East Side Distillery ushers in a new wave of distillery tourism!

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East Side Distillery

When I visited the gorgeous Emerald Isles – Ireland, I went for a distillery tour to Jameson Irish Whiskey and boy, was it a revelation seeing the entire process of how whiskey is distilled and bottled. So I was very fascinated when I was told that East Side Distillery had launched its distilling tours ushering in a new wave of distillery tourism in India. To know more about this, I, Sumita Chakraborty, Editor-in-chief, TheGlitz caught up with Victor De Benito – head distiller at East Side Distillery and asked him more about the spirit business and their distilling tours.

Over to Victor De Benito

Victor De Benito
Victor De Benito

Could you tell us more about the contract distilling started by East Side Distillery?

Blending
Blending


In 2024, East Side Distillery launched its contract distilling services. This was a natural decision given the quality of our spirits (all are gold medal winners) and our top distillation equipment. The cherry on top is our distillery team headed by Shaji Thomas, Vikas Ghule and I, with a combined experience of more than 20 years in the development of spirits, from abstract concepts to their manufacturing into commercial products, ready for sale on shelves. More than 40 of these spirits have won medals in international competitions, an independent verification of the quality standards that we can develop.

Holstein
Holstein

According to East Side Distillery, what factors have contributed to the rise in Gin and Rum enthusiasts in India in recent years?

The pandemic in 2020 and 2021 sped up the trend in India of feeling transported to certain places by sipping certain spirits. In the case of Gin, one can feel themselves transported to a far-away forest. This is one of the reasons why we launched DOJA Gin in 2021, upon nosing it, one can certainly find the array of notes of the forest of Wakayama, the prefecture in Japan where our botanicals are sourced. When one inhales the scent the aroma of DOJA Gin, they are the aromas of fruit peels, followed by notes of fresh leaves, wood and lastly, the scent of forest floor.

In Rum, the market in India has space for innovative rums of high quality. East Side Distillery found the space of premium spiced rums widely untapped, and this prompted us to create NOMAD. The rum is a combination of rum aged in Sal tree wood barrels in India for three years, next rested in ex-Jamaican casks, and lastly, infused with Japanese cypress chips. The result of these ingredients in the rum is a combination of notes of vanilla, toast, caramelised bananas, and chocolate.

The middle class in India keeps growing so there is an increasingly larger pool of consumers willing to purchase premium spirits and to try new offerings.

Nosing
Nosing

How does East Side Distillery explore the impact of local ingredients and environmental factors on the flavor profile of the spirits produced at the distillery?

The botanicals we use in DOJA Gin and PORTAL Gin come from farmland and forests in Japan and India. Hence, working with nature we expect slight variations in intensity from harvest to harvest, and I find that wonderful.

The sugar cane used in the distillation of Nomad rum can also showcase different nuances year on year. In addition, aging in barrels at our distillery in Goa adds its own distinct effects. In warmer years, the rum ages more quickly and we observe a higher evaporation of the spirit through the pores of the barrels (in Jamaica, where our barrels come from, this is called the ‘duppy share’, meaning that some of the rum has been consumed by ghosts).

How have consumer preferences for authentic and locally sourced spirits influenced the distillation techniques and ingredient selection at Indian distilleries?

Consumer preferences dictate what spirits we craft, and how we present them to the market. Indian consumers of spirits are acquiring progressively more disposable income and are tasting more different spirits. This exploration makes consumers more discernible of what spirits they prefer, and we adapt accordingly.

Our distillery and our distillery team have the technical capabilities to distill, blend, age and bottle in different styles. We designed the distillery this way, so we will be prepared to produce new spirits in styles adapted to future trends.

The Distillery
The Distillery

East Side Distillery holds distillery tours too. Could you tell us a bit about it?

Distillery Tours

We organise tours of our distillery from Monday to Saturday in the afternoon hours. These are led by Shaji Thomas and I, and we offer a fun session where we touch on aroma science, perfumery, history of spirits and of course, a tasting. I am a certified educator of spirits with a school called Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) so I am used to translating technical distillation information into entertaining masterclasses for all audiences. Guests also interact with our ingredients and delve into the world of olfactory science. It’s a very fun experience.

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