Of all the gin joints… Native Brews early experiments

Whisky Lady in India is all about exploring the world of whisky, one dram at a time, with friends and solo adventures too.

However there are reasons rules should be broken every once and a while to spice things up.

And that’s exactly what the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai decided to do one February Sunday.

The venue was perfect… a desultory sunset overlooking the Arabian sea.

The slight chill that comes with a Bombay winter replaced by the growing heat… not quite scorching by day but inching upwards… enough to appreciate the wind off the waters and something a little cool to whet your whistle…

We began with a quick lesson on gin’s standard botanicals with an opportunity to take a whiff of the core ones, neatly packaged by our host and master alchemist – Susan Dias of Native Brews:

  • Juniper berries (Juniperus communis)
  • Coriander seeds
  • Angelica root and/or angelica seed
  • Lemon and/or orange peel
  • Coriander
  • Orris root
  • Cassia
  • Nutmeg
  • Black peppercorn
  • Cinnamon

Then came the real fun! An opportunity to try her new gin experiments…

#1 Gin “Sweet Delight” 42% 

  • Classic nose
  • Citrus on the palate with lemon peel, very sweet, coriander and pepper
  • After taste had spice, slightly bitter

Pairs well with guava, green mango

#2 Gin “Pushing the peppers” 42.8%

  • Lots of spices on the nose, particularly pepper
  • More coriander
  • Finishes with lots of wet peppery fennel

Reminds of Indian salami or… don’t laugh one even said  Axe body spray!

#3 Gin “Classic Style” 47%

  • All the elements pop out – distinct yet married well together
  • Just a hint more bitter than the others with a punchy finish spice

We closed our tasting with a chilled shot of “Mahua” a desi flower native to Maharashtra used to make a country liquor popular with the tribal community. Alas the restrictions and complications of India’s archaic liquor laws means you won’t see it on your shelves anytime soon…

Naturally our evening progressed from sampling to a sociable rather tasty Gin & Tonic made with the 3rd gin which worked perfectly!

Other gin explorations include:

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Caorunn Gin… Beat the Mumbai heat!

Yes this is a whisky blog.

However I did warn that from time to time another tipple or two may make an appearance.

And I think we CAN make an exception for this gin – given that it is made at a malt distillery – Balmanech.

I’ve had the opportunity to sample it thrice in 2015:

  • Once at a BMC member’s home in a highly convivial social evening
  • Again as the ‘starter’ to sip before getting down to the serious business of a whisky master class with Stuart Harvey, Inver House Master Distiller
  • A wildly popular ‘appetiser‘ for a Whisky Ladies evening with Karen Walker

In all cases, it was served with an apple and an equal portion of tonic to gin. Perfection!

Bright, light, highly refreshing. Delicate notes.

As Karen shared, the five points of the red star bring together the Caorunn gin elements – bog myrtle, rowan berry, heather, coul blush apple, dandelion.

Yet since then… only a whiff in Winnipeg’s liquor mart.

Til today! Thanks to my partner’s recent trip to London, our liquor cabinet is graced by our very own bottle.

As Mumbai’s 2nd summer comes upon us, temperatures rise, a chilled G&T or other assorted beverages seem just right! Oh happy days!

Caorunn Gin (Courtesy International Beverage House)

Caorunn Gin (Courtesy International Beverage House)

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Transforming common gin to uncommon delight

What do you do when a delightful craft gin is finished? Give the empty bottle new life with a home made gin infusion!

On an earlier trip to Canada, one of our whisky ladies brought back a bottle of Endeavour Gin from Liberty Distillery on Granville Island.

And when it was gone? It was much missed. And a replacement was needed.

Now here is the thing, your average gin in India is pretty standard stuff… best disguised in cocktails.

In this case, our whisky lady transformed a $5 bottle of local desi gin into a delightful infusion using fresh rosemary springs and grapefruit from the market.

The result? A highly refreshing aperitif!

Infused gin

It was a perfect start to our evening – equally as good just with a cube of ice as it was with a few splashes of tonic.

Much like our whisky evening with Karen Walker, starting with a gin coming straight from a hard day was an ideal transition from work mode to enjoyment mode.

Gin tonic

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Mumbai’s Whisky Ladies with Karen Walker and Caorunn Gin

To ease into our evening with Karen Walker, Marketing Director of InterBeverage Group, we began with a refreshing gin cocktail that greeted our ladies as they waltzed in the door from all corners of Mumbai.

Some chose with soda, some preferred tonic. All had their gin topped with a thin slice of apple.

Caorunn Gin (Courtesy International Beverage House)

Caorunn Gin (Courtesy InterBeverage House)

Caorunn Gin aka the appetiser

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Like a perfume! Strong dandelion, sense of ‘branching out’ into different elements
  • Taste – Comparable to Hendrick’s yet more nuanced. Sweet, smooth on the tongue, complex with layering
  • Finish – Let’s just say, we all thought it was a brilliant ‘finish’ to a hard day’s work and a very welcome way to begin our whisky evening

Karen shared the care taken in sourcing and blending five local botanicals to make a gin that is distinctly Scottish, given life in their Balmenach distillery.

Without a doubt, the Caorunn Gin was a complete hit and several whisky women later blamed the sample for sparking a re-interest in gin!

Up next:

Related posts sampling with Stuart Harvey:

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