June 21, 2024
India Gin

India Gin: Craft Distilleries Breathing New Life into an Ancient Tradition

Indian distilling has long been dominated by mass produced whisky and rum, but a new wave of craft distilleries are reviving the country’s ancient gin traditions. India Gin is originated in late 16th century when British traders introduced the juniper-flavored spirit. Over time, Indian gin production declined as other liquors became more popular domestically. In recent years however, entrepreneurs have launched boutique operations cultivating distinct styles of Indian gin. They are experimenting with locally sourced botanicals and innovative distilling techniques to develop gins that showcase India’s diverse flavors.

One pioneer in the resurgence is Greater Than Gin based in Goa. Founded in 2014, they were among the first Indian craft distilleries focused exclusively on gin. Using a traditional copper pot still, they create balanced, elegant gins highlighting native botanicals. Bestsellers include their East India Company Gin made with lemongrass, wild tulsi and black pepper, and Navy Strength Gin infused with kokum, black lime and Sichuan peppercorns. With over 40 international medals awarded, Greater Than Gin set the benchmark for quality Indian craft gin production.

Another leader is Stranger & Sons based in New Delhi. Launched in 2016, their range includes Navy Strength, Old Tom and London Dry style gins featuring handpicked botanicals. Their flagship Stranger & Sons London Dry Gin utilizes coriander, cassia bark, angelica and nutmeg sourced from local farmers. The distillery also runs mixology workshops and created a line of premixed India Gin cocktails to drive the cocktail revolution. With innovative flavors like their Chili&Citrus and Punch & Judy mixes, Stranger & Sons is opening more people’s palates to the versatility of gin.

The Rise of “New Western India” Craft Distilleries

Outside of the larger cities, more distilleries are emerging in lesser developed regions to boost local economies and reconnect people with heritage ingredients. One prominent example is Solan’s Rampur Distillery in Himachal Pradesh, established in 2015. Foregoing mass production techniques, they handcraft small-batch award winning gins including their flagship Rampur Indian Dry Gin infused with citrus and mountain botanicals. The distillery works directly with neighborhood farmers to source herbs unique to the Himalayan region like timur, citronella and lemongrass. They have revived interest in gin among villagers who had never tasted the spirit before.

In a similar vein, Dharampur Estate crafts single estate gins in Mahabaleshwar, a hill station in Maharashtra with a long history of distilling. Launched in 2017, they exclusively use botanicals grown on their organic farm including makko, gentian root and hibiscus flowers. Their Dharampur No. 8 Indian Dry Gin combines citrus and floral notes in a refreshing India Gin perfect for warmer climate. The operation has had far reaching impacts, creating local jobs and even sparking a new restaurant focused on craft cocktails at their farm-gate distillery.

These “new western India” distilleries highlight the untapped potential for distinctive regional gins all over the country. By working directly with growers, they preserve traditional agricultural practices and reconnect consumers to India’s diverse culinary heritage. Their artisanal methods also produce limited edition gins celebrating seasonal changes, keeping people excited about new releases. Overall, craft distilleries are reviving both gin culture and rural livelihoods across India.

Experimentation with Indian Botanicals

Another defining aspect of India gin renaissance is innovative botanical combinations showcasing native plants. Beyond standard Western botanicals like juniper and coriander, Indian distillers are adding intriguing local ingredients. For example, Greater Than Gin played a pioneering role experimenting with lemongrass, kokum, and black lime. Now, many other distilleries are continuing this exploration.

A prominent innovator is Dhara – The Amrut Distillery based in Bangalore. Their diverse lineup includes India’s first single malt and flour-based gins highlighting indigenous spices. Their Green Clover Indian Craft Gin blends mogra flowers, nag champa and clove creating a subtly exotic botanical profile. Meanwhile, their Rose & Orange Blossom Gin softens floral notes with citrus zest for a refreshing take. Such creativity with indigenous ingredients is expanding consumer understanding of what “Indian gin” can encompass.

This experimentation also extends to other parts of the country with their own special botanicals. In northern India, Him & Her Distillery crafts gins infused with distinctive mountain flavors. Their Kashmir Gin steeps the regional fir needle in the spirit for an herbal quality complemented by clove and bay leaf. Down south, Topical Vodka is developing exciting rums as well as Coastal Gin highlighting coastal Karnataka botanicals like beach jasmine, curry leaf and nutmeg.

Overall, India’s craft distilleries are uncovering a whole new spectrum of possibilities utilizing native elements rarely seen in gin before. These botanical explorations promise to continually reinvent expectations of Indian gin, strengthening its identity within the global gin category. Looking ahead, as more regional distilleries launch, many more unique botanical profiles from across the vast and biodiverse country will surely emerge.

Investment and Growth in the Craft Spirit Sector

Driven by growing enthusiasm, India gin sector is attracting greater investment that should fuel further expansion. Private equity funds and larger conglomerates are making strategic moves to gain exposure to the booming industry. For instance, the country’s largest spirits maker United Spirits recently acquired a minority stake in Greater Than to gain entry into the premiumization trend.

Encouragingly for craft producers, Indian consumers have demonstrated willingness to pay higher price points for artisanal spirits showcasing authentic provenance and storytelling. This bodes well as production scales up with new funding. Mid-sized distilleries like Auroville based in Puducherry are now canning and distributing their products nationwide via modern sales channels and direct to consumer shipping.

Multinational experience is also entering the market through joint ventures. For example, Pernod Ricard has partnered with Nao Spirits to launch Paul John, India’s first single estate whisky. Their expertise helps jumpstart innovative new craft labels accessing both domestic and global distribution. Overall, while still nascent, India’s craft spirit sector is attracting broader backing that can accelerate exposure locally and aid international expansion in sophisticated export markets.

With dedicated entrepreneurs, a supportive investment community, and growing demand for unique indigenous products, India’s craft gin renaissance has all the ingredients for continued growth and influence on the global gin landscape. The resurgence showcases India’s rich distilling heritage and diverse.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it