Bunhill: Neutral spirits

SOME gloomy news from the drinks front. According to the annual survey by Impact International, five of the fastest-growing brands in the world spirits market last year were Indian whiskies - drinks generally held to be useful principally because they're reckoned to be stronger than a mere plague bacillus. The names, like Officer's Choice and Bagpiper, are disturbingly redolent of the Raj and thus sound rather like proper scotch.

Which of course they're not, being mostly neutral spirits with only a percentage of the real stuff.

They could be a danger to the Scots - sales of Bagpiper were up by two-thirds last year to more than 35 million bottles, greatly helped by crippling restrictions on sales of scotch in India. But the Scots have a remedy at hand: they - and indeed any other lover of true scotch - can simply refuse to drink Kingfisher, the beer sold in virtually every Indian restaurant in Britain. You see, it comes from United Breweries, the group responsible for Officer's Choice, Bagpiper - and another fast mover, Diplomat.

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