World Gin Day: Homegrown Brands Revolutionizing The Gin Market

Gin may not be as popular as other alcohol contemporaries like whisky, rum, or beer in our country. But who knew that home-grown Indian gin brands had the potential to change the game? With the increase in demand from new-age drinkers, many home-grown gin brands have made their way into the Indian gin market. This World Gin Day, let us appreciate them!

Take a peek at any speakeasy's menu in London, and you will surely see some of the most amazing gin cocktails on offer. But what’s the scope in India? Although the iconic G&T was created by the British East India Company to make an antimalarial drug here, gin lost attention due to a strong focus on self-sufficiency and "swadeshi" products post-independence in India. Until a few years ago, gin was associated with imported brands like Hendrick’s, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire. But today, the situation is entirely different. Some homegrown Indian gin brands like Greater Than and Hapusa, Stranger & Sons, Gin Gin, Pumori, Jin Jiji, and more have popped up and are slowly conquering the gin market in the country. 

On this World Gin Day, why don’t we talk about some Indian brands that are revolutionising the gin concoction in India?

India’s first-ever gin brand, Greater Than from Nao Spirits, clearly shows how locals can make a difference. Greater Than Gin was launched in 2017, and it paved the way for a mushrooming market of homegrown gin brands like Hapusa, Short Story Gin, Stranger & Sons, Terai, Samsara, and Pumori, to name a few. When Anand Virmani and Vaibhav Singh from Nao Spirits realized the potential of ‘Indian gin’ expansion in the market, they started taking baby steps. After the successful launch of Greater Than, the Nao Spirits team planned to launch an even more premium gin variant, Hapusa, which translates to ‘juniper’ in Sanskrit. With juniper berries from the Himalayan region and turmeric, mango, coriander seeds, etc., Hapusa has floral notes and a spiced finish.

Talking to Slurrp, Anand Virmani, co-founder, distiller, and Chief Executive Officer of NAO Spirits, said," What made us start Greater Than and Hapusa was really the disbelief about the fact that no one had done this before. This was strange coming from the place where gin and tonic were invented—surely not by us. Also, it's strange considering the fact that gin is the one spirit that is made with spices and herbs, and we happen to be a treasure trove of spices. The quality of bars and knowledge was increasing drastically around 2015, and for bars like ours, we didn’t have any option other than importing. So, that was when we decided to take things into our own hands and do it ourselves."

He added, "We launched Greater Than in 2017 and Hapusa in 2018, and what surprised us was that the people loved the gin made in India. It has been great to see such support from the community and the bar industry. It feels great to see the brands playing a meaningful part in the development of the bar community as well as the craft spirit community. It is great to see the number of gins that have come up in the last couple of years, and it's great to have so many people getting into the gin space."

When talking about the future, Anand Virmani believes that quality is paramount. "We are continuing to build the category and relationships with consumers, bartenders, servers, chefs, bar managers, etc. It's all about building the bond and understanding how far we can go," he says, adding that they want to make sure the momentum that they have built can be carried forward in creating something meaningful.

"We are always trying to create something of our own. After ‘Juniper Bomb’, India’s love for coffee made us put cold-brewed coffee inside the gin, and it is the first time that a cold-brewed coffee-infused gin has been produced anywhere in the world. Lastly, we created our third limited edition with aged gin. Instead of typically using oak wood, we decided to find a wood that could represent India, and we used broken cricket bats, which are Kashmir Willow. And the results were beautiful. It's all about pushing the barriers and boundaries. It's about defining and redefining what an Indian gin can be and should be," says Anand.

The third gin brand to conquer the gin market in India was Stranger & Sons, launched in 2018 by Third Eye Distillery in Goa. The healthy dose of juniper, along with black pepper, nutmeg, mace, coriander seeds, angelica, liquorice, cassia, and citrus peels, gives it a vibrant and bold finish. Co-founded by Sakshi Saigal, Vidur Gupta, and Rahul Mehra, Stranger & Sons lends a bright citrusy flavour to the palate and makes for a perfect G&T. Sakshi Saigal, co-founder of Stranger & Sons Gin talks about how homegrown gin brands have made their mark in India.

                          Image: strangerandsons/Instagram

"As early innovators in the Indian gin landscape, we wanted to reinvent the perception of the Indian spirits industry while at the same time encouraging consumers to explore spirits through more creative, experimental choices. There was a general perception that locally produced spirits did not match up to imported products in terms of quality," she says, adding, "We encountered so many brands based on a vision of India that we knew very well had never been a reality. This made us question why products with these botanicals are made everywhere but here. To add to this, there wasn’t any other quality homegrown product that was conveying the story from our perspective, so we decided to change that."

This led to the launch of the first Indian contemporary-style gin in the premium space, Stranger & Sons, with the overarching idea of disrupting the spirits landscape in India and elevating cocktail culture. Stranger & Sons is a three-dimensional gin, an all-season spirit that reveals new layers on the nose and palate with each sip and also makes for a great foundation for cocktails. She says, "We spearheaded the movement to put Indian spirits on the global map by creating a quality premium gin for a local and international audience."

Stranger & Sons Gin won the Gold Outstanding medal at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2020 before going on to secure a Master medal at the Asian Spirit Masters 2021 and, more recently, a Double Gold medal at the SIP Awards 2023. Gin has definitely caught the attention of Indian consumers and is undergoing an exciting phase, gradually becoming mainstream.

While the brand is currently present in 7 Indian states (Maharashtra, Goa, Delhi, Karnataka, Assam, Haryana, and Rajasthan); over 13 countries (UK, USA, UAE, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Italy, and more); and Duty Free outlets at Changi, Mumbai, Dubai, Ahmedabad, and Trivandrum, Sakshi says, "We're proud to have played a vital role in highlighting these aspects, and we continue to work tirelessly to contribute to the conversation on gin in India. "We will continue to expand our domestic and global presence in the near future."

Most of these homegrown gin brands have their roots in Goa. And possibly the first gin, as claimed by the brand, in the world to use cashew nuts is Jin Jiji. With cashew nuts that are synonymous with Goa and juniper sourced from the Himalayas, this is yet another gin brand that uses botanicals such as chamomile and tulsi. Jin Jiji was started by Ansh Khanna, who is the founder of Peak Spirits. And, with two popular variants, Jin Jiji has been quite successful in impressing Indian gin lovers.

Launched in September 2022, Short Story Spirits offers pot-distilled classic London dry gin with juniper shining all the way. Goa’s Third Eye Distillery introduced this classic London dry gin with a juniper backbone, a triple-distilled grain vodka, and an Indo-Caribbean white rum. The classic juniper and citrusy London Dry Gin would go perfectly well in a G&T as well as a Martini.

                            Image: Instagram/shortstoryspirits

Short Story Gin's Brand Director Pankaj Balachandran said "Short Story’s all white spirits portfolio with Dry Gin, Grain Vodka and White Rum was created with a vision to provide the Indian spirits landscape with go-to spirits that are synonymous with quality and dependable across occasions. Short Story aims to drive the conversation homeward when it comes to creating a benchmark for approachable quality spirits from India. These spirits, as the name suggests, keeps the narrative short and simply delivers on a singular promise being - Made the way it should be, made to taste the way it should. 

Much buzz and hype had been generated about the ingredients and the technique that goes into the creation of some of our homegrown brands, but we wanted to keep things simple and let the spirits speak for themselves to consumers. Hence the name Short Story. The clean, minimalist packaging makes it easily distinguishable for a bartender to pick out the bottle during a busy night at the counter and the elongated neck of the bottle has been designed to enable a smoother pour, says Pankaj.

He added that Short Story in just 8 months since its launch has been extremely well received not just by the consumers but also at international spirits competitions from all over the world. Short Story Dry Gin recently won a gold medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition and Silver medals at the London Spirits Competition and Asian Spirits Masters. The brand is already available in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Assam and Rajasthan and we will be focusing on expanding our availability in more markets, added Pankaj.

Yet another homegrown gin brand to testify to the remarkable revolution of gin brands is Pumori. Produced by the makers of Woodburns Whisky, it is named after Mount Pumori, located west of Mount Everest. Distilled in Goa, this gin features 12 botanicals like Himalayan juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom, coriander seeds, liquorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary, aniseed, almond, and vanilla. Pumori is currently available in Goa.

Gin Gin, branded as India's only single-shot distilled ‘hemp' gin, comprises nine botanicals that include hemp, Himalayan juniper, coriander, rosemary, lavender, caraway seeds, cinnamon, lemongrass, and butterfly pea flower. Founded by Shubham Khanna, Gin Gin has been doing well in the market after its successful trials across a few bars and hostels in Goa. Other brands like Terai, the Indian craft gin made in Rajasthan on the lines of London Dry Gin, which is manufactured by the India Craft Spirit Company, and Saṃsāra, which is a floral and citrusy gin with a hint of spicy earthiness, is also among the most loved Indian gin brands.

In a conversation with Slurrp, mixologist and beverage consultant at XO Delicieux, Viju Raj affirms that Indian gin brands have indeed made a difference. "In the last five years or so, we have all seen the growth of gins, with Goa being the epicentre of the gin culture in India. The best part is that it’s not only the gin and tonic and gin-based cocktails as a drink that have evolved, but I also see a certain growth in the sipping gins as well," Viju told Slurrp, adding that "it’s remarkable to see some of the gins use local Indian botanicals to add a zest to their gins these days, and I only see them developing".