The founders at Stranger & Sons are not just cocktail enthusiasts but also had access to observe the beginnings of the gin revolution first hand. “I was working towards my MBA in Barcelona, while Vidur was studying in the UK and Rahul had just set up his craft brewery in Mumbai,” shared Sakshi Saigal one of the Co-Founders who was tasting and drinking a variety of gins every day. “Whether in London’s cocktail bars or the gin tonics of Barcelona, we were getting well acquainted with the gin landscape. That’s when it piqued our interest as to why India wasn’t up to speed with Gin although Gin manufacturers all over the world looked to India when it came to sourcing botanicals and we kept encountering brands based on a vision of India that we knew very well had never been a reality,” she pointed as the trio joined hands and started Third Eye Distillery in 2018 that manufactures Stranger & Sons Gin in India. Excerpts from the interview:
The ‘Gin’ Revolution
There is indeed a shift that has happened with consumers themselves leaning towards more creative choices. Today, we see a lot of Indian consumers excited to try a good homegrown product without it being a compromise and brands like ours are able to communicate and ensure high quality standards. Though its presence in its current form is limited to the main metro cities, Gin has definitely caught the attention of consumers in India. It’s going through an extremely exciting phase and still transcending into the mainstream. There aren’t just new consumers every day but new Gins too!
What all have you focused on when coming up with the best gin in the market, be it ingredient, pricing, packaging and production?
When we started, the three of us got together and began by collecting and tasting, somewhere in the ballpark of 400 different gins, trying to pick on the nuances and styles that we liked the best. The one thing we knew is that we wanted to create a robust gin with distinctly Indian botanicals, but again without any cultural appropriations to the flavour profile. However, unlike the gins made in one of the European countries, we had the problem of abundance when it came to botanicals- with so many amazing herbs, roots, spices and citrus to choose from and so much at stake, we found ourselves overwhelmed. Once we had our knowledge in place and gin ready, we had Dimi Lezinska (Head of Brand Advocacy & Partner), with his extensive experience and expertise to guide us through the final stages of tweaking and tasting the gin in a precise and meticulous manner until we perfected the recipe of the strange and spectacular spirit we had hoped to make.
Stranger & Sons is a three dimensional gin, where the distiller’s exactness and precision are paramount to getting the flavours right in one go and ensuring that we are able to extract the most subtle flavours of each of the botanicals. Our unique citrus peel mix of Indian Bergamot, Nimbu (Indian Limes), Nagpur Oranges & Gondhoraj Limes, representing different parts of the country, gives our gin a beautiful freshness on the front palate. The local pepper, coriander and mace gives it a strong spiced middle while liquorice, cassia and nutmeg gives it a lovely, warm sweet finish.
What is the average produce of the gin?
From the time we started the distillery in September 2018 up until the end of last year, we have produced around 600,000 units, which isn’t a simple feat for a craft spirits producer. The response was phenomenal across our domestic and international markets and as we expand to more markets and regions, we expect this number to grow significantly.
Vocal for Local
With today’s consumers gravitating towards local, homegrown produce and with people becoming more mindful of their impact on the environment, a handful of brands have shifted their focus to sourcing local ingredients and supporting local industries. As people slowly put aside their bias towards foreign products, local brands and produce are starting to flourish. Our move to Goa, with its lush expanse of spice farms, to set up our distillery gave us the ideal playground to experiment as we worked on perfecting the recipe for our three-dimensional spirit.
What’s your market presence? Do you also supply to restaurants and bars?
We launched Stranger & Sons from the shores of Goa and expanded to Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka and Rajasthan within India and UK, Singapore, Thailand and the UAE, internationally. This year, despite the pandemic, we will be focusing on domestic and international expansion.
We’re available in various restaurants and some of the best cocktail bars including Happiness Forgets, Kwant, Gymkhana, The Cocktail Trading Company, Milroys of Soho etc. in London. In Singapore, we are available in Tippling Club, Manhattan, Atlas, Native, 28 Hong Kong Street and The Old Man. In India, The Table, Woodside Inn, The Bombay Canteen, O Pedro, Joseph Bar, Gunpowder, Project Cafe etc., to name a few.
We’ve worked on some interesting collaborations with our various partner bars and restaurants in the past. It has been an extremely tough phase for the hospitality industry ever since the pandemic and we hope to work with and support the trade as soon as we can, once the current situation in the country stabilizes.
Which is your biggest market in terms of selling more bottles?
With regard to sales, we sold 25,000 nine litre cases in our first full year of operations, which was extremely exciting for us and was mainly attributed to being available in just two Indian cities and one international market. Our bigger market would indeed be our domestic presence (70%) followed by our international markets (30%) but we are expanding in both areas.
This year, despite the pandemic, we’re looking to grow by at least 150% YoY, coming from our new markets, domestic as well as international, where we aim to place spirits from India on the global map and change the perception of Indian spirits.
What was the biggest innovation you did as a brand in 2020 to stand ahead of the game?
During the lockdown, we launched India’s first distilled cocktail - Perry Road Peru, in collaboration with the team at The Bombay Canteen with the idea of growing India’s cocktail culture. Twice a year Bombay’s streets are lined with loaded carts of guavas ‘perus’ and considering how much the city adores it, the peru played the perfect muse for us to capture Bombay’s spirit. Being two India-proud enterprises, Perry Road Peru was an expression of our love for local and seasonal, a celebration of the city and an opportunity to introduce India’s gin enthusiasts to something exciting and innovative. It was welcomed with open arms as a unique expression uniting the potent peru and the 9 Indian botanicals in our gin. What was planned as an interesting experiment became a massive success - where 6000 bottles were sold out within 6 days!!
High on expansion
We will indeed be exploring various domestic markets including Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, and more. In terms of international expansion, we look forward to increasing our global footprint through our upcoming launches in Australia, Mauritius and more, very soon. Each new market brings a unique, diverse consumer base which makes the experience, well, let's just say thrilling!