Drinks & Destinations brings to you a boozy guide with some popular brands and emerging drinks trends that you must watch out for in 2020.
White spirits category in India will remain a favourite amongst the bartending community even in 2020. Gin has received a fresh infusion of excitement with some home grown brands. While baijiu, the largest spirits category from China is seeing major interest internationally and has made way into India recently. Mezcal and Sotol from Mexico are the latest favourites. Sake might have taken too long to step out of its comfort zone (Japan market) but this delicate drink has the potential to capture a large consumer base outside the domestic market. An under rated and very interesting category is fruit brandy – made from Apricot is Abricotine, popular in Switzerland, Germany, France etc. and adding to this list is the indigenous flower liqueur from India – DesmondJi Mahua. Also, in the 20s list are some Single Malt Whisky, Rum, Cognac/Brandy, Craft beer, cider and wines.
- Gin – Hapusa, India
Produced by Nao Spirits (also produces Greater Than gin), Hapusa is unique. It’s a Himalayan gin produced in Goa with the use of all local ingredients juniper, ginger, coriander seeds, turmeric, mango, almonds and the most distinctive gondhoraj limes. A must pick up when you are in Goa.
- Baijiu – JIANGXIAOBAI, China (Available in India)
It’s important for people to know that there are various styles of baijius produced in China. Almost everyone who claims to have tasted baijiu has probably tasted a sauce aroma or strong aroma baijiu. But it’s the premium quality light aroma baijius like JIANGXIAOBAI, which has the most appealing flavour profile for the international palate. This style of baijiu is versatile and popular outside china and specially a favorite amongst bartenders. Now JIANGXIAOBAI Pure, made from 100% sorghum, is available in India through VBev (in Bengaluru, New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune) and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be giving it a try.
- Sotol – Flor Del Desierto, Mexico
Unlike mezcal, which is made from agave, Sotol is made from the wild plants (dasylirion) grown abundantly in several parts of Mexico. Much higher complexity, a distinctive aromatic of herbs and vegetal spiciness in the flavour profile. Sotol is a rare and expensive artisanal spirit. This one in picture is Flor Del Desierto (flower of the desert). Dasylirion is a kind of North American plant in the asparagus family, native to Mexico. Sotol is gaining extreme popularity in the American markets.
- Mezcal- Del Maguey, Mexico (Available in India)
Mezcal is finally getting it’s due in the international market now. Since 2016 I have written and promoted this magical spirit made from agave in the vast expanse of Mexico. Oaxaca isn’t just the only state known for mezcal, there is a wide range and styles of mezcal produced in the designated states in Mexico that produce mezcal that appeals to every kind of drinks lover. The earthy, raw and smoky profile with vegetal notes make it one of our favourite versatile white spirits. The brands available in India now are, Del Maguey’s Vida and Single Village mezcals, Meteoro Joven (available in duty-free or on request through The Vault spirits), Perro de San Juan imported by Two Friends.
- Sake- Miwatari Junmaishu, Japan (Available in India)
This Japanese spirit brewed from best quality rice is one of the easiest drinks with a mass appeal and yet it packs a punch. There are a number of Sake brands available in India such as Miwatari Junmaishu, Hokkan Brewing, Honjozo Kira, Asabiraki Namacho, Ayagiku Junmai Ginjo. We have selected Miwatari Junmaishu for its moderate and smooth flavour profile.
- Fruit Brandy- Abricot/ Abricotine Morand, Switzerland
Abricot (made from apricot fruit) from designated appellations in Switzerland, France, Germany and few other european countries is a pleasant fruit brandy. Enjoyed neat or with ice or water, Morand’s range of Abricot/ Abricotine are delicious choice as an apéritif or post dinner drink. Can also be enjoyed in some refreshing cocktails. Do remember to pick up a bottle at any of the duty-free shops at airports or at retail stores in Switzerland.
- Liqueur – DesmondJi Mahua, India
This is probably one of the misunderstood yet potential liqueur categories we have discovered recently. India’s 100% agave spirits producer DesmondJi has now launched a liqueur from the wild flower ‘Mahua’. Currently available in Goa, Karnataka and soon in Mumbai, this certainly deserves a try. The drink also comes with a DJ Mahua shot drinking ritual for the enthusiasts.
- Single Malt Whisky – BOWMORE 10 YO Dark & Intense, Scotland
From one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, this BOWMORE whisky was originally introduced in the travel retail market. It is intense with the notes from the sherry cask, has a great balance of mild smokiness and sweetness.
- Single Malt whisky – Nirvana, Paul John, India
Nirvana is the best value for money single malt you can have. A must buy for a whisky connoisseur. This new offering from the single malt whisky producer Paul John is a classic non-peaty whisky with a delightful soft honey note and a slight salt-edged barley. Finishes with an excellent mouthfeel.
- Single Malt whisky – Glen Grant 18 YO, Scotland
Rated as the second finest whisky by Jim Murray for two consecutive years and the best scotch whisky of the year 2017 by Whisky Bible, this particular single malt is all about vanilla, caramel and nuts. It’s smooth and elegant with a long-lasting finish. Perfect single malt for a relaxing evening.
- Brandy – Martell Blue Swift, France
From the house of Martell cognac comes Blue Swift, a specially blended brandy designed for the mixology community. It’s a VSOP cognac aged in bourbon casks. Blue Swift has Martell’s signature style of delicate fruit and plum notes with subtle sweetness of vanilla and toasted oak from the bourbon casks. This serves as a perfect base for elegant and classy cocktails.
- Cognac – Godet X.O Organic Gastronome
This 100% organic super dry cognac from the house of Godet is a revelation. Grown on a small plot of land in the Fins bois, this cognac was first harvested and distilled in 2004. It is a single lot cognac delivering very unusual tasting experience. orange blossom, iris and violets on the nose. A more mature mouth with walnut and dark cherry with elegant & smooth finish.
- Rum – Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Venezuela (Available in India)
Originating in the heart of Venezuela, Diplomatico is made of top quality sugar cane yet what really sets it apart is the distillation heritage and unique ability in the art of rum making. This is an elegant and complex sipping rum, crafted from purest sugar cane honey and delicately distilled in copper stills and aged in small oak casks for 12 yrs. Definitely a collector’s piece.
- Craft Beer (Bottled) – Eight Finger Eddie by Goa Brewing Co., India
This modern, nonconformist, great IPA from Goa is the best thing that has happened to the bottled craft brewing industry. It’s not just the special hops (Yakima chief hops, citra and Amarillo from America and galaxy hops from NZ), that gives you aromas of mangoes and tropical fruits that makes it special. The story of Eight Finger Eddie has become an instant hit among beer lovers.
- Craft Beer (Bottled) – Kati Patang, India
Kati Patang alludes to a free, flying kite and the brand speaks of the Founders’ personal journeys. Zesty Amber one of the two variants available is brewed with the purest Himalayan spring water and all-natural malts, this amber ale is a perfect balance of a smooth caramel flavour punctuated by light citrus notes. This bottled beer is soon going to be brewed in India and now revered by the craft beer fans in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
- Cider – Three Oaks, Australia (Available in India)
Made from hand-picked apples from Adelaide hills, South Australia, Three Oaks packs a punch. The crispy and fruity cider with a nice acidity is dense and highly aromatic. The blend of three varieties of apples, Pink lady, Granny smith and Red delicious make this cider one of our favourites this year.
- Wine – El Goru Red wine by Ego Bodegas, Spain (Available in India)
For the wine lovers, the list is always vast. However, we have picked a few of our favourites that you must try this year. El Goru from the portfolio of Ego Bodegas is one of the best value for money yet premium imported wine you can find in India now. The wine is a blend of monastrell, syrah and petit verdot, a great medium bodied wine with a soft finish.
- Wine – H Block Chardonnay by York Winery, India
Amongst a few of the single vineyard, single block wines produced by any India winery, H Block Chardonnay is the true expression of a typical Indian chardonnay from Nashik region. It has a good amount of acidity and very distinctive aroma profile which may not compare to a typical chardonnay. It is crisp with nice citrus notes and has a good finish. Another great value for money Indian wine.
- Wine – Chateau Fourcas Hosten , Grand Vin Blanc de Bordeaux , France
Chateau Fourcas Hosten in Listrac Medoc is a very special winery, which is a hidden treasure in the ocean of the Bordeaux wine world. Waiting to be discovered. The winery has a small batch of white wine produced in some of their carefully crafted organic vineyards. The 2015 vintage a blend of 82 % White Sauvignon, 17 % Grey Sauvignon and 1 % Sémillon grapes. The wine has aromas of white flowers with a mouth-feeling, elegant body and intense fresh finish. Only 3561 bottles of this vintage was produced by the winery.
- Wine – Chateau Paloumey, Bordeaux, France
The story of Chateau Paloumey, Cru Bourgeois producer from Haut-Medoc in Bordeaux is an intriguing one. So are the wines. The vineyards which have grown grapes for centuries have gone through a lot of transition and the current owner is one with a great vision for the Bordeaux wine industry. His wines are honest, true to the terroir and have a great potential to shine through. This flagship wine Chateau Paloumey 2014, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Merlot (42%) and Cabernet Franc (3%). It’s deep ruby-red in colour and has strong minty, eucalyptus and herbs on the nose with prune, slightly jammy notes. A complex wine with nice supple tannins and cherries on the palate.