in Assam. It is a truly Assamese brand.
Recollecting the humble beginnings of his venture and their experimentation with other products, Chand says, “Radiant started as a bonded warehouse with a bottling and blending license and started construction about 20 years ago. The blending and bottling were set up via a tie-up with existing companies. It was then we landed a franchise agreement with Old Monk for Assam. It was during that period we also started launching our brands, starting with Radiant Whisky and Rum which, when launched in Assam, was rejected by consumers.
“The product was, however, well appreciated by the paramilitary forces. Then we launched White Magic Gin in two variants Tango and Duet. It still exists and is the largest selling gin in its category. Vinho Porto was launched and over some time gained market acceptance and is the most widely sold and available wine brand in the Northeast,” he says, cheerfully.
The partnership with the master distiller and blender, John McDougall formed the foundation of the success of the Dark Knight Whiskey. “When we were setting up the distillery, I and Jeewan Chand had travelled to Scotland to gain more understanding and knowledge. During that visit, we put in a word through our connection that we would be interested to work with a master blender. During my next visit with my brother, we happened to come across John McDougall, who was not only a master blender by repute but also a master distiller”.
After that serendipitous encounter with John, the idea to launch a whiskey product that will take over the market in Northeast India came. Even now, John has begun training Jewaan Chand to also become a master blender and distiller.
Taking us through the development process, Chand says, “It is a story as it required John to be visiting us and sending samples as we were looking to target the high volume industry. We launched Castle Hill Master Blend – a blend with grain spirit from our distillery. It is a blend that is widely accepted but gets lost in the loud marketing and noise of the national and international companies. Understanding quickly we could not complete in a head veto head with these brands and companies. It was at brainstorming with John we decide we need to start maturing whisky in cask vats etc to produce world-class products. It was during this process we ended up with the idea of Castle Hill Dark Knight Small Batch Whiskey. We would continue the Castle Hill exploratory project and try a tribute to the American Whiskey tradition as we had already established a corn/maize supply chain. We sourced New American Oakwood and got one of India’s oldest coppering to make the casks.”
Although all of Chand’s brands are of top quality and widely accepted by consumers, there are a few that have edged others when it comes to popularity and sales. “White Magic Tango leads the market and has more than 15 years of expectancy and loyalty. Vinho Porto, another favourite, is the largest selling and produced in the Northeast. The Castle Hill series is an ongoing journey and another favourite. Our first batch is almost over. We are in the process to release another batch which is four and a half years old. Then we have the Royal Vat Whisky and Rum which are also favourites, and for which we wish to start premiumisation,” he adds.
Over time, Chand has mostly focused on three things, which has formed the bedrock of his entire venture, quality, consistency and improvement. He believes that constant improvement on his already existing products based on the feedback received is the simple formula for success. And so, with every product, acceptance or rejection, he heads back to the distillery, working with his partners and staff to make every taste better and ensure that the happy hours in Assam are happier than ever.