The last few months have seen a burst of new craft gins—Terai, Samsara, Jin Jiji, Pumori, Tickle, and GinGin—and most of them are distilled in Goa.
The market for gin in India is minuscule. Gin reportedly accounts for just 1 percent of the annual 300 million case spirits market, and liquor industry experts will tell you that over 98 percent of the gin sold here is of the rot-gut variety.
The underwhelming consumption figures — and the pandemic — though do not seem to have deterred the launch of six homegrown craft gin brands. The last seven-odd months have seen a burst of new craft gins — Terai, Samsara, Jin Jiji, Pumori, Tickle, and GinGin—and yet more gins could join them on the shelves by the time this horrendous year draws to a close.
Most of these gins are distilled in Goa by, in keeping, perhaps with gin’s popularity among millennials, people under 30. These include a former management consultant, a wine importer, and the scion of a business family that constructs swimming pools and water parks in northern India.
“Making gin is, relatively, a lot easier than, say, making whisky, or rum, and the entry barriers to distilling it are less in Goa. The whole process is also generally smoother than elsewhere in the country. If you know what you want, there are several distilleries there that you could sub-contract the distilling and bottling to,” says Vikram Achanta, co-founder and CEO of drinks training and consulting firm Tulleeho.
Achanta hasn’t sampled any of the new gins just yet, but he wants to wait for a year before he passes judgement on them. “It’s one thing to make a good gin, and quite another to make sure the whole enterprise is sustainable.” Moneycontrol recently spoke to the men behind GinGin, Jin Jiji, and Samsara to find out more about their gin journeys.
Ansh Khanna, Jin Jiji
Ansh Khanna, 27, launched Delhi-based Massale Wines along with wine guru Sanjay Menon and acclaimed US-based sommelier Rajat Parr in 2018. Last year, he founded Peak Spirits, teamed up with Chicago-based sommelier Ken Fredrickson and their first product, JinJiji, is already available in several cities in the US, Canada, and Europe. An India launch (specifically— and initially — Goa and Maharashtra) is, says Khanna, just around the corner.
“Ken has been tasting and producing wine and spirits from around the world for over 25 years. This is his first gin,” says Khanna who shares a facility with another gin brand in Goa. Jin Jiji, an “India Dry Gin”, uses a variety of botanicals, including juniper and chamomile and there’s also a Darjeeling variant that looks pretty appealing. “Creating the Darjeeling gin was a fun journey for Ken and me. Jin JiJi Darjeeling has notes of tea and spices. We use FTGFOP -1 (Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) grade tea and it is custom processed a few days before distillation to preserve freshness.”
Shubham Khanna, GinGin
Shubham Khanna belongs to a Delhi-based business family that constructs swimming pools and water parks and likes their whisky. “A lot of people in my family and even my friends are into brown spirits but I’ve always been a gin person. I like the happy high it gives me, and soon one thing led to another, and here I am.” Khanna, 24, has spent the last couple of years, most of them in Goa, deep-diving into the world of gin. He says he experimented with over 40 different recipes before locking in on the one he wanted for GinGin.
“GinGin is focused on the use of hemp. The other botanicals we use include lavender, caraway seeds and Himalayan juniper. But the use of hemp adds a different dimension to the gin,” says Khanna, who is especially proud of the column still that he developed and designed in India.
Aditya Aggarwal, Samsara
Aditya Aggarwal wears two hats. He heads Spaceman Spirits Lab, a platform that brings together mixologists, alcobev experts and distillers, and he also makes Samsara, which was launched in Goa late September. Samsara, a London Dry Gin, is distilled using 11 botanicals, including organic hemp seeds, sourced from the Bombay Hemp Company, and green cardamon, and the former consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, recommends having it with a slice of ginger or a sprig of rosemary. Aggarwal says that Samsara is “closest to Roku when it comes to taste, but in terms of our style of storytelling and marketing, we are inspired by Hendricks”.
The 26-year-old expects to sell about 25,000 cases between India and the US over the next 12 months, and he is also quite clear about his target audience: “We are positioning ourselves as a contemporary luxury brand for millennials.”(Murali K Menon works on content strategy at HaymarketSAC.)