Conversations with IWBS – Rahul, Sakshi, Vidur – Team Stranger & Sons

The fun trio of Rahul, Sakshi and Vidur, familial connections aside, bring a diverse set of skills to the table. Together when they dreamt up a gin, we imagine the conversations were as heady as the product to come. Stranger & Sons is a proud homegrown gin. Today it is being poured in most major metros, having found wide acceptance with consumers across the board. Here is the story behind the brand and its creators.

How did the idea of making a gin come up?

We were all in different parts of the world when we first took to gin as our drink of choice. What we all collectively noticed was something rather peculiar – many international gin brands spoke of having origins in India, but one look at the back label, and it was clear that they were made anywhere but here. The entire world looks towards India to source not only botanicals but also to explore its provenance to fit their brand and identity. That’s when we knew it was time to build a truly Indian gin for local and global audiences. A gin that was robust and would stand out on the shelves of the top bars in the world but fit in just as well in the colourful and vibrant bars in the bylanes of Fontainhas in Panjim.

We realised that this could be an opportunity to tell the story of a new India through an interesting medium – Gin, especially since this liquid has its own strange ties to India. As an Indian spirited gin, Stranger & Sons ultimately highlights the emergence of this nation in the modern world, while proudly celebrating the cultural diversity, knowledge and traditions of India in a way no other spirit can.

And how did the name Stranger & Sons get chosen?

Stranger & Sons is an ode to contemporary India and its cultural diversity – the colours, the customs, the chaos and the peaceful co-existence of it all.  The ‘Stranger’ in the name is a nod to this wonderful Indian strangeness that is the invisible essence in every bottle. Inspired from India as it is indeed a strange land with a suffusion of diverse festivals, colours and cuisine with traits, practices and characteristics each more unique and peculiar than the other.

The ‘& Sons’ is the common suffix of traditional Indian family-owned businesses that pass knowledge down to each new generation. Launched by three family members, Stranger & Sons is a tribute to these businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit inherent in most Indians.

What are some of the things to consider when making a balanced gin?

While building Stranger & Sons gin, we knew we wanted to build a gin that is three-dimensional. We wanted a gin with robust and generous flavours. So, on the front palate, our citrus peel mix of Indian Bergamot, Nimbu, Nagpur Oranges & Gondhoraj – shine the brightest here. The local pepper, coriander and mace give a strong spiced middle palate. Liquorice, cassia and nutmeg give it a lovely, warm sweet finish. Our barley and wheat spirit lend a soft smooth mouthfeel, allowing all of these intense spices to play in harmony. Cut in our precision iStill and rested for 5 weeks, the versatility of our gin provides bartenders a very solid foundation to any cocktail and a variety of flavours to play with and we always encourage people to do that.

What drink do you generally like to unwind with at the end of a workday?

I don’t think all three of us would unwind with the same drink at the end of a workday. But we definitely wouldn’t say no to a G&T which is easy to make. We like to add a slice of ginger as it brings out the balance of the botanicals in the gin. The combination results in a refreshing, aromatic thirst quencher.

Strange G&T
Stranger & Sons – 45 ml
Indian tonic water – 120 ml
Garnish – Slice of ginger

If not gin, what else could Stranger & Sons’ first launch have been?

We’re constantly tinkering with a range of flavours and spirits at our distillery. Eventually, we decided to go with gin because it just made the most sense. We really wanted to make a product that represents contemporary India on the global map. It was not only a spirit that we enjoyed drinking ourselves but a completely lean and open market which was largely unexplored in depth. Add to this India’s diverse agricultural heritage and our country being one of the youngest nations with a wide set of people exposed to international cultures. Frankly, we couldn’t think of any time or place where making gin would have made more sense. 

Is there a gin-making no-no that is best steered clear of?

While building Stranger & Sons, we wanted a gin which would showcase a rather peculiar side of India. Something that had a robust London dry style backbone but with a reimagined and unique expression of its own. However, we knew that we shouldn’t get carried away by our vision. So we strictly avoided adding botanicals that sound exotic to a gin but don’t accentuate the flavour or contribute to the palate.

And tell us of one gin no-no that you allow(/ed) yourselves to give in to?

We were often advised to stick to dried botanicals since the flavour is more concentrated and consistent in their case. But we gave in to the temptation and used four different fresh citrus peels. Because, at the end of the day, if it tastes great, then why bother changing it. The decision was indeed a smart one. When we travelled with our bottle to bars around the world and sent it for being judged at various awards, we got a phenomenal response!

Any advice for young aspiring beverage enthusiasts in India, those who wish to work in the sector or maybe make their own beverage?

India is primarily a whisky-drinking nation and alcohol is largely a taboo subject here. So, there are a lot of challenges in setting up your own distillery for small-batch spirits in India. We know our laws are framed around prohibiting the consumption of liquor. But they are much worse if you want to make high-quality liquor.

Having said that, it is very exciting to set up your own distillery. We are constantly experimenting with other spirits and expressions of our gin in order to showcase the diversity that India brings to the rest of the world. But at the same time, we are constantly trying to do our bit to make it more responsible and sustainable. The Indian craft spirit culture is currently redefining the perception of being premium and exclusive. It is now much more about authenticity, craftsmanship and embracing more creativity to produce something uniquely groundbreaking. We believe it’s indeed a time for mavericks, rule breakers and new thinkers! 

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