people Desmond Nazareth talks about his creation, the Indian Agave spirit

Within minutes of our introduction, Desmond Nazareth uses at least a dozen alcohol puns — in high spirits, of spiritual matters, a great kick — and he deftly weaves them into conversation, when he talks about Desmondji, his creation of Agave spirits and cocktail blends.

“The response we are getting is completely unexpected because of the nature of our products and the way we are getting into the market,” says Desmond, who spearheaded this project and has gone through it all from the concept and research and development to design, equipment and branding. “It is all happening through word of mouth; it is completely unexpected and pleasantly surprising.”

It began with a margarita

His story begins at the time when he came back to India from the U.S. and could not find ingredients to make a regular margarita. “It’s one of the most popular drinks and, yet, so costly to make. It has citrusy, orangey flavours that appeals to men, but mostly women. I know women who say, ‘I don’t drink, except margaritas,’ it doesn’t have the strong alcoholic taste that vodka or whiskey has.”

And to make the margarita cheaper, Desmond started manufacturing his own alcohol. He remembered a distant childhood memory of crossing the Deccan Plateau; and of the Agave plant used to make the agave spirit. “It’s made in India, developed with our own raw material.”

Research and development took about seven years. “Eighteen months ago, we launched in Goa. We entered Mumbai last week,” says Desmond.

While Desmond says his story is about discovery, experimentation and achievement, it is also about dealing with bureaucracy and paperwork. “Registering the company became difficult the minute they heard the word, ‘alcohol’,” he says.

He also had to explain to the authorities what Agave was. He went all the way to the Centre to procure permission from the different agencies. “It took four years from registration to production, but I refused to take the easy way out,” he says.

A typical distillery produces around 50,000 litres a day. At Desmond’s micro distillery, they produce about 500 to a 1,000 litres a day, which, he says, is sufficient for a brew of this nature.

How important is the design of a bottle to the alcohol? “Critical. The bottle signifies a certain kind of quality. Our bottle signifies fresh thinking. It has a certain dignity and appeals across ages.”

As for the name he says: “The name Desmond has a ring of dignity about it. The ‘ji’ brings in the humour. You won’t forget the name!”

CATHERINE RHEA ROY

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