For Spirited’s second edition of Unbottled, we take a look at three modern gins to come out of India – Hapusa, Stranger & Sons, and TERAI.
Gin may not have been invented in India, but the gin and tonic – one of the most popular cocktails in the world – most certainly was. Created by British officers of the East India Company, the gin and tonic was a most pleasurable way for troops stationed in India to imbibe their quinine, which was important in warding off malaria. Soldiers would mix their gin rations with water, sugar, lime, and quinine together… and the gin and tonic was born.
Gin itself first came about around the 13th century Europe. It became popular in England in the 17th century, and travelled along with England’s colonial exploits around the world. For India, making gin was a far more recent development; the Indian subcontinent only really began making gin barely a decade ago.
But India is now at it with a vengeance, and a new golden age of craft distilling has taken root in India. We look at three modern India gins – using local botanicals and inspired by its various subcultures – that have recently entered and made headway in Singapore.
Hapusa by New Delhi-based NAO Spirits was officially launched in the middle of 2018, with Singapore – along with India and UK – among the first markets in the world to carry this gin. And it was also, for a while, the only London Dry gin made in India.
Hapusa in Sanskrit literally means juniper. Which, of course, is the key botanical ingredient in every gin. But Hapusa uses specifically wild indigenous Himalayan juniper foraged from across the snow line of the Himalayan mountains that is combined with other botanicals sourced from around India – such as mango, Gondhoraj lime, turmeric, almond, cardamom, and coriander seeds – and then distilled in a copper pot.
The result? It’s an aromatic mix of wood spices, fresh pine, and a light hint of citrus on the nose. And on the palate, a well balanced with a complex rich sweetness that’s raw, earthy and full of verve. We find Hapusa expresses itself best in a gin and tonic, but will work very well in a Negroni as well.
Stranger & Sons Gin.
From Goa, India comes Stranger & Sons gin by Third Eye Distillery. Also founded in 2018, the gins of Stranger & Sons arrived in Singapore in end December 2020 right in the midst of a raging pandemic. Stranger & Sons is an Indian success story that celebrates the agricultural might of the Indian subcontinent, the wide diversity of its cultures, and its people’s entrepreneurial spirit. Its brand story is quirky too, with its back story of a rare mythical creature with a third eye and her penchant for drinking with strangers (hence the names of the distillery and gin).
But can you taste the spirit of India in a bottle of gin? According to founders Rahul Mehra, Sakshi Saigal and Vidur Gupta, you can. Like its contemporaries Stranger & Sons sources its botanicals from across the length and breadth of India – Gondhoraj lime, lemon, Indian bergamot, and Nagpur oranges form its citrus base, as well as an entire spice box that include coriander seed, angelica root, cassia bark, liquorice, pepper, mace, and nutmeg – for an explosive melange of flavour. Those complex spicy and fragrant citrus notes make the gin rather fabulous in a Gimlet or dry Martini.
This contemporary gin is award-winning too, picking up a gold at International Wine & Spirit Competition 2020, and silvers at London Spirits Competition 2021 and San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2021. We like their sustainability story too, from managing the wastewater at the distillery to employing local women to help make jams, pickles and cordials from spent fruit.
Stranger & Sons gin is available from good online and brick-and-mortar bottle retail stores in Singapore – such as Temple Cellars – at a recommended retail price of S$98.
TERAI London Dry Gin.
The newest and latest made-in-India gin to drop in Singapore, TERAI India Dry Gin hails from Behror, Rajasthan. Produced by India Craft Spirit Co.; TERAI is considered the first single gin craft distillery in the whole of India – that is, they only make gin – producing this modern gin rooted in the London Dry Gin tradition.
It is so named for the Indian region of Terai, a strip fertile marshland running along the foothills of the Himalayas. That’s where the gin draws its inspiration for its botanicals – you’re looking at juniper berries, holy basil, coriander, fennel, lemon peel, orange peel, rose, almond, angelica, and orris root – which go into a custom copper still with a base rice spirit for infusion. This particular blend gives the gin its luscious floral and herbaceous notes with just a hint of citrus. A fun fact? TERAI sought the advice of Singapore-based Proof & Company during the final stages of their recipe, just so they know the gin will work well in modern cocktails. Indeed, we reckon TERAI will work particularly well in a French 75 or a Corpse Reviver #2 to accentuate those herbal, floral qualities.
We love the bottle design, inspired by the carved pillars found in ancient Indian architecture, as well as the bottle stopper, which are made in the style of a local traditional handicraft used for making lacquered wooden toys.
TERAI Indian Dry Gin can be purchased at good online and brick-and-mortar bottle retail stores in Singapore – such as EC Proof, The Standish, Original Whiskeys, The Liquor Shop and The Providore – at a recommended retail price of S$95. It can also be found in good cocktail bars and restaurants such as 28 Hong Kong Street, Alley Bar, The Elephant Room, Revolver and Publico Ristorante, among others.
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