Best Alcohol Tours In India: Paul John Whisky, Terai Gin, Moonshine Meadery And More
Spirited Away: The Rise Of Experiential Alcohol Tours In India

With the crafts segment in alcohol booming, India sees a new legion of distillery, brewery, and meadery tours

In 2008, when Hansel Vaz was visiting Tonga, he noticed amused tourists buying coconut oil— which is ubiquitous in the Island Kingdom — recycled in Coca Cola bottles as mere souvenirs. “On the flight on my way back, I remember thinking, this is what happens with Feni.” Vaz, founder of Cazulo Feni, is the man behind a one-of-a-kind Feni distillery tour. And ostensibly, also the first of its kind, given that the spirituous liquor is indigenous to Goa (they have a Geographical Index tag for cashew feni, too). Like him, other alcohol labels in India, across segments such as, mead, beer, whisky, and gin, are increasingly focused on creating tailored experiences. These typically involve a distillery tour, because they’re keen on talking about the source, science, and skill behind making spirits.

 

A well-travelled geologist by profession and second-generation owner of a Feni distillery from South Goa, Vaz rebranded his father’s 39-year-old company as Cazulo Fazenda, in a bid to recontextualise the local spirit. What he essentially did is identify that he had a good product, which was culturally rich, and with a layered story. “Goans have always known that Feni is a good product. But we didn’t know how to tell the world that it was. That was the problem,” he points out. Truth be told, in 2022, storytelling is possibly the most formidable marketing tool there is, and for many ‘craft’ alcohol brands, which are typically cash strapped start-ups, this is a great, cost-effective way of telling their brand story. Co-founder of Pune-based Moonshine Meadery, Rohan Rehani, echoes this when he says, “At the end of the day, we’re a homegrown brand, competing with the big boys who have deep pockets. We can’t do many of the things that they can. But we want to interact with our customers, one-on-one, and convey why we exist. This is our marketing strategy, in a way.”

 

While new in India, globally, alcohol experiences and tourism have been around for some time now. Ireland and Scotland are well-known for their whisky trails, in fact, Speyside alone has 41 distilleries; Brazil allows enthusiasts to tour their cachaça distilleries; in Venezuela, you can make a day trip out of visiting Santa Teresa, the oldest rum producer set up in Aragua Valley, which is surrounded by acres of sugarcane fields.

 

But the culture really started with vineyards, and their programming for a tour — complete with an educational visit of the winery outlining the how’s and whys of wine, followed by tastings and pairings — continues to serve as a blueprint for the rest. “20 years ago, the only ‘craft’ beverage to exist was wine. They started the trend of tours and we are thankful to them for it. Over the years, interest in this segment has increased tremendously. There’s an audience that appreciates craft spirits and they’re keen to learn more,” explains Nakul Bhonsle, director at Great State Aleworks, a Pune-based brewery.

 

Apart from serving as a time-tested, immersive, and relatively cheaper way of acclimatising customers to the brand, tours also help cater to the new-gen and ‘woke’ category of consumers who want to know where what they’re consuming comes from. Since these are ticketed events, it also essentially doubles up as a revenue stream, though perhaps not a veritable one in the larger scheme of things. In whatever way you wish to look at it, distillery tours are no longer limited to the wine and beer segments, with multiple players foraying into the space. Here are a few of the interesting ones we came across.

 

Terai

 

 

Terai Distillery

 

Located in Behror, Rajasthan, the grain-to-glass gin brand Terai’s distillery is where you can learn the fine one-shot distillation process that it employs. The tour begins with a welcome drink at their outdoor gazebo, followed by a trip to the exhibition room that houses hand paintings, timelines, etchings, and plaques, which tell the story of Indian botanicals and the history of gin. And then there’s an in-depth tasting, after which you will be guided through the workings of their still-pot. Elaborating on the experience, vice president Karina Aggarwal says, “From the very beginning, we wanted the distillery to be a boutique space where you can see how things function, the people behind it, the ingredients, and all of the intricacies that go into creating a quality spirit.”
To book an experience: log on to teraigin.com

 

Great State Aleworks

 

 

 

This 45-minute tour of the brewhouse entails an inquest into the ingredients, sugar extracting process, fermentation, and packaging behind Great State Alework’s beers, which are made in a non-automated set-up in small batches. “The brewery tour takes you through the journey of craft beer — from the role that each ingredient plays, depending on when it is added, to the packaging. The tour sounds pretty informative, but it’s also a lot of fun and eventually helps an attendee understand their favourite styles of beer,” shares brand strategist Insia Lacewalla, adding that it culminates at their 40-seater rooftop Dive Bar in Koregaon Park, Pune.
To book an experience: call on 8879106896

 

Moonshine Meadery

 

 

 

In Pirangut, Pune, Moonshine Meadery hosts a weekly guided tour of their facilities that showcases the mead-making process and the history of the brand, which interestingly, also appeared on Shark Tank India. It includes a sit-down tasting session of different types of honey and mead paired with sandwiches, chips, homemade dips, and weekly specials. “The tour started quite organically after people started inquiring if they could visit the meadery. Production is shut on Sundays, so we thought of utilising that time to walk our customers through our story,” Rehani says, adding that it is still evolving, with newer elements getting included within the tour.
To book an experience: log on to moonshinemeadery.com

 

Paul John

 

 

 

“Consumers today are curious to know what they’re drinking, and every craft product has lots of stories to tell, especially us. Ours is the first whisky visitor centre in the country where we showcase the science, craft, and skill that goes into the making of the great Indian single malt,” says Michael Dsouza, Master Distiller of Paul John whisky. Their tour follows a similar format as the others, including an immersion into the brand journey, tastings, and more.
To book an experience: call on 7447788979 or write to them at visitorcentre@jdl.in

 

Cazulo Feni

 

 

 

Vaz’s Feni distillery offers more than one kind of experience, the most popular being the Floating Feni, an idyllic alfresco tasting table set amid a private spring. There’s also a Dinner at the Distillery, which includes a classic Goan meal, cocktails, and Fado, Goa’s famous musical form; a rather interesting Foraging and Mixology experience where you can go gathering spices and herbs in a forest and then use them to create your own drinks at Bar Tesouro. Plus, the Fruit to Feni experience, about which Vaz says, “You get to distil your own feni through a hands-on experience unlike anything you would have done, using tools and a recipe that is 300 years old.”
To book an experience: write to hansel@cazulofeni.com

 

Doja Gin

 

 

 

Goa-based East-Side Distillery’s Indo-Japanese gin, DOJA, is all set to launch their curated tour in October this year. Here, their focus will be on a Masterclass hosted by their head distiller, Victor De Benito, where you can deep-dive into the spirit’s genesis, and the history of Wakayama. The Japanese city is where some of their botanicals — like sansho peppers and hinoki —come from. Speaking about what prompted them to start a tour of the unit, chairman and investor, Sanjiv Anand, said, “For many generations, spirit and winemakers globally have encouraged consumers to come see for themselves how they are made, and appreciate first-hand the science and art behind making the product. So, we felt it is also time that we consider providing customers a similar experience.”
To book an experience: log on to do-ja.com

 

Also check out:

 

  1. Tamras distillery tour at Colvale, Goa; Log on to adventuristspirits.com
  2. Maka Di brewery tour at Latambarcem, North Goa; Log on to makabeer.space
  3. Amrut Distillery Visit in Bengaluru; Log on to amrutdistilleries.com
  4. Dine at Common House in Karjat and go for their complimentary beer tour while there; Call on +91 8591700197

 

(Featured Image: Shutterstock)

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