Spirit du jour Gin is a versatile spirit. It can be downed neat, on the rocks, as gin and tonic, as a frozen slush, and makes for a great base for a cocktail. Last year, India got seven new gin brands, calling out to modern-day drinkers.
Pumori Gin, founded by Aman Thadani and Gin Gin and Clearly Good Gin, founded by Shubham Khanna, are among the Covid releases that placed their bets on the new trend of consuming alcohol — of homebound people wanting to experiment with newer alcohol flavours.
Ginaissaince in India, as they say, has now begun full throttle!
They call it Pumori…
Currently available in Goa and Maharashtra with plans to expand to other states post-lockdown, Pumori’s journey started in 2016. 28-year-old Thadani, who grew up in a typical Indian household that favours whisky over anything else, was also naturally drawn to the golden liquid. But on his trip to Europe four years ago, his taste and curiosity for newer spirits evolved and gin caught his fancy.
Back then in the UK and other European countries, gin was having a moment. “Everyone was drinking gin, something that was unseen in India,” says Thadani. Even until 2016, India had very limited gin options. Thadani saw a great business opportunity here.
For his initial research, he visited several gin distilleries across Europe and tried more than 60 types of gins in 45 days. “The trip helped me understand different styles of gins, its flavours and how botanicals are balanced and highlighted.” Thadani finally knew the kind of gin he would like to create.
A delicate, nuanced and non-pungent gin that strikes a balance between London Dry and New Western Dry, Pumori was unveiled in 2020. A fully homegrown craft gin, it is named after Mount Pumori, a Himalayan range of mountains on the Nepal-China border. It is a mix of Himalayan juniper, orange and lemon peel, coriander seeds, rosemary, anise seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, almond, nutmeg, vanilla and licorice.
“The idea is for you to be able to taste all the botanicals. While we showcase juniper, we also capture the flavours of other ingredients equally. It is balanced and subtle and doesn’t have any robustness that a lot of other gins have.”
Based in South Goa’s town of Ponda, Pumori is a small batch gin distilled in a 200-litre pot still, which is designed and created in-house unlike many gin producers who often import their pots. To prepare 3000 to 5000 bottles of Pumori, the distillery uses a combination of 10 batches of gin produced at different intervals and mixes it all together to create a large volume of one spirit.
A toast to the experimenters
Pumori has managed to woo a spectrum of drinkers, be it the more sophisticated, knowledgeable ones or the cohort of the curious, new-age, experimental drinkers. “We have had many younger people enquire about Pumori. At this point, gin is a very youth-driven spirit. When the younger lot stumbles upon a new brand, they want to try it.”
Pumori Gin is currently available in Goa and Maharashtra
They call it GinGin…
For 24-year-old Khanna, GinGin and Clearly Good Gin were passion projects, which turned into commercial ventures last year. Khanna comes from a whisky-loving Punjabi family. His fascination and love for gin evolved over time. Then four years ago he started making his own gin that he could enjoy with friends.
“I learnt the entire process from scratch, from distillation to making recipes and testing various botanicals and flavours.” After almost 200 tasting sessions and over 35 gin iterations over a span of four years, GinGin was born.
The name GinGin is a play on the Italian term from ‘Cin Cin’ (cheers in English). It also refers to the earliest history of gin in Italy during the 11th century when monks on the coast of Salerno would use Juniper berries and homemade spirit to make medicinal liquor.
India’s one and only hemp gin
GinGin is one of a kind spirit. The floral, savoury gin with a hint of slight spiciness has lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, coriander seeds, Himalayan juniper and hemp. All the ingredients are sourced from various places in the country, including Uttarakhand, Kashmir and Goa.
It is dubbed as India’s first hemp-based craft gin. “When I was following the keto diet, I happened to toss a few hemp seeds in my gin. And I realised that the seeds wonderfully balanced the tartness of the gin and seamlessly infused with other botanicals.”
Distilled in South Goa, GinGin is created with vapour-infusion technique. It is a rarely used method that involves keeping the botanicals and the base spirit separate during the time of distillation. All the botanicals are put together in a basket and placed just above the spirit, inside the still. Once the spirit boils, its vapour rises and infuses with the ingredients and extracts its flavours.
This flavour-saturated vapour then condenses into the clear liquid, imbuing it with a smoother palate. Finally, water is added to the spirit to decrease the bottled alcohol strength of the gin. Khanna says that the only other vapour-distilled gin available in India is the UK-based Bombay Sapphire.
A sip of India’s first blue gin
Similarly, what makes Clearly Good Gin stand out is its visually appealing cerulean blue colour, which comes from the butterfly pea flowers infused in the drink. It is a London Dry style gin, which is more citrusy and juniper-forward, less on spice and has absolutely no floral afternotes.
It packs in locally sourced botanicals including the Himalayan juniper, coriander seeds, black pepper, sweet lime, kokum, oranges and limes. “GinGin and Clearly Good Gin are more suited for Indian taste as compared to stronger juniper flavours that Indians may not be used to,” says Khanna.
GinGin and Clearly Good Gin are currently available in Goa
Hottest new gins to chill with
Samsara Dubbed as the newest contemporary gin on the block, Samsara is the brainchild of Aditya Aggarwal, Founder and Creative Director, Spaceman Spirits Lab. A classic London Dry Gin style, Samsara is a fusion of eleven botanicals including rose petals, vetiver grass, cardamom, hemp seeds and juniper berries that has floral, citrusy, subtly spicy and earthy notes.
Launched: August 2020 Available: Goa, Mumbai, Pune and soon arriving in Bengaluru and Delhi
Tickle Tickle Gin comes from the Goa-based, multi-spirit boutique Adinco Distillery, which is also the creator of the famous Cabo Coconut white rum. A crisp, spice-infused dry gin, Tickle encases a dominating punch of the Himalayan juniper, laced with complementing flavours of locally grown black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, orange peels and coriander seeds.
Launched: September 2020 Available: Goa, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru
Jin Jiji Jin Jiji, an artisanal Indian Dry Gin blends in locally grown cashews in Goa along with tulsi, wild Himalayan juniper, chamomile and black tea. It claims to be the only gin in India to use cashew nuts. Distilled and crafted with care in a copper pot still, JiJi gin loosely translates to ‘lust for life’, derived from a Hindi term jijivisha.
Launched: Mid 2020 Available: Goa
One of the most anticipated new gins in India, Terai was launched in end 2020. Loaded with herbaceous, floral and sweet flavour notes, it is a craft London Dry Gin made in Rajasthan. It is a brainchild of Shekhar Swarup, the fourth-generation distiller from the Swarup family, one of the first few to establish a distillery in independent India around 1958. Eleven botanicals, including juniper berries, lemon, orange peel, lavender and almonds are sourced from around India and from Khari Baoli in Delhi, which is one of Asia’s largest spice markets.
Launched: November 2020 Available: Delhi
The Juniper Bomb
As the name aptly suggests, at the heart of The Juniper Bomb is the robust flavour of juniper. It comes from the house of Nao Spirits, the creator of India’s first craft gin, Greater Than. Juniper Bomb is a limited-edition launch that packs three times the punch of juniper mixed with subtle notes of lychee, making it a very bold, intensified clear spirit. This version of gin was reportedly an accidental creation. It happened during a power cut at Nao Spirits’ Goa distillery when Juniper was suffused in the spirit in the pot still longer than usual.
Launched: December 2020 Available: Goa, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru