A taste of the newest gins to hit the market in the country
It appears to be the gin season in Goa. The tiny state on India’s west coast has seen a burst of homegrown liquors in the past few years, aided by helpful excise rates and a burgeoning and discerning market. India’s first handcrafted gin, Greater Than (by Nao Spirits) started the homegrown gin trend in 2017, followed by Third Eye Distillery’s Stranger & Sons. Both started out in Goa before taking their gin across the country.
This year, the pandemic and lockdown notwithstanding, other companies have taken the plunge and are creating new varieties of gin. Each offers a different bouquet of botanicals, varied tasting notes and a different story. Here’s a glimpse of some of them.
Solomon Diniz had the idea for creating a local dry gin back in 2009 and even went ahead and registered a name, Tickle Gin. At the time, advertisers and others said gin was a dying segment in India’s liquor market. This year, finally, he launched Tickle Gin. “This gin is ten years in the making,” says Diniz, director of Adinco Distilleries, who also produce the popular Cabo white coconut rum. Adinco consulted with a Russian blender and distiller and had one request: the gin had to highlight mangoes. “Eating raw mangoes has been an essential part of our lives here in Goa and I wanted to reflect that in the gin. As you open the bottle, you will get the fragrance of raw mango,” he adds. “This aroma is meant to ‘tickle’ the taste buds, hence the name.”
Tickle gin has coriander seeds, Himalayan juniper, clove, cardamom, orange peel, and cinnamon sourced from Maharashtra and Kerala, and black pepper sourced from Goa. In terms of flavour, it is smooth with tropical tangy notes. It comes in a tall, narrow, clear bottle.
Details: Tickle is available across Goa, priced at Rs 650 (750 ml) and soon to retail in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pondicherry.
Pumori Small Batch Gin
The Himalayan mountain range not only inspired this small-batch gin but also gave it a name. Pumori is named after Mount Pumori [translates to mountain daughter], which is a part of the Himalayan range of mountains on the Nepal China border. The juniper used in Pumori comes from these mountain ranges.
This craft spirit was started to “highlight the taste of Indian culture through a single liquid”, according to master distiller Aman Thadani. This small-batch gin has 12 botanicals sourced from the Indian subcontinent – Himalayan Juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, coriander seeds, liquorice, nutmeg, rosemary, aniseed, cinnamon, almond, and vanilla. It has citrus notes, a fresh feel and a vanilla and almond finish.
The gin comes in a bottle inspired by water flasks. Pumori is a product of Fullarton Distilleries – known for their Woodburns Contemporary Indian Whisky – located in Khandepar, Goa.
Details: Pumori is available in Goa, priced at Rs 1,750 (750 ml).
The Swarup family Of Globus Spirits started one of the first distilleries in independent India in 1948. This year, under the India Craft Spirit Company, they are set to launch their homegrown London Dry style India Dry gin, Terai. Produced in Behror, Rajasthan, Terai gets its name from the strip of fertile marshland on the foothills of the Himalayas. It has 11 botanicals – tulsi, coriander, fennel, lemon peel, orange peel, rose, almond, angelica and orris root – sourced from Khari Baoli in Delhi. The juniper and lavender are sourced from abroad.
“Terai is culturally Indian. They have interpreted different Indian tradition and handicrafts in a subtle way,” says Karina Aggarwal, founder-director of Giggle Water Beverage Concepts and brand strategist for Terai. The bottle shape has edges that resemble pillars in Indian architecture, the stoppers are made by Channapatna artists using ivory wood and vegetable dyed lacquer and the label is cotton paper with copper foil.
In terms of flavour, there’s a hint of juniper backed up with green notes of fennel, coriander and basil. “All these herbs are familiar to the Indian household and add freshness and brightness to the spirit. It’s a combination of fresh green notes balanced by the sweetness of juniper, with a dry finish of spicy and earthy notes,” she adds.
Details: Terai will launch soon in Delhi, priced at Rs 2,000 (750ml).
Shubham Khanna moved to Goa two years ago with a passion project: creating his own gin. “I’ve always been the odd one out in my friend’s circle in Delhi because I would prefer gin over whiskey. I thought of working on something that I could get my friends to try and hopefully, change their mind about the spirit,” he says.
Khanna had a full-time job in his family’s swimming pool business; gin was a hobby. He experimented with 40 recipes, sending out small bottles to friends and some bars for feedback. “It’s a Made in India product – everything from distillation to bottling to ingredients is from here,” he says. “This is India’s first hemp craft gin.”
GinGin has nine botanicals: Himalayan junipers, lavender from Kashmir, hemp from Uttarakhand, cinnamon, rosemary and lemongrass from Ponda’s spice farms, and coriander seeds, caraway seeds, butterfly pea flower from Moira. “We distil the gin with butterfly pea flower so it doesn’t add colour but a tartness that cuts down the oiliness of juniper and hemp.”
Khanna is a one-man company. He has tied up with a distillery but everything else, he does himself. The bottle is transparent with minimal design, and has fun markers to the side (noting things like ‘well begun is half done’). The name, he says, is a play on the Italian toast, Cin Cin.
Details: GinGin will launch in Goa soon, priced at Rs 999; Maharashtra and Delhi will follow.
This new gin comes from Spaceman Spirits Lab founded by former management consultant, Aditya Aggarwal. Another gin with roots in Goa (Margao), it has hemp as one of its ingredients.
“It’s been a long journey for me to create this gin. I wanted to create a product to take the lesser-known stories of our countries to the world. I realised gin is the perfect thing to do it because all our botanicals tell a story,” says Aggarwal, who did a course in distillation in the UK before starting on Saṃsāra.
This London Dry gin has 11 botanicals include imported Macedonian juniper, Angelica root, orris root, a special citrus blend, hemp, rose petals and cardamom that are reminiscent of festivities, vetiver grass, and cubeb pepper. “In terms of tasting notes, on the nose it is very floral and citrus-forward, but it has an earthy taste and a lingering smooth finish,” he adds.
Much thought has been put into the story behind Saṃsāra. They use organic packaging material and run a women-centric production facility. Their label features a women explorer, Lady Saṃsāra, and the company has created a mythical story about this empress of exploration.
Details: Available in Goa, priced Rs 1,450; Maharashtra and Karnataka will follow soon.
Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin
Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin is a triple-distilled spirit, handcrafted in a traditional copper pot still in small batches. It is distilled at one of India’s oldest distilleries, Rampur Distillery (now Radico Khaitan), and seeks inspiration from the city of Jaisalmer. The bottle is frosted black with touches of gold. The logo has a black buck, taken from the Jaisalmer Royal flag, and an outline of the Golden Fort sits between the buck’s horns. There are traditional Rajasthani decorative motifs too.
Master distiller Anup Barik uses 11 botanicals in this gin, of which seven are Indian. There is coriander and vetiver from Jaisalmer, orange peel from Central India, cubeb pepper and lemongrass from the South, Darjeeling green tea leaves, lemon peel from the West. Angelica root, liquorice, caraway seeds and juniper are sourced from abroad. The gin has an intense nose with an initial hint of lemon and coriander. It has pine notes from Juniper, woody and earthy notes from Angelica Root and liquorice and spicy notes from pepper.
The gin was launched in 2018 and is available in 25 countries around the world; they recently launched in India.
Details: Jaisalmer gin is available in Goa and Delhi – priced at Rs 3,600 (750ml).
This dry gin from Peak Spirits is another spirit brewed in Goa, but for the international market. They may launch in India in 2021. “We wanted to create something that expresses what is indigenous and unique to the country. We were most inspired by local botanicals that would be best expressed through a gin,” says Ansh Khanna, founder, Peak Spirits India.
The name JiJi is derived from the Hindi word Jijivisha, a word they say describes a lust for life. “Jin JiJi is an exploration across the diverse landscape of India to capture the unique flavours of this magical country. From the fragrant tulsi leaf used in Ayurveda to the wildly aromatic chamomile flower, each botanical has a story to tell,” he adds.
Jin JiJi is distilled in a copper pot. They are possibly the only gin to use cashew nuts. Their Indian dry gins come in two variants: Jin JiJi Botanicals, which has Himalayan juniper, tulsi, chamomile, black tea, coriander seed, angelica root, and cashew nut. Jin JiJi Darjeeling has Himalayan juniper, single estate Darjeeling tea, ginger, cardamom, clove, lemon, coriander seed, angelica root, and cashew nut. This variant has a predominant flavour of tea, and the accompanying ingredients (ginger, cardamom, clove) usually used in masala chai.