Toasting India

The Indian spirits industry is currently going through an ‘Aha’ moment; rather late, considering it is one of thelargest consumers of spirits globally. Despite that overwhelming factoid, India’s own produce has been remarkably underwhelming, until recently. This newfound-glory is rather neoteric, and goes back a dozen years ago when Indian single malts stunned global palates. Even though, India is a predominantly whisky market, our gins are in
their adolescence, rums yet to shine, and wines only slowly warming up to the chase. Through this still-nascent evolution though, our drams are altering, becoming increasingly eclectic and versatile, and we are now crafting elixirs that are unprecedented and equally exciting. These drinks of the future demand your attention and will command space on your shelves in the times to come. So here’s your chance to dive in. Bottoms up!


If ‘what goes around comes around’ was a rum, it’d be Camikara. India took sugarcane to the world centuries ago, and we may have created rum’s early renditions as well, found in our Sanskrit text under a loosely-clubbed word ‘Shidhu’. After missing the rum boat ages ago, we’re finally waving its flag in the country with a handful of labels to pick from. Camikara, from the creators of Indri Whisky, is a 12-year-old rum, made purely from cane juice, aged in ex-Bourbon casks, of which only 1200 bottles could be retained for Indians. Bottled at 50% ABV, 94 per cent of all the liquid that was put to cask back in 2009, was swallowed by the unforgiving sultry summers of India’s tropical ageing. So while it’s a dozen years old, in true sense, it might actually be half a century wise! This is because India’s proximity to the equator ages our spirits four times faster than that in Scotland. Inspired from the Sanskrit text ‘Chamikara’, meaning ‘liquid gold’, it has a Cognac VS colour, dense and opulent. The rum is layered with fruity, floral, citrus, tertiary, and oxidative notes. The mellow, velvety palate is finely integrated, and with its high proof allowing sip-ability it compels you to hold it on the palate endlessly. I’d relish it neat, against ceremonially tempering it with water, which puts Camikara among a rare breed. But is it just a rare, one-hit, wonder? Nope. There’s a younger, 8-year-old sibling that releases early February that will remain a constant offering for the Indian palate, which too will be an unprecedented feat. Available in Gurgaon at ₹6,200

Camikara 12 Y.O Rum


Coffee has become something of a cultural phenomenon now. Craft roasters deliver fresh beans to your doorstep, and the narrative is punctuated with a new verbiage that includes grinds, roasts, equipment, terroir, nuances, storage etc. What they have accomplished in the non-alcoholic beverage segment is unprecedented. However, their full-of-beans enthusiasm seems to have percolated into drams as well. Commendable lieutenants of the brigade, Bira’s Malabar Stout, Greater Than’s No Sleep Gin, Segredo Aldeia’s Cafe Rum, have all highlighted the need for more such elixirs. Enter Quaffine, an Indian coffee liqueur, and our answer to the Kahluas and Tia Marias of the world. “Indian produce is on the up, and how. However, we are yet to receive equivalent glory for our liqueurs, which have been mostly neglected. We are the 7th largest coffee-growers in the world, but there isn’t that much to show for,” says co-founder and distiller Nikhil Varma. What makes Quaffine unprecedented is its departure from its predecessors that use coffee extracts or flavourings and caramel. True to source, Chikmagalur coffee is roasted to a medium dark consistency, ground in Goa, and delicately cold brewed for a day, and then introduced to sugar and spirit, and matured further for two weeks before bottling. It makes for a brilliant drink by itself, sans the boozy jolt or
cloying mouthfeel of a syrupy sticky concoction. Quaffine has elegant ethereal tones of cocoa, warm spices, earthiness, and a play of caramel touches. Think Melody meets Kismi Toffee Bar; throw it in a coffee highball, or in the world’s most relished cocktail, Espresso Martini. We preferred ours with a pinch of sea salt and orange rind. “Quaffine is just water, coffee, sugar, and spirit, that’s all; yet, there’s so much to do. We’ll be toying with single estate batches, different roast levels, several coffee types, and what not, so they will soon become a collectible”, adds Varma. Available in Goa at ₹1,650

Quaffine - Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur


India’s proximity to the equator renders our spirits to age four times faster than that in Scotland. Therefore, we don’t produce age-statement usuals of 12-18-25 year olds. But that fast-forward ageing regime is somewhat negated by
the pristine air, weather, and waters of Jammu. Much like the essence of their softly-spoken dialect and delicately nuanced fare, GianChand is a recent admission to the Indian single malt whisky lineup; it is an expression of its
terroir. Where most single malts try and arrest you at initiation with their complexity, GianChand wraps you with its
charm, discernment, and grace–arguably the most subtle and intricate of the lot. Dewan Gian Chand, the founder of DeVans, that produces the whisky, was a journalist, who also owned the first liquor store in Jammu and a printing press, and operated a newspaper in the region. In 1961 he turned to distillation, creating malt whiskies that his son, Prem Dewan took over in 1982 and quickly accumulated 8,000 barrels. GianChand is a son’s ode to the aspirations of his father, and the land of big hearts. It ages for up to five years in first-fill Bourbon casks, gaining a candied tone, a
light ripe fruits-meets-savoury perfume that’s further accentuated by the earthy, sherried, smokey touches on the finish. Soon to be a trio, GianChand will see a peated and a completely unpeated variant as well. Available in Delhi at ₹4,490

DeVans GianChand - Indian Single Malt Whisky


If you’ve ever eaten a raisin, you’re no stranger to the Moscato grape. The pride of Piedmont, beyond its age-worthy Barolo and Barbaresco wines, finest black truffles, Nutella and Ferrero Rocher dolces, and Fiat cars, Moscato di Asti
and Asti Spumante are among the most delectable sweet drops of the wine world. And after a glorious run with Sangiovese and Nero di Avola on the Indian turf at various vineyards, Sula Vineyards introduced another Italian varietal to their backyards and created the first Asti-style sweet bubbly under its premium label. They’re flirting with candied bubblies in the country. First they had a tryst with their Aussie-styled semi-sweet Sparkling Shiraz, and now The Source Moscato is an extension of the same line-up, though a complete opposite of the former. Sparkling Shiraz is red, a tad tannic, and bodacious, while The Source Moscato offers softness, delicate perfumes of white peaches and florals, and Fox’s lemon candy’s sweet citrus with a creamy mousse from the bubbles. Sula has added many firsts to Indian wine, among them, The Source Moscato is the most exciting for me. It works dynamically as a picnic wine, a brunching proposition, an aperitif, a light dessert wine, and an all-round summer sipper. It also breaks the monotony of the Chenin Blanc-based sweet wines and opens up the gates for experimenting and adding something new and unprecedented to the Indian bouquet. Cheers! Available in Maharashtra, The Source Moscato at ₹1,495, Sparkling Shiraz at ₹1,450

The Source Moscato


Down history’s glorious passage, wines have always rested and travelled in claypots: ‘Amphoras’. These were giant earthern jugs that were used before the use of oak, steel, or glass; think ‘matkas’ at homes in summers. India has also romanced these as some remains of these Roman amphoras are on display in the museums in Kochi. Grover Zampa, the oldest still-operating Indian winery, is returning to this vessel for crafting wines. The price tag may be tall but their offer of great taste is even taller. Signet is Grover Zampa’s single vineyard series, based solely around Shiraz, that’s been aged for over a year in amphoras, 1000 and 2000 litre foudres, concrete tanks, and the finest of oaks to
create not just a fresh perspective on the varietal and its agreeability with ageing, but also bringing the focus back on its carrier. Clay has naturally been used for refrigeration, enabling a slow fermentation, gentle formation of flavours, and thanks to its porosity, allowing microoxygenation to create more graceful nuances. This makes the 2019 Signet Shiraz Amphora hauntingly aromatic with a highly perfumed floral, purple and sweet dark fruits, jamun syrup, berry compote, and jammy notes. It’s tricky to decode as the wine is a baby in the cot right now, and uncorking it this early
would be criminal. However, the palate is refreshing, uber-smooth, with juicy acidity, and pleasing round tannins. The
fruit is yet to open up, segregate, and spread itself in to layers, and it holds intense promise to please even more, later in its life cycle. Available in Karnataka & Maharashtra at ₹4,000

Signet by Grover Zampa Vineyards


The team behind India’s first craft gin, Greater Than, likes to experiment and offer out-of-the-box beverages. While everyone was producing gins with Macedonian Juniper, they went off-track to craft one with Himalayan Juniper: Hapusa. Their No Sleep coffee gin had just gone on shelves when they surprised us with another masterstroke, ‘Broken Bat’. Founder, Anand Virmani, and his crew, had us believe that they were crowd-sourcing old, used bats
to create a fence around their distillery. Instead, they turned them into chips, roasted them in their distiller’s home-oven, and rested their OG gin on them to create what the world had never seen before. Mad-hatters right? “Broken Bat, with its cricket connection, is globally relevant. We too thought of barrel ageing initially but then it wouldn’t have been unique. After tinkering with a ton of local woods, our cricket inspiration kicked in and we were bowled over. You remember the ad from a few World Cups ago? It said ‘Eat Cricket, Sleep Cricket’, now we’ve added ‘Drink Cricket’ to that as well”, says the proud creator. This gin-meets-whisky sort of elixir has an alluring nose that fills you with nostalgia, simultaneously transporting you to Deodar-filled forests of Uttarakhand. It is smokey, leathery, tad savoury and spicy, while retaining its botanical spine. Guess what? Of the 24 crowd-sourced bats, five English Willow bats arrived from the UK and there might even be a limited release. The British brought us cricket, introduced us to gin, and now we’ll make it greater; ‘Lagaan’ encore eh? Nonetheless, Broken Bat will remain the unprecedented ode to India’s love for cricket in a bottle. Virmani says consume it the way you enjoy your whisky–on ice, with soda, or water, even coke. I enjoyed it in a citrus-kissed, crisp Martini. Available in Goa at ₹1,650

Broken Bat Greater Than Gin

Published first in India Today Spice, January 2023

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