Meet Shubham Khanna, a 25-year-old who decided to distill his dreams with alcohol, and today, runs two homegrown gin brands.
India’s relationship with gin is ever improving. What started with Greater Than’s launch in 2017 snowballed into a complete revolution in the homegrown spirits business. Today, there are close to a dozen gin brands in the country, with more on the way.
Of all these brands, two of them stand out straight away. The first is GinGin, a homegrown gin that was the first to use hemp as one of the botanicals. Not to forget the sheer beauty of the bottle that makes it more alluring than you might imagine. The second is Clearly Good Gin, a blue-pea infused gin that is among the cheapest gins in the world at just Rs 245 for a 350ml hip-flask shaped bottle.
Both brands are run by 25-year-old Shubham Khanna, an affable Delhi boy with an infectious smile that instantly puts you at ease.
“Both brands come out as India’s first — GinGin is India’s first craft hemp gin, and also the first in India that used the vapour infusion method, which requires us to be more diligent while distilling as it’s slightly less forgiving as compared to other methods. Clearly Good Gin is India’s first premixed blue gin, where we end up using the butterfly pea flower to colour our gin so that it’s all natural,” Khanna, owner of Sublime Spirits and the force behind both the brands, says.
He has no prior connections with the liquor industry. His family business, in fact, consists of making swimming pools, a direction in which Khanna decidedly did not take the plunge (pun not intended).
“My friends were into brown drinks (like rum and whisky), but I discovered that gin gave me a happy high. I was determined to give my friends the same feeling too,” Khanna says, adding that he found that options for craft gins were quite limited at the time.
As he didn’t have any background in spirits, Khanna experimented with various botanicals and ways of distilling before finalising his own unique blend. He went to New York, immersed himself in books, and after almost 40 variations, he came up with GinGin’s recipe. He also relocated to Goa to distill his gin, and learn from other distillers in India’s headiest state.
Khanna named his brand after Salerno monks in Italy, who are reported to have made the first gin in the 1100s. GinGin is named after the Italian word for cheers, Cin Cin. “There’s a widespread story about the Dutch creating gin, but I wanted to pay homage to the original creators. GinGin is my way of doing that to Italy’s Salerno monks,” he says.
But just as he was getting ready to launch GinGin, Covid-19 stopped the world in its tracks. In the meantime, Khanna decided to launch Clearly Good Gin, another gin that he had an idea for. The original tagline of GinGin, in fact, was “It’s a clearly good, no bullshit gin”, which eventually ended up becoming a different brand altogether.
“We saw every other brand go a step above from the mid-segment to the premium segment market, and saw a massive gap in the market where the numbers were big but the product quality was nothing more than subpar. We wanted to introduce a quality spirit, thereby changing the notion that price equals quality. Clearly Good Gin was born as one of the world’s most affordable craft gins, that goes through the same quality check as any other brand priced as much as 10 times higher,” Khanna explains, adding that the blue colour was introduced because it creates an opportunity for to engage people’s curiosity, as well as creates a new segment of coloured Indian gins.
But Khanna is not content to rest on his laurels. In fact, Seqer Gin and Matinee Gin, two new gin brands launched this year, have his craftsmanship all over them. Elaborating on the reasons behind creating recipes for other gin brands, Khanna says, “Since we are bootstrapping Sublime Spirits as a brand, it was important to create a revenue source that is quick to ensure sufficient cash flow for our daily expenses. Also, I love making new recipes and trying new botanicals; it keeps me on my toes. Not to mention it gives a whole new perspective as to how subjective the taste profile of every gin coming out of the same distillery is.”
Both GinGin and Clearly Good Gin are currently available only in Goa. GinGin, priced at Rs 1,000, has received such a tremendous response that most stock gets sold out in days, leading Khanna to ramp up production schedules.
Ask him if he feels there are too many gin brands in the country and he says, “The industry in this and next year is going to boom even more. The shift from IMFL (Indian-made foreign liquor) and foreign liquor to Indian craft spirits has taken place. We have witnessed the launch of new brands in each spirit category in the last six months, and there is no end to it as we will see more brands emerge very soon. Gin is another example of what the Britishers made, but we made it clearly good.”
Khanna’s five-year-plan is world domination with his brands. “Right now, we are learning from our past mistakes and improving our delivery standards. We want to be closer to perfection than where we already are before delivering a bigger market space. This year we are planning Maharashtra, Karnataka and Delhi — in that order,” he says.
If his products reach Gingin, a small town in Australia off Perth, you’ll know he’s breached that goal as well.