Food

Why Goa is awash with more homegrown gins than ever

In Goa, Nilgiris tea meets Himalayan juniper and cashewnuts on the beaches and in the bars. While the past two pandemic years slowed business, and closed down many bars and restaurants, across the country, Goa has been bustling with new ideas and launches.

Over the past two years, a host of home-brewn gins have mushroomed across the State, building on the impact created by Greater Than, Hapusa, Stranger & Sons and Jaisalmer, the gin brands that began celebrating Indian botanicals.

In 2020, Jin Jiji launched its India dry gin, with the unique flavours of botanicals like chamomile and tulsi . This was followed by Clearly Good Gin, India’s 1st Blue and Vapour-Infused gin created by Goa-based Shubham Khanna. The year 2021 witnessed the launch of multiple brands: Seqer, DOJA, Tāmras, to name a few. “Each of these has a unique story. While Seqer — from packaging to the botanicals used — preserves and boasts of the Goan identity, Tāmras has unique botanicals like sweet lime, lemon verbena, Nilgiri tea, Egyptian grapefruit and Indonesian cubeb peppers. Doja is a small-batch gin with a blend of Indian and Japanese botanicals,” says Rojita Tiwari, a certified drinks professional, educator and consultant.

Today, customers, bartenders and restaurateurs in India can choose from about 11 indigenous gins from Goa, most of which are competitively priced between ₹1,000 and ₹2,000 for a 700-750ml bottle. The reason for this sudden explosion can be attributed not only to the growing popularity of this spirit, but also to the business environment in the State being conducive to experimental launches.

A chance question by a bartender in London, about Indian gins prompted Devika Bhagat and Khalil Bachooali, founders of Tāmras, gin, to set up their own distillery — The Adventurist Spirits Distillery in Colvale, North Goa — rather than go in for contract bottling. “It’s a 1,000 square metre space where we experiment, test, distil, blend and bottle and have an experience centre for tours and tastings,” says Devika, “Our dilution process is carried out over 28 days, where we slowly add demineralised water to our distillate blend, resting between additions. This allows the flavour molecules to remain intact, so we are the perfect gin to be sipped neat.”

“Gin is primarily being made by up-and-coming millennials, who want business practices to be straightforward,” says Devika. “The Goa Government and the Excise Department are supportive of new brands and distilleries. Excise licenses are also reasonable and don’t eat into your set-up costs and initial investment.

Familiar botanicals

Adriel Sequeira, founder of Seqer gin, believes that gin is the most versatile of all spirits and offers a lot of potential. Seqér gin is a blend of 10 botanicals, including one that is synonymous with Goa: cashew nuts. These are locally sourced, from right within the distillery premises. Cashewnuts were selected not only as a tribute to Goa and its beloved feni by this proudly local brand, but also to lend a distinct texture to the gin.The notes are mild and herby, and the final product lends a hint of cardamom and orange peel, while on the nose, predominant are, juniper, nutmeg and rosemary.

If local cashewnuts are what make Seqer stand out, the distillation and dilution process of Tāmras is its USP. Devika explains, “We use the multiple distillation and slow-dilution/desaponification process.” Their botanicals include mausambi (sweet lime), Indian mint ( pudina ), lotus flowers and lotus seeds. Devika says they are one of the few in the world using fresh whole citrus fruit. “By individually distilling mausambi , Indian lemon and grapefruit, we can distil our requirements for the whole year in those four winter months, when these fruits are harvested.”

Spicy cocktails

Indian spices contribute as much to these gins as botanicals. Jai Anand, founder, Doja, , who opted for an Indo-Japanese collaboration to further his craft gin vision, believes that Indian spices like fennel, coriander, green cardamom and Himalayan peppermint, help amplify the flavours of Japanese botanicals such as yuzu lemon, with hints of cedar, sansho pepper, and Hinoki. Their Japanese master distiller Tsui San determined which Indian spices matched with base Japanese botanicals in the Goa-based, East Side Distillery.

“The primary aromas in a gin have to be juniper, followed by the unique botanicals that the distiller wants to showcase,” explains Rojita. She adds, “The Juniper does not make such a difference as much as the botanicals, which play a major role in defining the gin. Unless it’s a juniper-forward gin such as Hapusa, juniper normally acts as a base aroma.”

Rakshay Dhariwal, partner at Passcode Hospitality in Delhi says, “Over the past year with Ping’s, Jamun and now Saz on the Beach in Goa, we’ve noticed people like to try new gins. Gins like Greater Than and Stranger & Sons are doing very well, but they have been around for a while and have created a huge following. Pumori, Tamras and Doja are also getting popular.”

From being declared one of the eight best gins in the world by the International Wine And Spirit Competition in 2020, to winning the highest honours at The Asian Spirit Masters 2021, Stranger & Sons, has managed to put Indian gin on the world map. Hapusa, the Himalayan dry gin from Nao Spirits, produced and distilled in Goa, also bagged a gold medal at the prestigious The International Wines & Spirits Competition 2021.

In an attempt to retain customer’s attention in a crowded market, brands have been hosting gin-fuelled events across Goa. In November 2021, Perry Road Peru, by Stranger & Sons Gin, (a limited edition distilled bottled cocktail) held sit down dinners in collaboration with The Bombay Canteen recently in Goa at The Tamil Table, and The Courtyard in Bengaluru.

The Himalayan takeover by Hapusa, conducted in Goa in November 2021, celebrated Himalayan ingredients – Edible camphor, Earl Grey tea, Cardamom and Timbur. Cocktails using these were created, from the Forest Trail using Hapusa, camphor, tonic and kaffir lime leaf, to a refreshing Earl of the Himalayas, fragrant with Earl Grey tea.


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Printable version | May 24, 2022 12:13:48 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/why-goa-is-awash-with-more-homegrown-gins-than-ever/article38333499.ece