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Third Eye Distillery

Stranger & Sons Gin

One can only get excited when it comes to Stranger & Sons Gin, a delicious offering bursting out of Goa, India.

It looks as great as it tastes, which helps, but it’s the cunning of its three young makers that mean it is poised be one of the names that take over its home country. And then maybe the world too, as this distillery has the kind of potential we’ve not seen in years…

Overview

As a relatively new distillery, the Third Eye Distillery range is less range but more of a singular focus on their flagship spirit, Stranger and Sons. 

Over 2020 and 2021 however, they've started to venture further and made a limited edition releases. The first was a pre-batched cocktail with the much loved Mumbai based Bombay Canteen. The cocktail was a mix of gin and pink guavas (pink perus), and named after famed Perry Road, in Bandra. Shortly after, they partnered with the Australian distillery Four Pillars to release Spice Trade Gin - a collaborative gin that matched both distillery's love of bright citrus and exotic spice.

The three founders, Sakshi Saigal, Rahul Mehra and Vidur Gupta have shrouded their distillery in light humoured myth and legend – an angle that works particularly well with Goa’s status as a hippie mecca. That said, there are no secrets here – despite a vague website, these chaps are doing all of their own distilling and are merely poking a little fun at themselves and at the country’s obsession with ritual and folklore.

The trio came together to create a gin when they realised that, despite some clever labelling, most of the ‘Indian’ gins available had very little to do with the country, bar their ingredients. Theirs, in fact, is one of the first fully Indian gins to emerge since the ‘40s, with the country’s distilleries having dedicated all of their efforts to dark spirits for the past few decades.

Licensing, distilling, recipe creation and brand building aside, this is a far bigger task than you might begin to imagine. There just isn’t a huge audience for Gin in India yet, which means making your own (and setting up a whole distillery to do so…) is a risky manoeuvre. This risk is further compounded by the fact that even being a tiny brand by Indian standards means eclipsing the volume made by most of producers here in the UK. If you set up there, you have to go big to simply service a fraction of a population that size. Of course, you can’t create a thirst for Gin without offering any decent options, so it’s a real catch 22 situation with some very real issues to overcome.

Starting as they mean to go on, the Third Eye team have been working hard to reduce their environmental impact from the get go. The women who help them with fruit peeling take the fleshy citrus home, turning them into traditional jams and pickles which are then sold at local markets.

There’s no plastic on their packaging – not even a dash of tape – and botanicals are used whole, with no part discarded as waste. They’re also in the process of installing a solar roof, which will help to provide at least some of the energy that distilling uses. “One of our biggest concerns is water,” Saigal said. “It takes a lot to distil gin, and while most distilleries use a constant flow of cold water (which is later drained out), we decided to invest in a recycling tank that reduces our water requirement to 25-litres instead of over 10,000 litres of water.”

Stranger & Sons Gin

Talking about their fist steps when developing the gin Saigal explains: “the key to making a great gin is sourcing good botanicals, and we have the most exotic botanicals available in the local markets and household kitchen of India.”

Stranger & Sons Gin has a huge dose of juniper, along with a healthy hit of black pepper, nutmeg, mace, coriander seed, angelica, liquorice, cassia and swathes of citrus peels (four different kinds). You can look at that botanical list and see it repeated the world over, but the beauty of these botanicals is that the spices haven’t travelled anywhere to get to the still.

Exotic, fresh, vibrant, but whether they’ve been plucked from the spice market or their own garden, the majority of the ingredients packed into this luscious liquid are local. “You’ll always find us hunched over our still, throwing in the most exotic Indian botanicals,” Saigal explained. “If we’re not distilling gin, we’ll be out watering our botanical garden, where we grow our pepper, lemon and coriander. Or we’ll be sitting on the floor, chatting with the local women who come over to help us peel our citrus fruits.”

Stranger & Sons Gin is made in an I-still, in a multi-shot process that sees the citrus peels get the longest maceration, followed by juniper, pepper, coriander and nutmeg. The cassia, mace and liquorice go in last, with the spices only requiring a light touch and the liquorice root there more for texture than flavour.

The first thing that pops up on the aroma is, unsurprisingly, the citrus. It’s not like others though, here the combo isn’t just orange and lemon, the Indian bergamot adds a perfumed edge, while the Gondhoraj lemon adds a note that is comparable to Kaffir lime leaves. It’s multifaceted, nuanced and layered onto of a medley of equally brilliant spice, where mace and cassia in particular give a warm backdrop.

To taste, bright citrus zings at the fore, handing over to juniper and coriander seed for a reassuringly ginny heart. The finish, is a peppery cinnamon (literally due to pepper and cassia) warms the palate and lingers beautifully. It’s genuinely delicious gin and one that manages to straddle the idea of having an Indian identity while not going so far off the path as to lose sight of what being a gin is all about. 

The bottle itself is a dark black thing of beauty – a cloak, if you will, disguising the liquid within. A beautifully illustrated label, complete with copper foiling, smacks of quality – this is an eye grabber, alright, and one that looks like a pricey endeavour to boot. For those wondering – the tiger depicted on the label is based on a mythical two tailed, three eyed creature who chanced upon juniper berries hidden in the secret pocket of a sari blouse. Slightly bonkers, slightly beautiful – we’re smitten to say the least!

Spirits Kiosk
Stranger & Sons Gin
Stranger & Sons Gin
70cl42.8%IN
£34.44