The incredible journey of turning Cherrapunji’s rain into an exotic gin

How Shillong’s Mayukh Hazarika has turned Cherrapunji’s abundant rainfall into a premium gin

Updated - November 30, 2023 12:26 pm IST

Published - November 29, 2023 04:48 pm IST

The Cherrapunji Eastern Craft Gin

The Cherrapunji Eastern Craft Gin | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Meghalaya’s sister towns Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, receiving over 11,800 millimetres of rainfall annually, are the rainiest places on Earth. This perpetual monsoon not only draws over 1.5 million visitors to the State every year, but also presents an abundant resource — rainwater. For Shillong native Mayukh Hazarika, this rainfall sparked an unconventional ambition — to convert this copious downpour into a designer gin using regional botanicals.

Mayukh realised that several people visit Cherrapunji and Mawsynram to experience the unique weather system, and saw potential to turn it into a product, but was not sure what form it would take. “Every time I visit home, I see people come in thousands to see the rains. It intrigued me. It rains everywhere, but Meghalaya has the power of the superlative. It has the two “rainiest” places on the planet,” says Mayukh, who now divides his time between the Netherlands, Gurgaon and Shillong. This observation made him ponder over the possibility of turning this experience into a tangible product that people could carry back home. 

Mayukh Hazarika

Mayukh Hazarika | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“My question was — can we take the experience from these two places to the people? For example, when we are having a Japanese product, whether it’s a whiskey or an electronic item, we are consuming a piece of Japan. I wanted the same for Cherrapunji and Mawsynram,” says the hobby distiller. Cherrapunji gin is India’s first sipping gin with a flavour profile designed in the Netherlands. After years of research, Mayukh’s quest to earn his distilling stripes took him to the Netherlands, renowned as the hub of gin innovation.

The eureka moment came when it struck him that 57% of alcohol is actually distilled water. There was free material available in rainwater, which could be used to create distilled water, as an alternative to groundwater used in the alcohol industry. This method also helps reduce energy consumption by 70%. 

This led to the birth of Raincheck Earth Co., and its first product, the Cherrapunji Eastern Craft Gin that launched in Meghalaya in September this year. Mayukh, co-founder, master distiller and CEO, along with his team, set up rainwater harvesting facilities in Mawsynram and Umiam, using equipment imported from Australia. The company’s ethos revolves around three aspects: sourcing botanicals locally, rainwater harvesting, and reusable bottles. Now making its way to Assam and other northeastern states, it is expected to launch in the metro cities early next year.

The Cherrapunji Eastern Craft Gin

The Cherrapunji Eastern Craft Gin | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The botanicals

The gin is a fusion of 12 regional botanicals that are sourced from across Northeast India, with an aim to keep their footprint small. Some of these botanicals include the Geographical Indication (GI) tagged Khasi mandarin, known for its sweet and tangy flavour; sohmarit(wild peppers) from the forests of Meghalaya that lends a spicy flavour; and Assam’s fragrant kaji nemu (lemon) peel; with a hint of smoked tea from an estate in Tripura. Juniper, sourced from Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, is the most important botanical for the gin. This intricate blend results in a citrus-forward, creamily smooth gin. 

The flavour profile of the gin was designed in the Netherlands, where Mayukh, in collaboration with a Dutch master distiller perfected the recipe. Sandeep Singhal, former India CEO of beverage major Diageo, and Raincheck Earth’s advisor, describes what makes the gin so special. “The aromatics and botanicals are characterful – and their supply route is, thankfully, not trans-continental. Smoke, citrus, creaminess – the three much demanded dimensions of a gin – are alive and well with every sip in this one,” he explains. 

The production process

The alcohol industry is heavily reliant on water throughout the entire process, from sourcing to transforming grains into liquor. Opting for rainwater instead of groundwater helps to reduce carbon footprint. “As a sustainable alcobev company, we decided to look at every aspect of making the product. We wanted to show that high quality products can be made in a sustainable way,” says Mayukh. 

He adds, “The reason we imported such expensive technology is because we simply wanted the best. What sets it apart is the added top filtration layer, preventing dust, leaves, or particles from entering. Rain is collected, tested, and, once ready, mixed with the distillate for the final blend.”  

Eyes on the bottle 

Beyond the spirits, the bottle itself tells a story. Mayukh explains that the bottle was designed to replace glass bottles which are primarily heavy and not comfortable for single handed operation. The result was a lightweight and reusable bottle made of military grade steel, weighing only 148 grams, and engineered to last more than a decade with daily re-use. 

It features illustrations by Portland-based designer Reshidev RK, which aptly captures the colourful life of Meghalaya — a mandarin picker, a colonial era Bedford bus, a red panda, bamboo forests, the rooster, clouds, and monoliths.

“We wanted a unique imprint of the place onto the bottle. The first thing you’ll notice is the lady carrying mandarins. It took a lot of storytelling —  why this lady? What does she do? She has to go deep into the forest and harvest the mandarins. The story of the place is captured in this unique way,” says Mayukh, whose   background in advertising also aided him in building the brand, something he claims brings him the most joy.

Cherrapunji gin is not just a beverage. It is a curated experience that brings the flavours of the Northeast to your glass, Mayukh says. So, whether you can journey to the Northeast or not, picking up a bottle will allow you to savour a piece of Meghalaya, right in your city.  

The gin, priced at 2,500. @cherrapunji.craft.gin on Instagram

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