Conversations With Indulge – Anand Virmani

Anand Virmani – Founder Nao Spirits

India is the fifth largest Gin producing country in the world. Anand Virmani is the founder of Nao Spirits and India’s first craft London Dry gin, Greater Than. With great passion in the world of beverages, Anand has also been behind Delhi’s famous Perch bar. So, we guess what the F&B world really needed was some out of the box thinking. Greater Than, and Hapusa (which is a Himalayan Dry gin made using indigenous botanicals) are making their presence felt across bar-shelves around the country. Recently we sat Anand down for a quick round of Q&As and this is what came forth.

What inspired you to produce Gin in India?

The lack of good Gin! It was partly selfish because we quite like drinking Gin ourselves and could not find interesting enough options, so the natural option was to go out and make it ourselves.

How do you plan to raise awareness about Gin in the Whisky dominated market?

We’re hoping for general enlightenment, one sip at a time. Our feeling is that the Gin & Tonic (a drink which was invented in India incidentally) is naturally best suited for the Indian climate. I can’t imagine too many people will go back to their Whisky options once they’ve had a tall, crisp glass of Gin & Tonic.

What is the future of Indian Gin on the Global scene?

As Trump says, “It’s going to be huuuuge”. We are generally optimistic about Indian Gin in the global scene given how it is the one main-line spirit made from herbs and spices, something which India has always prided itself on.

What is the best thing about making Gin in India? The worst?

Greater Than Gin by Nao Spirits

The absolute best thing about making Gin in India is the massive love and support we have received from the trade and consumers. “Local” was a negative term only about a decade ago and it’s supremely heartening to see how much this has changed. “Local” is the flag we fly proudly.

The worst thing is the vagaries of the rules and regulations surrounding our industry. Alcohol is still a bad word in the country and starting your own venture in the industry is like driving through the Delhi smog – a very unhealthy trip into the unknown.

If not Gin, which other beverage do you look forward to?

We would love to one day be able to make a really good Wine in the country.

Which are the most unique botanicals you have come across while working with Gins?

The list of botanicals in India is just endless. Mango Ginger is something which was very new to me initially and something I desperately wanted to use in our Gins but just couldn’t work it in. Turmeric is one that I’m very happy about using in Hapusa.

What’s your favourite tipple at the end of a busy day?

Depending on the day, either a Beer or a Gin & Tonic.

What’s your advice to young professionals seeking knowledge on spirits?

Started from a non-beverage background, Anand also heads Perch Bar in New Delhi.

Go out and find unique ways to acquire this knowledge for yourself! Most of the formalized education in the field is focused on Wine, but there are plenty of books and resources out there on spirits as well. Importantly, there is a lot to find out about in the spirits world which can often be just as complex if not more so than the world of wine.

What’s the most motivating factor that keeps you going in this line of profession?

There is just so much to be done. The big spirit producers of the country are absolute Goliaths in the world scene, our newly forged craft industry needs to dazzle the world with our creativity, our story-telling and our ton-notch quality!

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