Updated: May 10, 2019
The Indian Craft distilling scene is slowly growing and one of the most exciting new distilleries is Third Eye Distillery. I heard about their new gin, Stranger & Sons and had to find out more about it. To my surprise, some research online revealed that one of the partners, Sakshi Saigal went to the same Business school I did. I wrote to Sakshi and was pleasantly surprised with an immediate response and an invite to check out their distillery while in Goa.
Sakshi Saigal, Rahul Mehra and Vidur Gupta are the partners behind Stranger & Sons and Third Eye Distillery. Rahul started Gateway brewing company with other partners about 5 years ago. It is a craft beer and microbrewing company in Bombay. They are now in about 70-80 bars across Bombay. He then started Svami drinks with another set of partners, producing tonic water, ginger ale and sodas.
Having witnessed the popularity of Gin abroad, particularly in Spain where Sakshi studied, the trio decided to launch their own brand of Gin in India. Showcasing Indian botanicals will be a key part of their endeavour. They recipe was developed in Scotland and the initial plan was to import Gin from there. However, given the cost of shipping and excise duties, they decided to take the plunge into distilling.
They travelled to the Netherlands and took a weeks course at the iStill university. They then set up exploring various distillery locations across India taking into account the various excise regimes and restrictions. This search eventually led them to Fullarton Distillery in South Goa where they now lease a space and distill under the Fullarton licence. When I first heard this, I couldn’t help but think how clever this approach was and how this could be a way for craft distilling in India to grow without having to deal with a ton of red tape and up front investment.
Not just stopping there, Sakshi and her colleagues are looking well beyond just distilling their own small batches of Gin. Their grand plan is to not only expand into producing other spirits including rum and whisky but also set up an incubation centre of sorts in their distillery. They are the Asia partners for iStill University and plan to bring down instructors from The Netherlands to train budding Indian distillers. Taking this one step further, interested distillers can distill their own batches of spirits at the facility for a fee in the region of 20-30 lakhs.
I had to remind myself to come back to the Gin and not get carried away with doing the math on how much it would cost to distill a batch of my own down there!
Sakshi said this about the Gin, “The idea is that we wanted to start with a gin – Stranger & Sons and going forward make a Sloe gin, but not call it a Sloe gin. It will have Indian berries in it. Similarly even though the Stranger & Sons gin is a London style gin, we call it an Indian Spirited Gin. We have our own botanical garden out back where we want to start growing our own pepper, lemons and everything. Currently all the ingredients are sourced locally. The Sahakari farm nearby is where we source our pepper. They are all organic ingredients, grown locally. Staying true to its Indian provenance, this gin goes beyond the customary juniper and adds a healthy measure of Liquorice, Pepper, Nutmeg, Mace, Coriander, Angelica, Cassia bark & a mix of Indian citrus peels led by Gondhraj limes from Calcutta. The only ingredients we import are the juniper berries as it grows in colder climate. So we import it from Macedonia.”
Sakshi continues, “We want to compete with the Bombay Sapphire kind of gin. There is a big gap in the market for gin and for all spirits actually. You have the IMFL and you have the imported at a much higher price range. We believe there is a gap over there where a lot of craft gins can fit in. We are in the business of premium spirits. We are below a Gordons or Bombay Sapphire, but above a Blue Riband. That is the market we want to tap in India. We are also looking to build a presence in the duty free market in London and Singapore. There we will be priced along the lines of Hendricks“
Their visitor centre at the Goa Distillery will also be open by the end of the year. Stranger & Sons is currently available in Goa and Karnataka and is flying off the shelves. I would recommend checking it out and supporting our very own Indian craft distillers.
Uday Balaji is the Managing Partner of The Whisky Advisor, your one stop shop for Whisk(e)y training, events, advisory and beyond. Uday is based out of India, but constantly travels across whisky regions learning and passing on knowledge about whiskies from across the world. Get in touch with him at uday[at]thewhiskyadvisor.[com] if you would like to collaborate.