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June 24, 2024

Why Goa is the perfect distillery destination 

By Arushi Sakhuja 
There are three main reasons for gin’s popularity, especially amongst the youth - taste, versatility and the sheer variety of gins,” said Jitender Semwal, Head Mixologist, Andaz Delhi, and we couldn’t agree more.  
The British introduced the spirit to India, but it was only hundreds of years later that homegrown gins are finally making their presence felt in India. A spirit that garnered immense popularity in the last few years has led to a rapid increase in demand making India the fifth largest market for gin in the world.  Acknowledging the upward trend Sakshi Saigal, director & co-founder, Third Eye Distillery said, “Although consumption style around gin in India is slowly evolving, we believe that the journey for gin in India is just beginning.”
Third Eye Distillery
Photo Courtesy: Third Eye Distillery
The rise of homegrown gins 
Catering to the sudden surge, and a competitive international market, individuals have launched many homegrown gins, and today, India is the home to many brands. Think Greater Than (that started the revolution of homegrown gins), Terai, Stanger and Son’s, DOJA, to the more recent ones like Jaisalmer and Samsara, to name a few of them. “Gin is a very versatile spirit with a potential to be crafted in many unique ways and so, with all the flavours India has to offer, craft gin was the way to go. With young urban India’s pride and loyalty coming back to their roots, they look to homegrown creators for quality products. The recent artisanal, craft gin brands target the youth by making their gins quintessentially Indian, using locally-sourced botanicals such as gondhoraj, hemp, mangoes and Himalayan juniper,” pointed out Shuchir Suri, Founder of Jade Forest & Food Talk India and co-founder of Gin Explorer’s Club.  
Without compromising on flavour and quality, these Indian gins are giving stiff competition to international gins available in the market. “Today a lot of Indian consumers are excited to try a good homegrown product without it feeling like a compromise,” added Saigal. 
Stranger & Sons
Photo Courtesy: Stranger & Sons
Terai Gin
Photo Courtesy: Terai Gin
Goa as a hub for gin-distilleries 
Distilleries are spread across the country, but one destination that seems to have turned into a hub for gin distilleries in Goa. Over the past two years, a host of homegrown gins have mushroomed across the state. And although tourism took a hit over the last two years, the gin revolution was expanding at a rapid pace, Goa was filled with new ideas. Being the home for gin-makers, today bartenders and restaurateurs in India can choose from about eleven indigenous gins from Goa and each bottle is priced between ₹1,000 and ₹2,000.  
Jade Forest
Photo Courtesy: Jade Forest
Lush green expanses, locally sourced botanicals and spices and low taxes make Goa a conducive destination for many gin makers. Kshitij Goel, Beverage Director, W Goa, gives us an insight into some of the key factors that make Goa so favourable for gin-makers, “Gin is the current IT drink and Goa is the party capital of India. It is therefore no surprise that gin owners are attracted to Goa. Further, the climate is very favourable and more importantly, the demand in the city is massive which significantly reduces the cost of distribution.” He further adds, “The sudden surge of distilleries in Goa can also be attributed to more favourable tax and excise laws in the city that encourage homegrown brands. Additionally, Goa offers more space for gin owners to develop and rent or buy out spaces for distilleries.” While Suri too acknowledges that Goa laws make it easier for distilleries to be set up there, he feels, “… small batches of gin can be easily prepared. But scaling up the business and going national is a challenge in itself.”   
Goa
Photo Courtesy: Pexels
Sylvia Martinez at W Goa
Photo Courtesy: W Goa
But as the connoisseurs preach – it’s flavour above everything. With a variety of fresh and locally sourced ingredients, each gin prepared has a distinct flavour. “Stranger & Sons is a three-dimensional, versatile spirit that highlights each botanical in the gin and reveals new layers on the nose and palate with each sip. The mace, cassia bark, liquorice and nutmeg that perfume our gin are sourced from spice farms surrounding our distillery, making Goa the beating heart of our narrative,” explains  Sakshi.
Photo Courtesy: Third Eye Distillery
From being declared one of the eight best gins in the world by the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2020, Stranger & Sons, has put Indian gin on the world map. Sakshi further adds, “We often hear a lot being said about Goa having more liberal excise laws and so on, making it easier to start brands there but honestly, that undermines what Goa truly has to offer.” She believes, that the abundance of botanicals available locally – including so many amazing herbs, roots, spices and citrus to choose from – is what makes Indian gin really unique and special.  “As people travel, they have started to understand India’s rich history when it comes to Gin and agricultural bounty, and Goa with its lush expanse of spice farms has become an obvious choice for Gin makers. Goa also offers access to a bounty of spices from plantations along the Konkan and Malabar Coasts. Among India’s most fertile states, Goa was a natural choice for us given its lush expanse of spice farms.” Indian spices contribute as much to these gins as botanicals.  
The impact of gin- distilleries on hotels  
The true magic of Goa however is the constant buzz and nightlife. “As a city, we tend to grow and never stop. To keep the buzz afresh, some brands have started creating limited batches of their product, which offers consumers something new to try while keeping the brand fresh in everyone’s minds,” said Goel. The unique and limited-edition gin further adds to the experience of drinking fine gin. “The current surge of gin distilleries has provided hotels and restaurants in Goa the opportunity to offer a wider array of homegrown gin brands to their guests.” Going a step further, W Goa has created an exclusive five-course gin pairing experience called the Gibson Course for all gin lovers. “As more and more consumers are acquiring a taste for gin, the new distilleries with varied ingredients give us a lot of options to choose from for our restaurants and bars so it’s great,” concludes Kshitij.  
Photo Courtesy: W Goa
While the rapid expanse of distilleries has given hoteliers and bartenders a range of gins to experiment with, the large question remains will the gin market be able to sustain the demand?  “The key challenge is to know which gin will sustain in the market and be able to meet the demand. When we curate cocktails and tastings as part of our menu, we need to be certain that the gin will be available throughout, so the customers have a chance to find the one that works for them and order their preferred drink the next time they visit,” he shared.   
Goa
Photo Courtesy: Pexels
With its diverse expanse of spice farms and distillation being one of Goa’s most traditional occupations, it only makes sense that this sunny state is the craft gin capital of the country! 
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Arushi Sakhuja

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