Savour the taste of Kumaon with Himmaleh Spirits’ exclusive provincial gin Kumaon & I

Discover Kumaon & I, India’s first provincial gin capturing the essence of the Himalayas

February 23, 2024 03:13 pm | Updated February 25, 2024 12:04 pm IST

Himmaleh Spirits Distillery

Himmaleh Spirits Distillery | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As the first rays of sunlight filter through the foliage at The Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, we are treated to a cacophony of the white-crested laughing thrush, while a majestic tiger nonchalantly walks across the road.

The air is heady with the scent of sal and tall grass that paint the landscape at India’s first national park, established in 1936 as Hailey National Park, and the birthplace of Project Tiger, in 1973. While Uttarakhand in general and Kumaon in particular is home to magnificent mountains, snaking streams and breathtaking biodiversity, the essence of the region is difficult to articulate or distil until now.

Himmaleh Spirits Distillery, based in the Kumaon region, around 28 kilometres from Jim Corbett, along NH309, has intricately captured the best of the region, from its forests to the rolling hills, in India’s first provincial gin, Kumaon & I. “Kumaon is not just a region, it’s an experience and while you sip this gin and revisit it, the ‘I’ is what’s changing, so each experience is unique,” explains Samarth Prasad, co-founder at Himmaleh Spirits. Born and raised in the region, Samarth’s family has three decades of experience in the hospitality industry (Leisure Hotels Group) and their family orchards provide the walnuts that are used in the gin, offering its delicate, buttery mouthfeel and lending a glorious texture to this gin. 

1000 litre Hungarian copper pot still at Himmaleh Spirits distillery

1000 litre Hungarian copper pot still at Himmaleh Spirits distillery | Photo Credit: Anisha Menezes

Distilling journey

Samarth was inspired by the alco-bev industry while studying Hospitality Management in Switzerland, where he explored distillation techniques and diverse flavour profiles. He was keen to explore the impact hospitality has on supporting local communities and highlighting circularity in the region.

Ansh Khanna, co-founder, Himmaleh Spirits, studied in California for a degree in Wine Education and Management, Viticulture and Enology at UCLA. During a trip to Japan, he visited several local distilleries, giving him insight into the abundance of natural resources like barley and juniper, available in India. To shine a spotlight on Indian spirits and provenance, Ansh moved back to India, and founded Peak Spirits that launched Kamet Single Malt (a peak in the Himalayas), and Jin Jiji (a gin highlighting Darjeeling’s tea culture). This led him to co-found Himmaleh Spirits along with family friend, Samarth in October 2023. Here, the farm to bottle approach takes centre stage, Kumaon & I owes its provenance to its terroir and a local community of farmers, foragers, and harvesters. 

From farm to bottle

Starting with fresh Himalayan spring water with a rice-based extra neutral alcohol (ENA) as its base, the bouquet of 11 botanicals undergoes 16-hour maceration and is distilled at source for nine hours. The rice used in the ENA is grown seven kilometres away from the distiller.

Local citrus, such as galgal and kinu (vacuum-packed post harvest, frozen at -20 degrees C), thuner (piney Himalayan yew), timur (a Sichuan like pepper grown at 10,000 feet), juniper grown at the frost line, earthy local coriander, black cardamom, black turmeric (with twice the curcumin than regular turmeric), bitter and herby kalmegh (green chiretta), walnut, and dried rose, all lend their unique texture, taste and aroma, as you go back for another sip, each note coming to the fore, transporting you to the fields and forests they came from.

Tasting room at Himmaleh Spirits Distillery

Tasting room at Himmaleh Spirits Distillery | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The 1,000 litre Hungarian bubble cap copper pot still, resplendent in the modern glass and wooden distillery, does the heavy lifting. Spread over four acres, the distillery hosts gin tastings in its room above the distilling space. The tasting room is replete with Aipan artwork, made with a white rice paste on red earth, the inspiration for the artwork on the bottle. “ We wanted to show every facet of the region, so the white and red palette is from Aipan, and the black dots and lines symbolise the connection of the ingredients and the community,” explains Ansh. Himmaleh Spirits Distillery ensures zero liquid and waste discharge, and has its own farming team ensuring the quality of produce. The distillery, that seeks to drive spirit-based tourism, has multiple viewing decks.

Dessert platter pairing with Kumaon & I cocktails

Dessert platter pairing with Kumaon & I cocktails | Photo Credit: Anisha Menezes

Available now across the country — priced at ₹2,700 (Uttarakhand), ₹2,896 (Goa), ₹3,000 (Gurgaon), ₹3,525 (Maharashtra), ₹3,000 (Haryana) for a 700 ml bottle, Kumaon & I uses fresh produce of the region.

It is a provincial gin that is as comfortable with south-east Asian cuisine as it is with a Kumaoni thali. Best sipped or enjoyed on the rocks, but makes a mean negroni and gimlet too. The gin is the first foray of Himmaleh Spirits, and the young founders are keen to invite spirit seekers to visit their home in the Himalayas, “for a gin tasting and soon, a restaurant that embraces the farm-to-table concept, showcasing what Kumaon has to offer,” concluded Ansh.

The distillery is a little over four and a half hours from New Delhi, via NH9. The road meanders through thick fields, and colourful small towns. You could visit Jim Corbett National Park and then take NH309 for a half hour drive to Himmaleh distillery. The last stretch has lovely vistas watched over by the mountains as you reach picturesque and well manicured distillery lawns.

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