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Toast to the festive season with spiced spirits

Spice-infused gins, rums and fenis are the latest drinks to emerge from Goa’s expanding bandwagon of artisanal distilleries

Earth Spiced rum
Earth Spiced rum

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As a card-carrying member of the Goenkar (Goan) brigade, I cannot stress enough how seriously we take our cache of spices. Be it the crimson-hued Kashmiri chillies, the all-pervasive coriander seeds or the perpetually paired jeere-mirre (cumin seeds-peppercorns), no savoury dish in Goa’s cuisine repertoire is complete without a dash of this or a pinch of that. So, why leave our beloved sorro (alcohol) too far behind?

Also read | How to eat like a local in Goa

In the past few months, we’ve been witnessing a marked uptick in the number of Goa-based distilleries infusing everything from the de rigueur cloves, cinnamon and coffee to the more exotic Macedonian juniper and Angelica root into their gins, rums and even fenis. These bottles are perfect for the indulgent, spice-centered festive season.

Here’s a selection of Goa-produced spirits that take a stroll down the spice trail:

1. Doja Gin
Probably the first Goan-Japanese collaboration of its kind, this Margao-based gin brand is an interesting melange of flavours and olfactory notes. The clear-hued drink brings together decidedly Japanese aromatics and spices like yuzu lemon, sansho pepper and hinoki chips along with Indian spices like cardamom, coriander and fennel. All these lend prominent top note aromas of citrus, grass and florals with an underlying spice-redolent presence to the finished product. Nearly each spice comes through with every sip.

2,050 for 700ml
Available in Goa, Mumbai and Pune

2. Earth Spiced Rum
The people at the Margao-based Surbhi Wines, who recently launched this dark caramel-hued spiced rum, say that they went through multiple rounds of blind tastings to identify the body, the flavour profile, the right spices, and the right proportion of spices before arriving at the current combination. Cinnamon, star anise, pepper, and clove come out on top. Adding to the right amount of sweetness and bakery-like fragrance to the liquid, cinnamon is one of the first, and perhaps the most overpowering flavours among others. Pepper, clove and star anise make for a borderline-minty and fennel-like after taste.

1,350 for 750 ml
Available in Goa

3. Aani Ek Feni

Spice-infused bottles of Aani Ek feni. 
Spice-infused bottles of Aani Ek feni. 

Meaning “one more” in Konkani, Aani Ek takes a walk down the untrodden path; that of the spiced feni. By itself, a pungent smelling and tasting fermented spirit—thanks to its funky cashew apple as the main ingredient—Goa’s ‘national’ drink is widely considered an acquired taste. The Pernem-based brand currently has three infused and spiced feni varieties in its portfolio. A zesty limon (note: that’s how the brand mentions it) freshens up the cashew apple’s pronounced astringent palate. For those who like it hot, there’s the chilli variety that’s got a mighty bite. While the honey-cinnamon one provides that mellow, sweet-spicy hum to an otherwise aggressive alcohol base. A brand spokesperson says, besides these they will be launching feni infused with chilli-chocolate, ambade (hog plum) and pepper too.

750 for 750 ml
Available in Goa

3. Satiwa Gin
This gin, distilled in Margao, is as spicy as it can get. Calling itself a “happy high gin”, Satiwa stays true to its name. It's inspired by the plant Cannabis Sativa. Perhaps it's one of India’s first few alcohol brands that is imbued with organic hemp seeds sourced from Uttarakhand. For the uninitiated, hemp, though originating from the cannabis plant, is non-hallucinogenic. This, given the fact that it contains (the legally permissible) 0.3 percent or less amount of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Locally sourced Indian juniper, fennel, black pepper, orange peel and lemongrass give it spicy and citrusy notes.

1,650 for 700ml
Available in Goa

4. Segredo Aldeia Rum
The name Segredo Aldeia translates to secret village in Portuguese, and is based on the legend of a hidden, Portuguese era, rum-making village along the banks of the Mandovi River in Goa. The brand, located in the village of Candepar, produces two rum variants. A clear white, dry rum simply called 'White Rum', imbued with the fragrance of vanilla, sweet wood, and toffee has taste notes of mellow sweet wood, herbs, peaches and cream. The brand’s sweetish Café Rum, on the other hand, has a deep amber hue with the smell of coffee along with hints of toffee and vanilla. The undertones for Café Rum are of tobacco and leather with a dark chocolate finish.

1,500 for 750ml (White Rum)
1,650 for 750ml (Café Rum)
Available in Goa

5. Tamras Gin
Joining the rest of the spiced gins on this list is this clear, super dry gin from Colvale in North Goa that is slow-distilled in a hand-made Müeller Copper-still. Now, if Tamras was a person, it would surely be a well-travelled one. For it is infused with juniper berries from Macedonia, coriander seeds from Morocco, cubeb pepper from Indonesia, Egyptian grapefruit and Nilgiri tea along with Angelica root. Along with these, there's a whole cabinet of spices and aromatics like green and black cardamom, lemon verbena, lotus flower and lotus seeds. Speaking of lotus, the word tamra is defined in Sanskrit as “a kind of sandal, represented as of a dark red colour, and smelling like a lotus”.

1,950 for 700ml
Available in Goa and Mumbai

*The prices pertain to Goa. 

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