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Nao Spirits

Hapusa Gin, Greater Than Gin.

The Indian Gin (and Tonic, for that matter…) game is picking up, with little pockets of the country seemingly waking up to realise the endless opportunities that its botanical diversity offers.

With its quite brilliant duo of offerings, Greater Than and Hapusa Gin, Nao Spirits are one of the leading names gin’s resurgence in India.

Overview

The Indian drinks industry is confusing, inconsistent and on such a massive scale few can truly comprehend. It’s also mainly geared towards beer and dark spirits like Whisky. For generations, Gin has been seen as an old-person’s drink in India and more specifically, locally made gin is almost always perceived (often quite rightly) as a mass-produced, industrial product. 

Nao Spirits wanted to change that even in the short few years since their journey began, they have managed to cast away years of preconceptions. Internationally, they have been part of a core group of producers who have put Indian Gin on the map and domestically, they have set an example that is inspiring dozens of other dreamers, spirits enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to join the craft distilling movement. 

They have two gins in their range, one is a modern classic that aims to pay homage to the history of Gin and pays great respect to the category, called Greater Than, the other is a gin with a more pronounced local accent and deliberately more focussed around the idea of regionality, called Hapusa Gin.

Nao Spirits started as a concept in 2015, when Anand Virmani and co-founder, Viabhav Singh, started a bar in New Delhi called Perch. They were constantly lamenting the lack of a decent Indian Gin, and with experience working at William Grant’s, Remy Cointreau and the likes, had the wherewithal to try to seek out someone who would make an interesting, tasty and thoughtful local product. 

Their hunt for a subcontracted option produced little fruit however…

“The Indian industry is so focused on the high-volume model that no one would give us the time of the day,” Virmani recalls. 

“A craft spirit was just too much of a bother for them, so it became clear that if we were going to do this, we were going to have to turn into distillers ourselves.”

The duo, now joined by Aparajita Ninan (design) and Jay Dhawan (distiller) bought a copper pot still and began experimenting with every herb, fruit and spice they could get their hands on. 

After a while and after seeking help within the industry to bring in some insight and experience, honed two recipes. 

Greater Than & Hapusa Gin

It's important to keep in mind the context of what India is like from a producer's perspective and where the gin category was when Greater Than was launched, in order to fully under it. 

A small operation in the US or a reasonably large craft gin distillery in the UK would be incapable of producing enough spirit to supply the demand if their flagship brand became embraced by Indian drinkers. You need hundreds of thousands of litres. By Indian standards Nao Spirits is tiny, their still isn't gargantuan and their team isn't in the hundreds. However, they hope to one day have a gin that can be available across the country as well as internationally, and eventually grow into something sizeable. 

Greater Than Gin was designed with scalability in mind so that if the opportunity came, the quality could remain consistent. Multi shot methods, tried and tested botanicals and a ruthless approach to quality testing and consistency.

Now, consider Gin in India. It was nowhere. The country hadn't enjoyed the same boom the US, Australia, South Africa or the Uk have over the past decade. Track back to the start of those booms in the respective countries and what was being released wasn't crazy contemporary fruit-infused esoteric gins - they were classically styled London Dry Gins. Each had a unique take on the genre but fundamentally, what made them exciting was that they were craft produced and local. They could be understood as having built off the cannon of the category's biggest names. They were usable in the same way as their predecessors. They challenged assumptions and took drinkers one step further without completely alienating a those whose understanding of gin had been fixed for generations. Greater Than needed to be classically styled in order to be embraced. More than that, it needed to be classically styled in order to spark the most subversive aspect of the revolution they were looking to begin - to prove that a locally made, small (by Indian standards) craft gin could compete with the best of the international scene.

Greater Than Gin combines that familiar classic orange citrus twang with a strong juniper forward note, followed by a zing of ginger. We’ve consistently said that it is one of the best classic “cabinet essential” gins you will find and for the price, it delivers incredible value. 

Flavours aside, Greater Than is fast becoming one of the most popular gins in India, so much so, that’s it’s on track to become the marquee name for the category across the country. 

Talking about the distillery's other offering, Hapusa Gin, Virmani said “When we started off, something that struck us was the number of ‘Indian-themed’ gins in the market that had almost nothing to do with India itself." 

"It was strange that the country in which the Gin and Tonic was invented – one that prided itself on its botanicals and spices – would not have a single Gin to its name in a world where hundreds of Gins were being launched every year. Hapusa Gin is our answer to this anomaly.”

With juniper taken from the Himalayas and the rest of the botanicals (turmeric, mango, ginger, cardamom, coriander seeds, gondhoraj limes and almonds) plucked from within the country, Hapusa Gin is not just representative of its home but of its people: these are the ingredients you’ll find in every kitchen, spice cupboard staples that form the meals around which life and laughter is shared.

Hapusa Gin is made to a one-shot method on Nao Spirits’ 1000-litre copper pot still, Agatha. All of the ingredients are added to the pot alongside a neutral wheat spirit and driven gently through the copper by distiller Jay Dhawan. 

On the nose, the green tinge of juniper rises quickly and depicts a vivid picture of pine forests leading you toward the Himalayan mountains. Hapusa means juniper in Sanskrit, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that sipping the gin is akin to putting an entire forest in your mouth and biting down hard. This is a good thing, too, as the botanical line up that it’s been combined with is packed with bold, confident flavours. 

To taste the lime bursts bright, but quick, and kicks off proceedings in style before the juniper strides in and takes centre stage joined with its favourite partner, coriander seed which add a clear an instant nutty citrus to the mid journey. The turmeric, ginger and cardamom add some significant botanical piquancy to the finish in what is, overall, a spiced flavour profile that never loses sight of juniper and its predominance throughout.

Spirits Kiosk
Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin
Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin
70cl43%IN
£39.94