Words by Chandreyi Bandyopadhyay
Celebrating World Gin Day today, let us discuss the rise of new age gin makers and some world class gin development that is happening in India. Like many other items, gin found its way to the South Asian sub-continent with the British in the early 19th century. Recent reports from the 21st century indicate that India is the fifth largest market for gin – who could refuse a refreshing cocktail, made from intriguing new craft gins from the land of many mysteries and spices?
Sourcing of botanicals from the Himalayan foothills and availability of aromatic ingredients has propelled interest and innovation in the Gin-o-sphere. Mitali Tandon, a Gin connoisseur and founder of The Secret Gin Society said: “Gin is an extremely versatile spirit and is a great opportunity for bartenders to experiment with and be inventive with their cocktails. It’s easy on the palate and people enjoy discovering a brand’s story through its botanical choices, especially the ones that use locally sourced botanicals.”
It leads to a deeper look into the botanicals of some of India’s most popular gins available in the market.
Anand Virmani, CEO and distiller at Nao Spirits mentions that Hapusa, their flagship product is the first gin in the world made with indigenous Himalayan Juniper berries. Hapusa is created entirely with botanicals found in kitchens across India. The bold flavour palate comes through with the use of fresh turmeric, gondhoraj lime (Kaffir lime) and raw mango, which makes this an ideal gin for sipping.
Another new name, Terai Gin, is taking a subtle approach in making its mark as an Indian origin gin. The Swarup family who founded Terai have a long history of distillation and agriculture in the ‘Terai’ region in India and claims to have created an authentic dry gin of true provenance, crafted completely using indigenous ingredients. It is distilled in the traditional one-shot process in a copper pot at the family-owned distillery in Rajasthan.
Experts opine that Indian consumers are now more open to trying new flavours and experimenting with new concepts. One instance of this can be found at Jin Jiji, which is the only gin in the world to use cashew nuts that thrive in the tropical paradise of Goa and is an essential part of its culture. Ansh Khanna, founder at Peak Spirits that manufactures Jin Jiji said: “Our belief of tea being India’s terroir defining botanical led to Jin JiJi’s Darjeeling variant, for which we source single estate tea from a unique estate for each batch.”
Experimentation and craft define the gins of today originating in India. Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin presents itself as an ‘Oasis in the Desert’ and a drink ‘Fit for the Royalty’. The brand uses 11 botanicals of which 7 are sourced from different parts of India itself, such as cubeb pepper, Darjeeling green tea and lemongrass.
Natural ingredients take the forefront in the creation of craft gins in India and Samsara, by Spaceman Spirits. Founder and CEO Aditya Aggarwal shares the brand’s focus in a sustainable approach to gin-making. “Use of hemp seeds makes the botanicals stand apart for Samsara and our star ingredients of rose petals, cardamom and vetiver make the gin drinking experience a delectable celebration”, he added.
With robust and generous flavours, Stranger and Sons is a three-dimensional gin and boasts a distinctive blend of spices and botanicals with a truly Indian provenance. Stranger and Sons prides itself in embracing the wonderful strangeness inherent in India and its culinary heritage which allows consumers to connect with the story and the brand in an organic manner.
For the quintessential gin lover, India now has many options to cheer your spirits, read on for a collection of some of our favoured crafted Indian gins.
Stranger and Sons
Stranger and Sons was conceptualised by carefully selecting inherently Indian botanicals in order to create a spirit that celebrates the country’s agricultural history. With robust and generous flavours, Stranger and Sons is a three-dimensional gin and boasts a distinctive blend of spices and botanicals with a truly Indian provenance. Stranger and Sons prides itself in embracing the wonderful strangeness inherent in India and its culinary heritage which allows consumers to connect with the story and the brand in an organic manner.
Available in the UK through various online retailers including thedrinkshop.com from £34.69.
Another offering from Nao Spirits, the first gin in the world made with indigenous Himalayan juniper berries, Hapusa has a distinct flavour of Indian spices in a mild and attractive way. Hapusa is created entirely with botanicals found in kitchens across India. The bold flavour palate comes through with the use of fresh turmeric, kaffir lime and raw mango and makes this an ideal gin for long drinks.
Available in the UK at masterofmalt.com for £42.45.
Terai is a modern gin rooted in London Dry traditions but with an intrinsically Indian profile and character. Crafted in Rajasthan by a family of distillers in the traditional one-shot process, with botanicals sourced from the Terai region at the foothills of Himalaya, this gin has a soft herbaceous note, lifted by citrus zest and balanced with sweet and piney Himalayan juniper. It combines the love for land, spirit of craft and expertise in an original design bottle representing ancient Indian architecture and playful wooden stoppers handcrafted by local artisans of Channapatna, a town in Karnataka in southern India.
Availability: Yet to open sales in UK. Available in New Delhi and Rajasthan in India presently. Teraigin.com.
A classic London Dry style Indian craft gin which is juniper-forward and has the freshness of orange peel and fennel to set it apart, from the house of Nao Spirits.
Available in the UK at masterofmalt.com for £22.60.
Made from Indian botanicals like Himalayan juniper and tulsi, Jin Jiji is the only gin in the world to use cashew nuts, that thrive in Goa and is an essential part of its culture. The belief of tea being India’s terroir defining botanical led to Jin JiJi’s Darjeeling variant, for which single estate tea is sourced from a unique estate for each batch. Available in two variants – India Dry Gin and Darjeeling. totalwine.com.
Pumori is a small batch gin, with each batch only running to 200l. The pot still which is used to distil Pumori is a bespoke still built ground up at Fullarton Distilleries in Goa. The botanicals are sourced from the Indian sub-continent and are chosen to give a complex yet balanced profile making Pumori an ideal sipper drink and also a great companion for cocktails.
Availability: In India only, find your local store via pumorigin.com. 750ml for £30
Samsara is amongst the first gins to be distilled in an all women distillery using organic botanicals sourced from across India and Europe. Samsara is also amongst the first gins to use hemp seeds as one of the botanicals. From sourcing organic botanicals to using sustainable packaging material, the brand ensures that everything at Samsara is beneficial for the environment and the communities associated with it. Each bottle of Samsara is produced sustainably and ethically.
Availability: In India only – Goa and Maharashtra – £12 – £25.
Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin
Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin, distilled at one of India’s oldest distilleries, encapsulates the rich heritage and history of the Indian city of Jaisalmer, known as the jewel in India’s crown. It has been rated amongst the Top 100 Spirts of 2020 in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, USA with 95 points. A crafted representation of royalty and luxury exudes this gin’s regal roots.
Available in UK both in On Trade as well as off licences and online via masterofmalt.com. RRP £35 for 70cl.