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Craft spirit brands are up for bigger share of the liquor market

A clutch of small home-grown distilleries are brewing their success stories with 'handcrafted' booze in different parts of India. This report takes a look at how their story unfolded and the way ahead

alcohol | beverage | Gin

Krishna Veera Vanamali  |  New Delhi 

India’s consumption pattern has been dominated by brown liquors like whisky, brandy and rum. But the past few years have seen the emergence of several craft liquor brands, led by gin, a white spirit. A slew of small, independent and homegrown distilleries born in the last two to three years in Goa are leading the race. The tiny tourism-driven state has become a fertile ground for experimentation for the country’s fledgling craft spirits industry.

India’s first craft producer Nao Spirits was founded in 2015. The company’s two brands, Greater Than and Hapusa, have marked their presence now. Then came Stranger & Sons in 2018 from Goa-based Third Eye Distillery and Matinee in March 2021. These are just three of the dozen small gin brands that have launched recently.

As the gin space became a tad crowded, new launches in other categories are now making their mark. Investors are helping these brands find their feet. Rahasya Vodka, founded by Varna Bhat in 2020, received Rs 2.5 crore in seed funding in August this year. The company behind Maka Zai rum, founded by banker-turned-entrepreneur Kasturi Banerjee, has also received angel funding of more than Rs 2 crore. Nao Spirits, which makes the now-popular Greater Than and Hapusa gins raised Rs 15 crore in its Series A funding round early this year.

Craft liquor brands pride themselves on being entirely homegrown, with ambitions of taking the brand global. Their focus is on slick design, attractive packaging and backstories that fit their brands.

Varna Bhat, who launched Rahasya, says there wasn’t a lot of movement in the craft vodka space which prompted her to experiment. Rahasya is supposed to invoke nostalgia with its Indian infusions. Varna Bhat says each person experiences the infusion in their own different way.

Kasturi Banerjee, the founder of MakaZai Rum, says that India lacked a premium rum option though it is a popular drink. Her Maka Zai rum is not made just for cocktails but is also meant as a sipping drink.

India is one of the highest liquor consuming nations of the world. With the rising income levels, people here are also exploring premium brands. Craft liquor brands are seeing an opportunity in this growing market. They are clearly setting a trend for more innovation to follow in this exciting field.

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First Published: Wed, November 24 2021. 08:30 IST