Goa has been at the epicentre of the booming gin culture in India. With the launch of affordable gins such as Short Story by the distillery behind Stranger & Sons to stand at par with the genre-defining Greater Than by Nao Spirits, there has been much talk about where the gin industry is headed. The fast-growing Indian gin market has 27 gins scheduled to come out of Goa this year alone. Many come with a chutzpah to enter the alco-bev industry where it has become convenient to contract brew at existing distilleries without any distilling expertise. With the influx of gin brand owners, few come with lineage. One such distillery is the internationally acclaimed John Distilleries, popular for the creation of Paul John Whisky that is all set to launch their first gin in India: Malhar Indian Craft Gin.
What is Malhar Gin?
Located in the Cuncolim village of South Goa, John Distilleries have been in the whisky business since 1996 with six key variants of Paul John Whisky, select cask edits and limited editions. They're also the ones who popularised distillery tours in India.
Michael John, the Master Distiller at John Distilleries says, “Chairman Paul P. John believes in striding with the times and understands the need and choices of today's consumer which is why we chose to venture into the world of gins and offer a product of premium quality, created with passion and finesse.”
Malhar Indian Craft Gin is their first entrant in the gin business. Malhar - the etymology of the name comes from the soulful raga of Malhar that is performed to bring on the famed monsoon of India. And Malhar Indian Craft Gin is a homage to the monsoon that gives India a bounty of fruits and botanicals. The gin will be available in two expressions: The Malhar Classic Dry Gin and The Malhar Citrus.
Straight out of Heriot-Watt University Scotland, with an MSc in Brewing and Distilling, young and dynamic distiller Tanvi Garg takes us through the distillation process of Malhar. The spirit is created in a classic 500-litre Müller copper pot still where ENA (Extra Neutral Alcohol - base spirit used to make gin) that contains 96% ABV (alcohol by volume) is brought down to 50%. Botanicals can be added to gin in three ways: maceration, steeping and vapour infusion. Some gins are distilled using one or two of these methods while Tanvi deploys all three methods in the creation of Malhar. The steam from the ENA boil passes through the vapour infusion chamber where the botanicals are infused. The condensed liquid passes through a cold water chamber and gives you gin at an 85% ABV which is further diluted to bring down the alcohol strength to 43%. Each distillation takes about five hours.
What does it taste like?
The Malhar Classic Dry Gin is vapour infused with 15 botanicals, is juniper-forward and is clear in colour. The gin is a bouquet of aromas on the nose from rich herbs, soft florals, to a peppery spice finish. The palate is fresh and fruity, with sweet and spicy highlights. The Malhar Citrus on the other hand is vapour infused with 11 botanicals with a strong, fresh, Indian key lime (aka nimbu) on the nose. This clear gin is refreshing, zesty and finishes with hints of hibiscus and angelica.
The heavy decanter bottle is bold with a cork inspired by the Portuguese-style Azulejo tile, seen commonly across Goa. The label depicts raindrops and reflects the Veena on the inside.
Malhar is a versatile gin, to be enjoyed as a cold sipping gin to a classic G&T. It also lends itself well to classic cocktails such as a negroni, martini, gimlet, French 75 and the likes.
Malhar is currently available in Goa and being rolled out nationally and internationally very soon. A distillery tour is in the pipeline. The Classic Dry and Citrus variants are available in Goa at Rs3075 for 750ml and Rs205 for 50ml.
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