A chance encounter at a trade fair in Berlin has led to a fascinating collaboration between Stranger & Sons in India and Four Pillars Gin in Australia.
Now gin lovers here can try out special spice-infused G&Ts while Indian connoisseurs get a crash-course in lemon myrtle and other Australian botanicals.
“We first met with the Stranger & Sons team at Bar Convent Berlin in 2019,” explained Cameron Mackenzie, head distiller and co-founder of Victoria’s Four Pillars Gin. “We were taken by their passion and expertise in gin making, and I made a point of keeping track of their progress going forward.”
A year later, when Indian gin brand Stranger & Sons took home a gold medal from the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London, they were back on the Four Pillars radar.
“I got in touch to say congratulations and we struck up a conversation about collaborating on a gin,” Cameron told Indian Link. “This was at the beginning of COVID, so it forced us to collaborate over emails and zoom calls. I would have preferred a trip to Goa!”
Going back and forth over emails and a few trial gin distillations, they eventually landed on two limited edition gins: Spice Trade (made here in Australia) and Trading Tides (made in Goa).
Spice Trade, Four Pillars’ take on modern India, is made with native herbs and berries and accented with Indian flavours like star anise, black and green cardamom, red chilli, and long pepper.
Trading Tides, Stranger & Sons’ coastal dry gin, combines subcontinental flavours such as kokum, mangosteen, coriander, and tamarind with Australian lemon myrtle, anise myrtle, and river mint.
“Spice Trade Gin has been a hit amongst our gin fans,” Cameron grinned. “It’s something quite unique as it’s not a clean gin. The spices are oily, the two cardamoms and finger lime give a cloudy finish, while the turmeric fills the palate with a solid freshness.”
Bold, aromatic, and not for the faint hearted, it’s been described as ‘a spice bazaar in a glass’ and marks the fourth collaboration in Four Pillars’ Distiller Series, where they get to explore their creative sides with international brands.
Their previous limited-edition gins include Spain-inspired Cousin Vera’s Gin (think olives, rosemary, and coriander) in collaboration with Santamania Destileria Urbana and Japanese-inspired Changing Seasons (yuzu, bamboo, desert lime, and green tea) with Kyoto Distillery.
“We have a couple lined up over the next year or two but who knows, we might be back in India collaborating again soon,” Cameron added.
India, no longer just a ‘brown spirits’ market
Due to the popularity of whiskeys and dark rum in the subcontinent, there’s been an overwhelming belief that India remains a brown spirits market. In recent years though, spirits like gin are catching the eye of a growing urban population between 18-40 years old.
In fact, if recent figures are anything to go by, the Indian gin market is projected to reach around US $413.7 million in the next five years.
“Though its presence in its current form is limited to the metro cities, gin is going through an extremely exciting phase and still transcending into the mainstream,” agreed Sakshi Saigal, Director & Co-founder, Third Eye Distillery (home of Stranger & Sons). “There aren’t just new consumers every day but new gins too!”
As one of the early innovators in India’s gin market, Stranger & Sons wanted to reinvent the perception of the Indian spirits industry while encouraging consumers to explore spirits through more creative, experimental choices.
Much like Four Pillars, they have also embraced their creative juices through fascinating collaborations, previously launching India’s first distilled cocktail with Mumbai’s The Bombay Canteen: Perry Road Peru, a fresh, robust cocktail combining gin and pink guava (called ‘peru’ in Marathi).
Sakshi added, “We’re looking to cultivate a culture of innovation and collaboration on our home ground. I believe that collaboration is a powerful tool that helps brands channel their creativity and drive for innovation towards creating something uniquely ground-breaking.”
Inquire about the quirky ‘Stranger & Sons’ name, and they explain it’s about embracing the “wonderful strangeness” inherent in contemporary India.
“Also, the process by which this truly strange collaboration [with Four Pillars] has come to be, only reinforces our belief that ‘in a strange situation, no one is a stranger’,” Sakshi quipped.
For Stranger & Sons, getting to collaborate with an award-winning distillery that’s won the IWSC International Gin Producer of the Year for two years in a row (2019 and 2020) remains “a proud moment.”
And with the recent economic trade agreement between India and Australia promising closer ties than ever before, there could be many exciting partnerships like this on the horizon.
“With our mutual passion for creating quality gins, it was an absolute delight working together to bring our shared vision to life,” Sakshi smiled. “I look forward to seeing a lot more India-Australia partnerships like this in the future!”